Dear Coach Ginn,
I have tried to thank you but you won’t let me. You don’t like the recognition.
You are such an important part of my development, as it’s been your words and your wisdom that has shown me the way throughout my young life.
You once told me to have the courage to be different. You wanted me to become a product of who I am instead of where I come from.
In Glenville, Ohio people don’t have huge bank accounts. In fact, I didn’t even know what a bank account was until I got to college. Some people feel forced to get into the streets and get into the drug and gang life. They are just trying to provide for their families. While it’s not right, they believe they have no other options.
Before I met you, I, too, thought my options in life were limited. I was stubborn and unmotivated. I didn’t foresee myself going to the NFL. I wasn’t on track to go to college and I certainly wasn’t developing the skills to be a leader.
The day I met you, my life began to take a different course.
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It was the summer going into my freshman year of high school. I was walking through Glenville High School’s parking lot when our paths crossed. You asked me if I played football and I told you I didn’t have the grades. You decided to help me.
From that moment forward you starting pushing me. You had a vision for me that showed me I had more options that I initially thought.
You told me you believed if I worked hard, I could go to college and I could make it to the NFL. It took me some time, but I eventually bought into your vision.
My dad didn’t live with me. I moved out of my mom’s house during high school because she had four kids and she worked two jobs to put us through school. I didn’t want her to worry about me, so I stayed with some of my friends.
Throughout high school, you, Coach Ginn, provided the stability I needed to stay focused and accomplish the goals we set out together.
You challenged me to hold a higher standard for myself – whether it was getting tutors for school, going to class on time or helping out the younger guys.
You got the best out of me because you made me feel loved by giving me advice, being consistent and making my future your priority.
Because of that love, I became focused, diligent and determined both on the field and in life.
It paid off. One day you sat me down and told me Michigan State offered me a college scholarship. That was my first offer. I was ecstatic, as your vision for me was coming true. Ultimately, I chose Toledo and I graduated with a degree in individualized studies.
In 2014, I went undrafted but got picked up by the Green Bay Packers.
Throughout my NFL journey I have continued to use your words to guide me.
As you know it’s not easy being an undrafted guy. There are no guarantees. In the tough moments while I wait for a call or wonder if I will make the cut, I think of another statement you told me.
You would always say, “Stay patient and stay poised to seize every opportunity for success.”
That is what I did and that is what I do. That is why six years since being undrafted, I am still playing in the NFL. Currently, I am with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I am not only proud of the fact that I have remained in the NFL, but also how I have conducted myself off the field throughout this journey.
You told me to leave a place better than how I found it.
Whether it is going to an elementary school and passing out gifts or mentoring children, there are so many ways I can make a difference now.
If I am walking through a building and see trash, you taught me that I should pick the trash up and throw it out. It is not my job but it is helping the janitor out.
You taught me to be selfless and to understand that everyone has problems in their lives. Practicing what you preach, I watched you battle pancreatic cancer. Even during your battle, you remained concern about how my life was progressing. Following your example, I try to always be willing to listen to people no matter what I am going through. Like you are for so many, I, too, want to be a good role model.
Coach Ginn, I am not sure if I would be anywhere near where I am in life if it wasn’t for you – as a football player, as a son, as a father and above all else as a man. You didn’t just give me the courage to be different but you gave me the tools to realize my potential.
You may not let me say thank you but I still try to show you my appreciation for changing the course of my journey. I do so by using your love, your words and your wisdom to hopefully change the direction of someone else’s life.