Former NFL players teach Goliad students to aim high
Aug. 31, 2011 at 3:31 a.m.
Updated Sept. 2, 2011 at 4:02 a.m.
GOLIAD – Among teachers and students dancing to the “Cupid Shuffle,” Wednesday morning, a 6-foot, 8-inch, 325-pound former NFL player could be found kicking up his heels and shaking his hips with the best of them.
Devin Wyman, a former defensive lineman for the New England Patriots, and Keith Davis, who played linebacker for the New York Giants – certainly stuck out in the Goliad High School auditorium during the school’s “Today’s Tigers, Tomorrow’s Leaders” program.
The program, funded by a grant from the Goliad Education Foundation, was designed to get kids pumped about preparing for their futures.
“We came to Goliad to challenge students to go higher. Everybody say, ‘higher,’” Davis provoked the crowd of seventh- through 10th-graders.
“Higher,” they yelled back.
Minutes later, Wyman would be twirling a steel pole above his head. On both ends of the pole, two girls held on tight, their bodies dangling from eight feet in the air.
Hardly a feat of strength for a man who can bench press more than 500 pounds, the human helicopter served more as a metaphor for the delighted audience.
Davis and Wyman encouraged the kids to grasp onto their dreams – to allow their goals to take them to towering levels.
“If I’m trying, I’m flying, but if I don’t I won’t,” Wyman said a few times during the assembly.
Their presentation drifted from quick quips to roaring reaffirmations from the audience: “I am valuable.” “I am a queen.” “Confidence is part of my life.”
Their speeches weaved from digs about the Dallas Cowboys to halting moments of personal testimony.
Davis shared about his childhood, about growing up in a bad Los Angeles neighborhood, about his father who committed suicide when Davis was only 4, about having to take remedial reading classes all through school and living with his mother’s abusive boyfriend.
Davis would go on to be a two-time Rose Bowl champion with the University of Southern California and would graduate with the highest grade point average on his team.
“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do,” he said.
Wyman also shared his story – about the first time he met his father, which was when Wyman was burying him, about getting caught up in the wrong crowd, about going to jail for selling drugs the day he was supposed to be leaving for college, about losing his friends to a drive-by shooting.
“My neighborhood was telling me, ‘you could never make it,’” Wyman said. “I stand before you today to let you know if I can do it, you can do it.”
The struggles in Goliad, Davis noted, could be different than his inner-city upbringing, but they share at least one commonality.
“The hardest part was the little dream mentality,” he said.
That’s what Goliad students should take away, Mark Cunningham, Goliad ISD’s athletic director and head football coach said after Wyman had performed a pushup with the coach standing on his back.
“What I’d like them to see is, even though you’re in a small community, you can think big,” he said. “There are some special kids here. They need to dream big.”
For at least one group of girls, the message that resonated most loudly when the laughter and hip hop music subsided was about sex.
A group of sophomore girls stood waiting in line for autographs, reflecting on the insights they gained that morning, especially when it came to what the men called dream-breaker relationships.
“Once they get it, when they want it and how they want it, then they’re gone,” Lexi Perry, 15, paraphrased from the presentation, her friends nodding.
Both Davis and Wyman told of how they wooed their “fine” wives by treating the women with respect and realizing their value – an expectation they, of course, made the girls reaffirm verbally.
Wyman asked if the girls would give their boyfriends $55,000. How about $25,000? $250?
The girls chirped, “No.”
“If you wouldn’t give your boyfriend that little bit of money, then why would you think to give him your body so easily?” Wyman asked.
“Oooh’s” resounded from the crowd.
Davis joked he was sorry some of the boys were going to be dumped by lunch time.
But by the end of the program, he had given them plenty of other things to look forward to.
“Big dream,” he said.
“Big dream,” the kids repeated.
“Big effort. Big vision. Push,” they continued.