By: David Tyree
Each year, football teams across the country at all levels take a focused two to four weeks known as training camp to give attention to the sport they love and lay a foundation for the identity and success of the team. In this time, individuals develop the positive habits in practice that will become second nature in the game to yield the maximum rewards. The hope is that they will be crowned a champion as a reward for their hard work and determination. At the Academies at Frederick Douglass in Baltimore, Maryland, this has been true of their attitude on and off of the field during the 2013 school year. The 1st & Goal initiative is well under way through the collaborative efforts of NFL Player Engagement, Family League of Baltimore, and Douglass to serve the approximately 60 young men, grades 9-12, engaged in football. The number one goal is to become a champion in life by laying the foundation of academic excellence and strong personal character.
Although the academic year has only reached its halfway mark, the football season has long passed on for the 13-1 Douglass Ducks. The only loss of the season came in the state finals played at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the 2012 World Champion Baltimore Ravens. With all of the effort and energy toward creating a championship culture at Douglass, the emphasis has now become the classroom. To kick off the second half of the academic year, Jaquan Oakley, Azariah Bratton-Bey, and Donnell Jackson were selected from among their peers to represent leadership and excellence in the classroom. They were rewarded for their hard work and determination with a memorable experience at Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day in the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. It was much to my delight to host them as they were fortunate to meet NFL Legends such as Sam Madison and Amani Toomer, with both of whom I shared the joy of winning a Super Bowl.
The factors are innumerable that lead to and ensure success in life. But it is without question that individuals of high academic pedigree and impeccable character set the standard for high achievement throughout all cultures. The same academic fortitude that allowed Jacquan, Azariah, and Donnell to participate in the Super Bowl XLVIII activities will also ensure them the highest rewards in life’s pursuits. The work is so important, because the stakes are so much higher. Well done, gentlemen!