Former NFL player Devin Wyman opened his assembly at Exeter Township Junior High this morning by asking students a thought-provoking question: "What size dream did you wake up with today?" And for the next 45 minutes, he showed students how small choices they make each day--with their friends, their efforts at school and their attitude--ultimately make a huge impact on the achievement of their dreams.
Wyman is no stranger to having big dreams when he was a student and dreamt of becoming a professional football player. By high school, Division I colleges and universities came knocking on his door, offering him scholarships to play football or basketball. But he blew it all when he fell in with the wrong group of friends and decided to sell drugs, ultimately leading to his arrest before graduating high school. "One $20 piece of cocaine cost me a quarter-million dollar scholarship," he said to the suddenly hushed group of students. "I made one wrong choice listening to the wrong voice. My mom said your friends are not your friends. What you do in the dark, will come to the light."
Wyman then held up a steel bar he brought with him and held it vertically to illustrate what it was like to live behind it as a prisoner. But he then told students the bar could also represent what it's like to be lifted to achieve your dreams when you are with friends who care just as much about your aspirations. Asking for two volunteers, eighth graders Nyla Salaam (left) and Jacinda Motley, were instructed by Wyman to grab the now-horizontal bar and hold onto as if it were their dreams. "If you let go of it, she's going to fall," he said to Nyla in reference to Jacinda. "And if you let go of it, she's going to fall," he said in reverse, illustrating how friendships can make all the difference. And with that, he lifted the girls to the stunned audience.
Continuing to use the bar as a metaphor, Wyman then further shocked the group of students by placing a towel around the center of the bar, placing it in his mouth, and then bending it--impossibly--into half. "I love football because it has two halves," he said as he traced his finger around the now u-shaped bar. "This," he said as he pointed to the curve at the bottom of the bar, "was when I was arrested. I was at my lowest point. It was the end of my first half." But he then said that each and every person has the capacity to ask for forgiveness, the power to change and the ability to latch back onto their dreams and work hard to achieve them. "This," he said as he traced his finger up the bar, "was my second half when I didn't give up on myself and I prayed for forgiveness." He then paused and told the students emphatically, "Don't you ever--ever--give up on yourself," as he told students about his release from prison and re-entry back onto the football field at a community college, eventually earning a spot on the football field at Kentucky State University. From there, Wyman was drafted in the sixth round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, where he earned two Super Bowl rings.
Wyman will bring his message about effort, education and excellence to students throughout the district during assemblies on Monday and Tuesday, with a final free and open-to-the-public presentation on Tuesday, September 26th at 6PM in the auditorium at the Exeter Township Senior High school. Wyman's presentation was brought to Exeter schools thanks to a grant from the Exeter Community Education Foundation.