Friday, March 07, 2014

TOP STORY >> Champ back in school

Leader staff writer

Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl champion Clinton McDonald stopped by Jacksonville High School on Friday to encourage 11th graders to do their best on the literacy-proficiency exam next week.

He also told them to make the most of their educational opportunities.

McDonald is a 2005 Jacksonville High graduate who attended the University of Memphis. He is a defensive tackle for the Seahawks.

McDonald reflected on his days at JHS. “I was in the same shoes you all are in with testing, getting into the next grade. It’s an important time in your 11th-grade year. You need to take these tests seriously. Not only does it affect the school, it affects you as well,” he said.

He told the students that he didn’t take tests seriously when he was in high school and it affected him later.

McDonald said he missed two tests and could not get all of his scholarship money guaranteed until he made them up.

McDonald asked, if he hadn’t take those tests, where he would be.

“Everybody in here can read and write. Go ahead and take advantage of every step on the test. We all thought these tests did not amount to anything. But how many of you all want to go to college or the military?” McDonald said.

Several students raised their hands. Then McDonald asked what those in the room who didn’t want to go to college or the military would like to do.

One student said he was going to travel the streets and sell drugs. “That’s the dumbest

answer I ever heard,” McDonald said.

“You all have the opportunity to further yourselves in the world and put your stamp on the United States or those in the military all over the world. Regardless of what you want to do in life, you are going to take tests,” he said.

The football star pointed out that even people selling drugs have to know how much they cost and how much change to give customers. If they don’t, the customers will “punch you in your face because (they think) you are trying to cheat them,” McDonald said.

“You all think I play football, went to the Super Bowl, that I don’t know about that life. I was once ya’ll,” he continued.

McDonald said, “It ain’t nothing new, guys. (You think) it is funny because it’s ‘Jacksonville Hood.’ Well, guess what, everywhere you go has a hood. What does that mean? Either you are going to change your environment or you’re going to let your environment become you.”

The football star told the students that they would become like the people they see on TV being arrested unless they make an effort.

“All I’m saying is be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of the potential you really hold in your heart and your talent. God didn’t bless you to be here to just go traffic. He didn’t bless you to be here, go to school, look good and not get your lessons. If you’re going to go to school, go to school for a purpose. You got to be here, right?” McDonald said.

McDonald told the students that what they do in high school affects their working lives. Employers look to see if you have a college degree, high school diploma or GED, he said.

They also ask teachers and coaches what type of person you were in school, McDonald noted.

He said that, if he could go back to school, he’d try to get better grades.

“I was one of those kids who made mediocre grades. I could have made better grades, but, at the same time, I didn’t care enough to make better grades.

“Looking back on it, God has blessed me to be where I’m at now. At the same time, everybody is not as fortunate to do what I do. Everybody is not going to be a LeBron James, a Michael Jordan, a Deion Sanders or a quarterback in the NFL,” McDonald said.

He told the students they need to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

“Even though it might be boring, even though it seems like (you) don’t want to do this, it’s necessary. How does a guy go from college football to NFL football? From the hard work and blessings God gave him. So, if you don’t want to work, you will not reap the reward. Your work right now is taking these tests. Your job is to go out here and study, do your job, make good grades and make good marks on the test.”

Some of the students laughed during McDonald’s talk. But he said he wasn’t embarrassed.

McDonald explained that he has his education, the teachers have theirs and he wants to encourage students to get the most out of an education.

Students who do not pass the upcoming test will take 11th grade literacy in their senior year, instead of 12th grade literacy. McDonald said that isn’t funny.

“All of you have the ability to learn, the ability to further your education and further your mind-set more than what you think,” he told the students.

“I know how hard it was. I went to this high school. I was the man on these streets, and I still am. You feel me?” McDonald asked.

He continued, “I’m just trying to get back to you all to let you know someone cares about you (who’s) not here every day. I come back every spring. I want to show there is hope outside of these walls. There is hope in your mind, hope in your body and hope in your soul that you can graduate and become better than you thought you could be.”

McDonald said, “I never thought I would be an NFL player when I was in high school. I was pretty good, but not this good. I never thought I would win a Super Bowl in my life. But it happened because God allowed it to happen. The things you want in your heart, you tell God what you want. He is going to give you what you want.

“But it starts with you. You got to have the desire. You have to want to better yourself. If you don’t want to better yourself or your environment or situation, don’t even take the test,” the football star told the students.

“If you want to achieve and better yourself, and be an example for your brothers and sisters, then do (well) on these tests. They look up to everything you do,” McDonald said.

He told the student he knows that because he has two younger brothers and a sister who look up to him.