The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and Coca-Cola on Tuesday teamed up to host the 4th and Life High School Football Forum at FedExField.
The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and Coca-Cola on Tuesday teamed up to host the annual "4th and Life" High School Football Forum at FedExField.
Emceed by Washington Redskins great tight end Rick "Doc" Walker and featuring current players Darrel Young, Shawn Lauvao, Tyler Polumbus and Akeem Davis as panelists, hundreds of local high school football players listened intently as each told stories of their journey to the NFL.
But, while they've made it to the pinnacle of the football world, the Redskins players in attendance also wanted to remind everyone that sometimes you have to have a backup plan.
"I wasn't privileged in terms of growing up and having someone to come back in the community to give us guidance and wisdom to reach our goal," Young said before the event began. "Everyone in here wants to play football. Realistically, it might be a handful of guys that can play college ball and maybe five or six that get a chance at the league."
Young said that for those that may not continue with their football careers past high school, they must use what they learned on the football field to help them during their career.
"The message is you've got to go to school to get a background in what you want to do," he said. "If you make it, use it to your benefit. We're here to show you that everyone has a different story. Everyone's not a first-round pick. Everyone doesn't make millions playing it. So what do you do with it while you're in it? You network [and] you use your resources in terms of life to reach that stepping stone and you're basically just building your foundation in terms of where you want to go in life."
Polumbus told the high schoolers that they must avoid negative situations that might block them in reaching their goals.
"One thing I did in my life a while back was I cut out outside influence," he said. "I stopped listening to the media. I stopped reading articles. I stopped listening to what people had to say about me and I started counting on my inner faith. I started counting on my inner belief.
"As I look back on it, if I could have cut out other people's opinions of my ability in school and on the football field, that would have helped me out at a younger age because there was a time when I lost all confidence in my ability to play this game because of what other people were telling me."
Davis echoed Polumbus' sentiment about blocking out distractions.
"These guys right now, we live in a world where we're bombarded with information – iPhones, technology – they have to make some very important decisions right now in high school," he said. "They're being faced with alcohol, drugs, relationships, but just they have to be able to make the right choice, do the right thing."
Lauvao admitted that one of the biggest adjustments for him coming out of high school was the change in culture.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Lauvao decided to attend the University of Arizona.
While there, though, he learned that consistency and accountability are two keys to success regardless of the situation.
"I think the biggest thing is just being consistent and being the same person every day," he said. "Going to class, listening to your teachers and your parents and just the biggest thing is choices. For a lot of these guys, it's just making the right decision given the circumstance."
After the panel discussion, the student-athletes were broken into smaller groups based on grade level, where they had the chance to interact with the players on a more personal level.
Young told students about the importance of staying on a right path, providing examples of how to do so.
Davis and the freshmen, meanwhile, talked about the difficulty of adjusting.
The safety, discussed his tenure with the Redskins which has included several moves between the active roster and practice squad.
"I just wanted to be very transparent with them and let them know that it's not an easy road," he said. "They'll have obstacles that come their way, but it's very attainable. You can make good grades. You can be a very good athlete at the same time. You can be the example that everybody wants to see and do the best at whatever it is."
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