Published: Mar 19, 2014 10:00 PM EDT
Updated: Mar 19, 2014 10:48 PM EDT

NAPLES, Fla. - A former NFL center promoted the importance of reading to a group of elementary school children On Wednesday. It's part of a reading contest through the YMCA involving students throughout Collier County.

Matt Birk surprised dozens of students at Shadowlawn Elementary School. The 37-year old, who retired after winning a super bowl with the Baltimore Ravens last year, started off by talking football. He asked the students, "who won the Super Bowl this past year?" One student replied, Shadowlawn. Birk replied "The Shadowlawn Seahawks may be."

That school spirit lead Birk right to their tummies, comparing ice cream to reading. He said, " I've never had a bad bowl of ice cream. You normally feel good about yourself, but when you read you feel good about yourself."

Birk recently teamed up with the YMCA in Naples to promote their reading program. The non-profit presented 3 students with certificates who've been part of the "Y's" after school reading contest.

Caden Hogsett, a first grader at Shadowlawn, was one of them. He said, "you do homework at the Y and when you're done you have to read for 15 minutes. So everyday I did that."

"I'm real happy for him, he has been working real hard for it" said Corey Hogsett, Caden's father."

Paul Thein, CEO of the YMCA, said out of the 3 champions the winner of the contest will ride in a limo and have breakfast with Birk next week. He said, "there will be 7 champions at schools in the YMCA sites that are participating in this challenge

.We got a couple limousines picking these kids up so that they feel empowered and big time for their reading championship."

Birk said, "we're gonna recognize the kid that put forth the great effort and end up achieving a lot. They deserve to be recognized and rewarded for that."

In the end, no student went home empty handed. They all got a book and an autograph from Birk.