Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What an NFL Star Says about Education

Richard Sherman: Stanford graduate 2011.

In all the talk about Super Bowl XLIX, one critical story was mostly overlooked. In days leading up to the contest, sportscasters, former stars and scientists weighed in on Deflategate. Later, players, pundits and even psychologists talked about the decision by the Seattle Seahawks to pass on 2-and-1, from the one yard line.

(You can watch a distraught Seattle fan head butt his television set after his team blows the win, below.) 

The story that I believe matters had nothing to do with an interception that sealed the Seahawks’ and New England Patriots’ fates. True, almost 1 in 3 Americans watched Super Bowl XLIX, included my son and I, an audience of 114.4 million, the largest in television history. I wonder how many read the story on Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman in Sports Illustrated earlier that week?

Most of the article focused on football, of course. At the end, however, Sherman turned to a subject of real importance: 
I got some news nine months ago that helped me reach a conclusion. My girlfriend, Ashley, and I are expecting our first child, a boy, any day now [born February 5].I’ve realized in the last year that I can evoke change by being a great role model: a man who respects women and police officers, who graduated from college and does everything in his power to be successful within the rules.
Circumstances dictate where you start—a single mother raised Kam Chancellor [a teammate] to become the man he is today—but each individual determines his course. Where I came from, in Compton, kids were brainwashed into thinking that if they weren’t athletes or rappers or drug dealers they were nothing. My son will understand that he’s in control of his own destiny and that education, work ethic and discipline will guide him to an even better life than I’ve enjoyed. He’ll be the man who makes the world a better place through positive actions and influence. 

Sherman may well be the best defensive back in the NFL today. But in the end nothing that happens on a football field ever really changes the world. What happens inside classrooms every day does.

Mr. Sherman knows this himself. He finished second in his high school class with a 4.2 GPA. He had offers from college football powerhouses, but chose his own path. “Ultimately,” he explains, “I chose Stanford University to make a statement about the importance of education.” He wanted to be more than a football star. 

He wanted to learn.

When he graduated in 2011 with a 3.9 GPA and a communications degree, Sherman could not know for sure that NFL stardom awaited. He was a fifth round pick. Many players taken that low end up getting cut or spend two or three years riding the bench.

Richard Sherman, though, had his degree just in case. He knew how important education is, how important it is might be even for those who hope to make a career in sports.

Today, he makes his mark in ways far more important than can be measured in “passes defensed” or interceptions. Sherman is an true example for kids. His charity, Blanket Coverage, provides “students in low-income communities with school supplies and clothing so they can more adequately achieve their goals.

His mission is clear. “Off the field,” Mr. Sherman explains, “I am a man of integrity and community. My passion is my foundation, Blanket Coverage, which gives back to the children in the community to provide all the necessary tools to get an education. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of where I come from and where I could be right now if not for the support given to me.

His own family was “adamant” about his getting the best possible education—and now he tries to pass on lessons he learned as a young man.

I suppose, I should add a brief disclaimer here, before continuing with my story. Yes, I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan. So I have no idea what it feels likes to see your team win the big game. (And I admit I have been tempted to head butt my television set several times in recent years. But my son stops me and calms me down.) Still, I know in ten years most fans will forget which teams played in Super Bowl XLIX. Lives will not have been changed by a 28-24 score. We’ll all go on living in our usual ways.

What happens in schools, what one NFL star can do to help kids succeed in the classroom today—that will matter far more.

Sure. I’d be happy to see Richard Sherman in a Bengals uniform. 

In the end, football hardly matters. What he tries to do, stressing the value of education, trumps any Super Bowl win.

1 comment:

  1. Let’s also talk about the attacks on teachers’ pensions across this country: http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/search/label/pension%20analyses