LOS ANGELES — Teamwork. Building blocks to success. Working hard. Being responsible. Learning to overcome adversity.
Those are some of the words that rang through the ears and minds of young people attending one of the two Pro Football Hall of Fame California Strong Youth Strong Communities Youth Summit that took place Nov. 11.
As part of the free summits, NFL Hall of Fame players came out and talk to students about anti-bullying and becoming better ambassadors at their schools and respective communities.
“It’s great to know that they’re out here spending their time on a Saturday with us,” Paramount High School sophomore Joshua Avila said. “I can see what they’ve been through and how my life isn’t any different, and they’re able to succeed.”
Hall of Fame representatives at the Los Angeles summit were defensive backs Darrell Green and Aeneas Williams and legendary offensive lineman Anthony Muñoz. Green spent all of his 20-year NFL career with the Washington Redskins.
After attending USC, Muñoz went on to NFL glory playing for the Cincinnati Bengals for 13 seasons. Williams spent most of his 14 NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
The first part of the daylong event, which took place at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, featured Green, Williams and Muñoz and a Howard University graduate offering up tips on doing the right thing, how to resist bullying and peer pressure and working on pursuing their dreams.
The rest of the afternoon was spent with breakout sessions and workshops where students between13 and 18 could talk with the former athletes in a more intimate setting.
Munoz’s dream growing up was playing in Major League Baseball. He said he had aspirations to become a major league pitcher. His choice of a having a professional sports career may have not turned out to be what we wanted, but did pretty well for himself in football.
But as he shared his life story with students, Muñoz informed students that he had doubts about getting an opportunity to get to that level because of the multiple knee surgeries he underwent while he was still in college.
“I would not trade my four years here at USC for anything,” Muñoz said. “I learned what it meant to go through adversity. I learned what it meant to truly have relationships. The first relationship I learned about and knew that it was very important — the most important in my life — would be my relationship with Christ Jesus, who I met here as a sophomore at USC.”
Williams played the part of the crowd energizer as he hit the stage revving up the students to be active partakers. The adversity Williams had to overcome was his speed to play at the NFL. Clocking a 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash is usually a barometer to getting little attention or no look at all by NFL scouts if you play defensive back. He knew it.
So Williams said he worked his tail off to meet the standard that would gain attention from NFL club officials.
“I was very slow,” Williams said. “At the speed that I ran, you were supposed to never play in the NFL running a 4.64.”
Green said goals are achieved through desire.
“It starts there,” Green said. “The key is for everybody you have a plan. But in a plan, one of the things that is important in a plan, you’ve got to be realistic about what you want to do.”