Roman Gabriel III warns about drugs, alcohol
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 3, 2013 1:50 AM
Roman Gabriel III talks to juniors at Eastern Wayne High School about living a positive life.
Roman Gabriel III is a commanding presence by any standard -- both in stature and legacy.
His father was a successful football player from Wilmington who went on to play for N.C. State University and then the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles.
Gabriel himself played for the University of New Mexico, was drafted by the Oakland Raiders and played for the Boston Breakers of the USFL for a year. He now assists with the football program at Appalachian State University and is a talk show host for Sold Out Sports.
Although he has been surrounded his entire life by high-achieving and successful people, he also knows that none of that is accomplished by luck or chance, and is making it his mission to impart that message to young people.
Last week, he presented his Sold Out School Drug and Alcohol assembly program at nine area high schools, funded by the Wayne County ABC Board.
"You're going to be better when you walk out of here today than when you walked in here," he promised the Eastern Wayne High School juniors in the audience at his first stop in Wayne County Public Schools on Wednesday.
He admitted he "didn't have a clue" what he wanted to do with his life when he was their age, and contrasted some of the differences between his generation and theirs.
"We were taught from parents and coaches, people in our life, that you work for everything you earn," he said. "Your generation, unfortunately, has gotten some bad advice, which is somehow that you feel you're entitled to success just because you show up."
The truth is, he said, there are no trophies just for showing up.
"If you're not ready to compete in the world you're living in today, you're going to find yourself on the outside looking in," he said. "That entitlement attitude will kill you. It will just keep you from going where you want to go."
He challenged the students to be prepared to compete every day, to find their passion and pursue it, then shared some of the lessons he learned from his father.
"Dedicate yourself 100 percent, never go into something without knowing you're going to do your best at all times, and don't quit," he said.
The man who has shared locker rooms with some exemplary athletes pointed out that for every successful person, there are three times as many who have the same talent and ability who don't make it.
"You better decide right now, what am I willing to do every day," he said. "Make decisions that are right for you, that are right for what you want to do."
Midway through the hour-long program, he paused.
"So, you might be wondering, when are you going to get to the drugs and alcohol?" he asked. "You guys are way too smart for me to lecture on that."
Instead, he told a story drawn from the pages of his own life, of a brother with whom he shared a bedroom for nearly 14 years.
"We grew up the same way .... there's very little that we did different," he said.
But as teens, the disciplined life of an athlete no longer bound them together.
"I didn't find out until he was 32 years old that my brother was an alcoholic," Gabriel said.
The day of discovery came when Gabriel went to his brother's home one day to check on him and found him passed out on the floor.
His sibling has been in recovery for 18 years now, prompting him to intercept the obvious question from his audience, "'Well, that worked out well,' you're probably thinking.
"Let me tell you why it didn't work out well. What do you think he gets to decide every day? Whether (he's) going to drink or not."
It's a choice he hopes to prevent other young people from having to make, and why he travels around doing assemblies and encourages youth to sign a pledge on his Facebook page, Sold Out, to be drug and alcohol free.
In addition to Eastern Wayne on Wednesday, where he conducted assemblies for juniors and seniors, he also made stops at Goldsboro High School and Wayne Early/Middle College High. On Thursday he visited Charles B. Aycock, Wayne Academy and Rosewood high schools, and on Friday was at Southern Wayne, Spring Creek and Wayne School of Engineering.