High school project becomes storybook
February 11, 2010 · Dave Morris
When Ryan Sloth was assigned to write a children's story as a high school project, he had no idea it would end up published as a book.
The result is "Sammy Sloth: Sport Superstar," and he visited with classes at Washington Elementary in Mount Vernon last week to read the book, talk about the importance of reading, and share anecdotes about his years as an Iowa State University and Arena Football player.
Sloth's sister and brother-in-law, Conni and Kory Swart, are Mount Vernon residents. Sloth said he was pleased to be able to make his presentation with his niece Laura in the audience.
"It all started as a high school project," Sloth told the Sun. "One of the projects was to write a kids' book."
Two years ago, while reading a book to his son, Tucker, he remembered his own book and submitted it to a publisher.
"I dug it out, revised it, added characters and got it how I wanted it," he said. "I was fortunate to have it published."
The book, "Sammy Sloth: Sport Superstar," is nearing the 5,000 mark in sales. Once past 5,000 copies, Sloth will be able to submit his next book, which he's already written, about Sammy Sloth.
The message of "Sammy Sloth: Sport Superstar" is to never give up on your dream, find where you can excel, and work hard to achieve your goal. For Sammy, that spot ends up being in golf after trying to play other sports.
"My background is in sports. I guess you'd say that's my area of expertise," Sloth said. "It's that never-give-up attitude and thinking positive" that pervades the story.
Sloth entertained the Washington Elementary students with stories of his Cyclone team beating the Iowa Hawkeyes and a lot of fun give-and-take about everything from sports to the importance of finding something you like to read.
When a student told him he didn't like to read, Sloth told him to stick with it and find something you truly like to read. For Sloth, it was the Matt Christopher Sports Classics series that turned him on to reading.
"I didn't like it either until I found something I really liked," he said.
He also showed students his Insight Bowl ring, a Cyclone jersey and helmet, as well as a helmet and football from the Barnstormers.
Students were fascinated when Sloth pulled out the original copy of the story he created as a teenager. In the book, Sloth's original illustrations were replaced by those of an illustrator on the publisher's staff.
Following a successful college career with the Cyclones, where he was a defensive back, Sloth played Arena Football for the Iowa Barnstormers, Bakersfield Blitz and Columbus Destroyers. He has played both defensive back and wide receiver.
Currently, he's coaching defensive backs and special teams for the Barnstormers.
In addition to writing and coaching, Sloth has found time to act in two recent movies. He is seen as No. 51 in "We Are Marshall" and also had a small role in "Leatherheads," the old-school football movie.
Sloth, who grew up in Belmond, lives in Ames with his wife, Heidi, son Tucker, 4 1⁄2, and daughter Taylor, 1.
"Sammy Sloth: Sport Superstar," (reading level aimed at ages 9-12, 24 pages) which retails for $8.99, is available at bookstores and from online sellers.