Bottoms up! Wykons tight end Joe Pisoni (left) and running back Chasz Jonet enjoy some chocolate milk for the camera during a photo shoot in West Iron County High School’s weight room Aug. 28.
IRON RIVER—What’s blue and white, muscular, has 22 legs and can be identified by its brown upper lip?
It’s the starters on West Iron County’s football team, who last week did their part for the Michigan Dairy Council’s chocolate milk promotion.
At 1 p.m. last Wednesday, Aug. 28, it was showtime. The players were in their blue uniforms, pads and helmets, got brown “milk mustaches” painted on their upper lips, grabbed bottles of chocolate milk and posed for photos.
Local photographer Kevin Zini directed the poses in the school’s weight room and on the football field, with the varsity players holding miniature footballs and little plastic bottles of rapidly warming chocolate milk.
The images will go to the Dairy Council for use in its campaign promoting chocolate milk as “nature’s sports drink.” Glossy posters will be made from some of the photos—helmets, milk mustaches and all. For the players’ trouble, all of them got chocolate milk T-shirts, mini footballs, exercise and other gear.
Besides being a fun day, it was a big prize for West Iron, one of 26 Michigan high school teams selected for the program. For being selected, West Iron received $2,000 to purchase chocolate milk all season for both the varsity and JV football teams, along with coolers that can be taken to the practice field and gridiron.
The campaign was announced last spring. Michigan high schools were invited to nominate one of their fall sports teams to take part the chocolate milk program.
Denise Maloney, West Iron’s health and wellness coordinator, spearheaded the effort to get the Wykons in on the action. About two years ago, West Iron was involved with the Dairy Council’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program with the NFL.
“They love our school,” Maloney said. “They said when they saw our application came in, they kind of put us at the top of the list. We have a great relationship.”
Sure enough, West Iron was among the teams selected. “It’s a great thing for our athletes,” Maloney said. “It’s a real morale booster.”
The photo shoot, the posters, the milk mustaches are what West Iron is doing in return for the Dairy Council’s gifts. Later, some of the photos may be used as part of a national campaign that promotes chocolate milk.
Why chocolate milk? “It is the No. 1 refueling food to be used as a post-workout drink,” said Maloney. “It’s got a perfect protein-to-carb ratio.” Olympic and professional athletes are also taking part in the chocolate milk campaign, much like the earlier “got milk?” campaign.
The chocolate milk promotion works perfectly, Maloney said, with what West Iron is trying to do to promote better nutrition.
“West Iron County schools has made a commitment to creating a healthier generation and has implemented many health and welfare initiatives for students,” she said, by teaming up and partnering with the Dairy Council, Fuel Up to Play 60, along with Blue Cross-Blue Shield and NorthStar Health Systems.
Maloney called the Dairy Council “true health champions for our school and [they] have provided amazing support in helping our school establish healthy lifestyle goals in our students that will carry them over a lifetime—long after they leave our classrooms and hallways.
“We are proud to have teamed up with them.”
Unfortunately for the team’s coaches, the photo shoot was held just two days before West Iron’s season opener at Munising Aug. 30. That got them a little nervous.
“Obviously, any distraction during the first week of the season is always difficult,” said Coach Mike Berutti, who somehow missed his encounter with the milk mustache paintbrush.
“The kids, I think, enjoy it, and they’re having fun with it.”
It turned out all right. School officials had set aside two hours for the photo work so practice could start on time at 3 p.m. The photographers seemed to know they were “on the clock”: The final picture—a team shot of the combined varsity and junior varsity teams sitting in the grandstand--was taken at about 2:15.
“We got through the pictures in a timely fashion,” Berutti said with a grin. “It worked out good.
“We’re done 45 minutes early, so I can start practice early!”