So the big question on everyone's minds after hearing that Will Smith and Tony Romo made a surprise visit to Lake Highlands High School's pep rally yesterday was, "Why?" According to Advocate columnist and RISD school board member Luke Davis, "this was, believe it or not, a cold call."
I talked to Davis, LHHS principal Walter Kelly and RISD spokeswoman Liz Morse today about the whirlwind of the celebrity visit. "Will Smith, apparently, when he goes to these towns promoting these movies, he likes to do good," Morse says. "He is philanthropic, and he knows that he can make a positive impact, and he particularly is interested in children."
Kelly says the school received a call Monday afternoon from the advertising agency representing the premiere of his new movie, "Seven Pounds", and was "basically looking for a high school had a high degree of school spirit." They were looking for an opportunity for Smith to speak to a lot of kids at once, Morse says, and with two Lake Highlands teams going to the playoffs, that was appealing to him.
"They wanted it to be a — no pun intended — a good will trip," Kelly says. The school had a pep rally scheduled for Thursday, but Kelly moved it to Tuesday to accommodate Smith's visit, which would be taking place less than 24 hours after the phone call.
All three RISD officials were impressed by the same thing — the amazing conduct of the students, as well as their "unbridled enthusiasm," as Davis describes it ("I've never heard the gym like that," he adds, "It reached new decibel levels."), and the genuine intention of Smith and Romo to spend time with the students. The two stars did not allow press into the school for the event, and made clear to adults that they wanted to spent time with the students. When they hung out with the football team, volleyball team and cheerleaders right before the assembly, Davis says, Smith was "hugging kids, he was signing the back of student IDs or anything a kid would have on them."
As far as how Romo ended up at the school, apparently, Romo and Smith are friends, Morse says. And with the way they interacted on the gymnasium floor, "you'd think they'd been doing this kind of schtick for a long time," she says.
"There are not too many times in the city of Dallas that Tony Romo comes in second," Davis says, "but he did yesterday."