On June 13, 2012 I was invited to Eldorado High School in Las Vegas — where I played football from 1997-2000 — to give the commencement speech for the Class of 2012. It was a great honor to share my story to inspire the young Eldorado graduates and I felt it appropriate to share the words I said to them with you, my fans, on this Independence Day:
Before I begin I would like to extend a extra special thanks to the Principal, Ms. Danielle Miller, the rest of the amazing staff, including Melissa Ortiz and to you the graduating class of 2012. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your very special day.
Congratulations! You did it!
I am so very blessed and honored to stand before you today.
Even though I played football here at Eldorado, I am not technically a graduate. I was zoned to attend Eldorado, but I am a graduate of Vo. Tech High School where I learned the valuable trade of drafting and where my love for architecture was born.
At some point in all of our lives, we develop a false sense of reality. We believe we are capable of designing our lives to a fit the mold of what others believe we should be.
During these formative years, Eldorado played a crucial role in my life by nurturing and boosting my confidence, leadership skills and most importantly exposing me to universities that may not have discovered my talents on their own. In doing so, this gave me a life changing opportunity to chase and live my dream.
I would like to reflect on a couple of personal stories; events that helped to shape and refine the man you see standing before you tonight.
In second grade, I had a teacher who told me I would never be above average. Words that are still crystal clear today.
She said these things, I feel, because she recognized my lack of confidence in answering questions correctly. This is before the luxury of Google. I was a very shy child. I always looked to others for assurance instead of believing in myself. Thankfully my parents engrained in me several life lessons, I want to share with you. Lessons I still treasure to this day.
- An Appreciation For Education
- A Strong Work Ethic
- To Never Accept Someone Else’s Destiny For Your Life
Instead allow the storm they’re predicting in your life to propel the sails on your boat to push you towards your destiny even faster.
By the time I was 10 years old I learned to never settle. Believe it or not that is when I knew exactly what I wanted to be in life. At that time I wrote a poem entitled ‘I Am’
I am a NFL running back
I wonder if I will be great
I hear the crowd cheer
I see myself scoring a touchdown
I want a Super Bowl ring
I pretend I’m a great running back
I feel like I’m a star
I touch the first place trophy
I worry we won’t win
I cry if I fell
I am a NFL running back
I understand some will be greater
I say what I mean
I dream to be the greatest
I try to be the best
I hope I will be remember as one of the greatest
I am a NFL RUNNING BACK
The second story I want to share with you is, do not allow your dreams to become nightmares. Dreams can easily be confused for nightmares if you do not believe in yourself. What I mean by that is, I naturally assumed that by making it to the NFL, life would be easy. I’m here to tell you that is the farthest thing from the truth. This year I will be entering my 9th season as a NFL Running Back.
Keep in mind the average career span for this position is approximately 3.2 years. However, despite what the statistics say, Thank God, I am still going strong and don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
The course God has chosen for me has not been easy. I’ve lost more games than I’ve won. (At one point I went through a stretch where I only won 6 games in a matter of 3 years.)
My dream of being a NFL Running Back had become a nightmare. The friends I grew up with were either envious of my success, or thought I had changed. The city I played for wanted us gone because we were a dreadful team. To make matters worse, the material things I had acquired became more of a burden than a blessing.
So one early morning, I called home, awakened my parents with tears streaming down my face. I wanted my old life back!!
At this dark hour in my life, a woman: my mother, who knew so very little about football reminded me that my success was not based on wins and losses; but instead, how I dealt with the disappointment and how I had to continue to demand of myself and others a certain standard of excellence.
My mother delivered a speech that still resonates within me. Words that re-energized my love for the game of football, which began to diminish.
I didn’t realize it then but the passion I had at the age of 10 was gone. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks. My purpose in life was not to only be a NFL Running Back but to also use this stage to inspire and encourage others. Also, to motivate the millions of people who feel the game of life is too hard, those who may want to throw in the towel and give up.
I am here to encourage you young adults, our future leaders: please embrace your shortcomings, disappointments and hardships, for these experiences will allow you to appreciate the victories destined to come each of your way.
So on this day June 13, 2012, you have every reason to celebrate. I applaud this great new beginning for each of you! You have made it through the preliminary stages of who you are to become.
And after today it is up to you to decide what direction your life will take. What you want to become and what impact you want to make. And before I leave you, I challenge you all not to only live a “Y.O.L.O” life, but to also live a life full of compassion, inspiration and tenacity. Never give up. So, that when you look back over your years you can say that you’ve won at this game called life – with no regrets!
Thank you for your time and God bless.