He’s not Joe Burrow or Ja’Marr Chase. He’s not Sam Hubbard or Trey Hendrickson. He’s Allan George, an undrafted, free agent rookie out of Vanderbilt. He’s not in Cincinnati’s starting lineup. He, along with Tre Flowers, backs up Bengals starting cornerbacks Eli Apple and Cam Taylor-Britt.
But ask the kids at St. Therese School in Southgate who their favorite Bengals player is.
They’ll tell you it’s Allan George.
That’s because George, better known as A.G., spent more than an hour hanging out with the students there this past Tuesday. It wasn’t part of a community outreach set up by the Bengals. It was A.G. just being himself.
“I like learning about people,” A.G. said. “I try to spread as much positivity as I can.”
That he did. And that’s nothing new. Pro athletes have visited schools before. It’s how this all happened that’s unique.
The impetus behind his trip to St. Therese is Starbucks. A.G. had never been to a Starbucks in his life prior to last December, after a friend got him a gift card to the coffee chain nearly a year prior. He just never thought to go, and there wasn’t one around growing up in the tiny Alabama town of Andalusia.
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, A.G. had just wrapped up Bengals practice and decided to do some grocery shopping for himself and his wife at the Newport Target.
“I was leaving Target and thought to myself, ‘Maybe I’ll just use the rest of this Starbucks card.’ I had $4.19 left on it,” A.G. said. “I knew I had a Starbucks I pass every single day on my way home. But then on the way out, I saw the Starbucks that was in the Newport Target. I was like, I guess it must be destiny that I’m supposed to go here instead of the one that I pass on the way home.”
Blame it on a simple twist of fate that Ryan Doughty, his wife, Andrea, and their 5-year-old son, Veo, also decided to pop into that particular Starbucks. They had been shopping at Target, as well, when Veo needed his chocolate milk fix.
Now, this isn’t the Horizon organic chocolate milk that comes in that little, red eight-ounce box that one would normally receive when asking for chocolate milk at Starbucks. And that’s why this specific Starbucks inside the Newport Target is Veo’s favorite location.
“What the barista will do sometimes is make one using the same syrup they use to make chocolate mochas with. And so, they’ll put the mocha in kind of a bigger cup and pour it with milk and stir it,” Doughty explained.
When the Doughty family arrived at the register to order this extra special chocolate milk, A.G. was standing there.
“A.G. said, ‘Hey, little man.’ And Veo said, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ And A.G introduces himself and asks (Veo) what his name is. And as soon as he asks him, Veo gets this humongous chocolate milk. And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m Veo.’ And then (Veo) just crushes it, just crushes this big old chocolate milk,” Doughty said, chuckling as he recalled the encounter.
“Apparently, they make it just right for Veo every time,” A.G. said.
That whole chocolate milk encounter was a conversation piece, as was Veo’s name.
“It’s such a unique name that everyone asks about it. Veo is named after my great uncle,” Doughty explained.
The conversation continued, in part, because Veo, as dad detailed, “is a very talkative 5-year-old, and he speaks very well for a 5-year-old.”
Veo’s kindergarten teacher at St. Therese, Hannah Brockman, can vouch for Doughty’s description of his son.
“Veo, he’s just an outgoing kid,” Brockman said. “He would talk to anyone about anything. So, it’s not surprising to me that (A.G.) felt a connection.”
It seems the 23-year-old Bengals player and the 5-year-old kindergartner are kindred spirits.
“We started making funny faces at each other,” A.G. described of his interaction with Veo. “And then, I started talking to his dad, Ryan. They didn’t even know I played for the Bengals. We talked for a few minutes.”
Once the family left, Doughty said he kept asking himself, “Where have I seen him before. He looked so familiar to me,” referring to A.G.
Meanwhile, A.G. was thinking, ‘I need to reach out to this family.’ They had an impact on him, and he wanted to use his platform as a Bengals player to see what he could do to fulfill his altruistic urge.
“I just tweeted out, ‘Can someone help me find this family?’ At that point, I didn’t have a plan in my head of what to do,” A.G. said.
He tweeted: “Cincy community: Met a family tonight at the Newport, KY Target! Dad’s name was Ryan & he had the coolest little son named Vio (Hope I’m spelling it right.) If anyone knows them personally or can help me in finding them, please reach out to me!”
It didn’t take long for the connections to be made.
“I’m in bed. I get woke up at 11:30 at night. Andrea, my wife, is like, ‘Hey, somebody is looking for you on Twitter,’” Doughty said.
A friend of Andrea’s sister had seen A.G.’s post on Twitter. Andrea’s sister texted to let her know. She wasn’t alone in recognizing the combination of Veo the kid and Ryan the dad.
St. Therese principal Katie Boruske saw A.G.’s Twitter post on Facebook. Brockman saw it, too, and messaged A.G. on Twitter.
“I woke up the next day, and my phone was going crazy,” A.G. said. “There were so many people reaching out, trying to get me in contact with Veo. From that point on it just kind of snowballed into me becoming a St. Therese Mustang.”
Doughty got in touch with A.G., and the two began brainstorming. Maybe A.G. could visit Veo’s school?
Brockman took it from there.
“I messaged (A.G.) on Twitter. I was like, ‘I’m Veo’s teacher. We have a class full of Bengals fans, and they really idolize football players. So, it was so great for one of them to have a positive experience.
Thank you for being a good role model.’ And he was like, ‘I would love to come in and meet the rest of Veo’s class.’ And so, I just thought it was one of those things where you say it, but you don’t really mean it. But then on Friday afternoon, he asked me if he could come in on Tuesday,” Brockman said.
Despite the plan being in place, like Brockman, Principal Boruske had her doubts.
“In all honesty, you know, you just think, the Bengals had just won, coming off that big win, I thought, ‘Is this guy really going to show up?’ But he was here by 7:30 in the morning, and he spent a good hour-and-a-half with the kids,” Boruske said.
Not only did A.G. show up, he came bearing treats for the kids. A friend of his on social media learned of his intentions. Jamie Morton, a Mason, Ohio, resident and proprietor of Piece of Cake by Jamie, offered to make cake pops for the students.
“She made 33 cake pops. It was amazing,” A.G. said. “The kids loved them. I took them in, and they just devoured them, which is crazy for kindergartners to eat cake pops for breakfast, but they loved them. I was really thankful to Jamie for that.”
Brockman sent an email to the parents of her kindergarten students on the Friday prior to George’s Tuesday visit to let them know the good news. The kids could swap their usual school uniform that day and instead come to class outfitted in Bengals attire. One of the parents used the three-day notice to make t-shirts for all of the students in the class, as well as for Brockman and Principal Boruske.
The shirts had the message: I’m number 42’s biggest fan (A.G.’s jersey number). Orange and black streamers adorned the entrance to the school. They’d rolled out the red – or orange and black – carpet for their special guest.
“They were so ready. They had been prepping for two or three days,” A.G. said. “I got to school around 7:30. There were so many kids already in the classroom. They were all in Bengals gear. It was a sight to see as soon as I walked in. They had the whole room decked out in black and orange. Veo brought some pompoms for everybody. They painted a sign that they put on the board in the classroom that said, ‘Welcome Allan George.’ It was really cool.”
Since this visit was due to Veo’s encounter with A.G., Brockman gave Veo the honor of parading his guest around the classroom.
“Veo introduced him to every single one of his classmates. Allan took the time to learn their names. And so, he would address the kids by name and took interest in what they were telling him. It just seemed like he cared to get to know them,” Brockman said. “It just meant so much to our whole school to have a really influential person in our building. And for him to have such a good heart. It was just really, really heartwarming to see.”
Before all of those interactions, all the kids knew was that a Bengals player their classmate Veo had bumped into at Target was coming to visit. How approachable could he be? He’s a Bengal. He’s bigger than life to a group of 5-year-olds.
“At first, they were starstruck almost. They didn’t know what to do,” Brockman said. “Then, he walked around and was giving them fist bumps. You know, you meet an athlete, and you idolize them, then you meet one and you’re like, ‘Oh, they’re just like a regular person.’ They think he’s like their friend. They still, days later are talking about him. They truly think, like he’s a new friend to them, which is awesome.”
Doughty said his son was already a “big-time Bengals fan.” Veo left that Starbucks in Target not knowing A.G. played for the Bengals. But Veo knew by the time Cincinnati hosted Baltimore in the playoffs last Sunday.
“Veo liked A.G. for just being a cool guy,” Doughty said. “After I told him, he kind of got that it’s a Bengals player, but not really until we watched the last game. I kept pointing out, ‘There he is. There’s A.G.’ Then he started to go, ‘Oh my gosh! He’s real!’”
St. Therese is a small school, K through 8, with only one class per grade, which made it possible for the entire school to stop by the kindergarten classroom to meet the Bengals cornerback.
Brockman said the kids have since made A.G. some pictures and a book.
“I felt great. I just love to spread as much positivity as I can. I really felt welcomed as soon as I stepped on the grounds,” A.G. said. “Most of them didn’t even know who I was a week ago. They just completely surrounded me with lots of love. And I felt it as soon as I got there. I was extremely appreciative of that. A couple of the parents reached out to me, talking about how shy their kids are, but their kids were willing to take pictures with me and how much it meant to them to bring their kids out of that box of being shy. So, I was glad I got to help some kids do that. Overall, it was just amazing, honestly.”
Principal Boruske said A.G.’s visit has been a highlight surpassing even the distinction of being named a National Blue Ribbon School recently, at least in terms of the school community’s reactions.
“We won Blue Ribbon back in October and did not get as much excitement out of that as we did having a Bengals player come to our school,” she said.
It’s not just that it was a Bengals player. This Bengals player is a different type of dude. Who knows how this visit would’ve gone had it been one of the Bengals’ stars. That’s not to say Burrow, Chase or the others are any less friendly than A.G., but those guys get bombarded by fans at a much different level than what A.G. experiences in public. When you see his visit to St. Therese through the eyes of those who experienced it, you begin to understand the kind soul A.G. possesses.
“I can not say enough nice things about him,” Principal Boruske said. “Talking to the kids, he was so engaged with them. We had one little boy that kept going on and on about a video game, and he just stayed engaged with him. He was so nice. Really, he is our new favorite player.”
This NFL player’s demeanor towards everyone in the school was not lost on Brockman.
“He has a very warm presence. He has just a really good heart, which I feel like in today’s society is not something you find frequently. He is just very down to earth,” she said.
It should come as no surprise that this isn’t the first time A.G. has made a fan out of a little kid with his kindness. During his college days in Nashville, A.G. volunteered to be a coach at Camp Vandy, which is a summer camp hosted by Vanderbilt University for area youth to participate in a multitude of activities.
“One of the first kids I met at Camp Vandy was a little girl named Ella Murdock. She was like a ball of joy. I guess that the impact I had on her was something that she remembered. She ran home and told her dad about me. And from then on, we’ve had a relationship. She’s one of my biggest fans,” A.G. said. “I feel like somehow I do just gravitate towards kids and try to help them break out of any shell they might be stuck inside, or just try to build them up and let them know that somebody else does care about them.”
That’s just who A.G. is. He has a code that he lives by that is not as prevalent in the world today as maybe it once was.
“I’m not one to turn away getting to know anybody. I just love hearing people’s stories and their experiences in life,” A.G. said. “I feel like I’ll never know what the person beside me is going through unless I ask. I love befriending people and talking to them, and just showing respect. That’s one of my biggest things, just showing respect and being kind to others.”
As for Veo and the kids at St. Therese, A.G. plans to keep in touch. He’s hopeful that at some point he’ll be able to attend one of Veo’s basketball games for the Mustangs.