09/21/06 — Athletes speak to county teens about making good life choices

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Athletes speak to county teens about making good life choices

By Lee Williams
Published in News on September 21, 2006 1:52 PM

A former professional football player for the St. Louis Rams said he knows alcohol is the No. 1 killer among teens.

John Earle, a former offensive lineman who once played for the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Stallions and Rams, plans to do something about it, by reaching one student at a time.

Earle, 38, and several other former professional athletes toured several Wayne County schools this week. The athletes spoke in hopes of steering teens away from alcohol.

Wayne County sheriff's deputies escorted Earle and others such as former professional basketball player Mike Morrison, who once played for the Phoenix Suns, Washington Bullets and Dallas Mavericks, to select county schools.

Earle and Morrison's visits were sponsored by Sports World Inc., a program that sends former professional athletes to schools to teach students the consequences of poor choice-making while challenging them with a message of hope. The Goldsboro Exchange Club also sponsored the event.

The program was started in 1978 by then-NFL chaplain Dr. Ira Lee Eshleman. According to the program's Web site, Sports World Pros are able to challenge 750,000 students and staff with the message of hope in schools nationwide.

Hundreds of students at Norwayne Middle School in Fremont filled the gymnasium Monday to hear Earle's message.

Earle, a New Jersey native, accomplished much as a football player. But his life took a fearful turn when he learned he was cut from the Kansas City Chiefs training camp, Earle told the students.

Earle said tears filled his eyes that day and thoughts of being a failure filled his mind. But, something he heard 10 years ago from another football legend, Marcus Allen, inspired him to hold tight to his dreams.

"This is the nature of the game you play," Earle said Allen told him. "Just because you got cut doesn't mean you can't play pro football, and it doesn't mean you aren't a great offensive lineman. But it's not what I believe, it's what you believe."

Earle carried those inspiring words with him throughout his life.

Earle went on to play for several professional football teams and he achieved great success, the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Earle said showing off his $6,000 diamond-laced pinkie Grey Championship ring.

"Failure is going to happen in your life," Earle told the students. "Failure is expected. Don't accept it."

Life experiences in Earle's life inspired him to work with youths.

"It was a calling on my life," said Earle after his speech, while teens giggled nervously eagerly waiting to get his autograph. "I wanted to get into a ministry that would allow me to get in front of the young people and challenge them."

Earle said "TV is lying to our kids," and he wanted to teach teens the truth about the effects alcohol, violence and poor performance in school can have on their lives.

Jonathan Pritchett, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Norwayne, said he enjoyed Earle's message.

"I think it was pretty good. It was inspirational," said Pritchett, who received Earle's autograph on a sheet of borrowed notebook paper.

Pritchett said he admired the fact that Earle, a Western Illinois University college grad, continued to stay focused on his education while pursuing his dream to be a football player.