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Here is what I did with your words and your wisdom

To: Hip-Hop Preacher, Eric Thomas, Ph.D.

From: Kierre Hawkins (As told to Lauren Brill)

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To the Hip-Hop Preacher, Eric Thomas, Ph.D.

You don’t know me. We have never met. Unfortunately, I am not one of the many kids you’ve spoken to at a school or an event. However, you have been a blessing in my life. You helped me find my purpose.

When I was in ninth grade, I came across one of your speeches. I am 21, so this was before you blew up.

You asked a classroom full of kids, “How bad do you want to be successful?”

Then you said, “You have to want to be successful as bad as you want to breathe.”

I low key tried to hold my breath.

Your words gave me a sense of how hard I had to fight if I wanted to be successful. It was so real and authentic. Before you, I had no idea how to approach success.

Where I come from, kids drop out of school. They do drugs. And sometimes they don’t survive the streets at all.  I was terrified. I didn’t want that to be me. I wanted to go to college. Thanks to you, I had an idea of how to get there.

I wanted to go to college. Thanks to you, I had an idea of how to get there.

I played football and wanted to get a scholarship. Everyone else wanted to go to the NBA or the NFL, but for me, I wanted an education. My dream was to go to Ohio State, one of the best football programs in the country. I was obsessed with the Buckeyes. I watched all their games. Every time I played a video game, I had to have Ohio State players. My whole room was covered with scarlet and grey.

After I heard your words, I locked into my dream. In the morning, I would wake up at 6:00 am every day so that I could do footwork drills before school. After practice, I would workout on my own. I took school more seriously than most, which often made me the oddball out. Sometimes people would talk about me or try to fight me, all in an attempt to pull me out of my zone.

Instead of letting it get to me, I listened to more of your wisdom. Every Monday, you had this video called Monday Motivation.  You would scream, “Thank God, it’s Monday.” It would give me a boost in the morning. One of my favorite speeches is the one about the lion and the gazelle. It’s about how, when you get up in the morning, you need to go after whatever is that you need to survive. It made me realize success wasn’t ever going to come to me. I had to go out and grab it.

Kierre dreamed of becoming a Buckeye.

In my sophomore year, I got a chance to start at quarterback. I was so nervous. On the first drive, I scored a touchdown, but on the second drive, I threw an interception.

The fans started going crazy, yelling, “Take him out.”

The coach pulled me and I didn’t play the rest of the game. I was distraught. I had worked so hard.

When I went home, I was mad. I was on the floor crying, but I knew, and my mom reminded me, I had to figure this out.

So, I continued to study the plays and work on my own even though I wasn’t getting reps in practice anymore. Sure enough, the starting quarterback got injured and I got another shot. This time I relaxed and just played, running the ball and throwing the ball. Even though we didn’t win that game, I gained the respect of my coaches, who could tell I came prepared. Ultimately, they switched me to halfback, where I immediately did well.

Kierre received a scholarship from his dream school, Ohio State.

After my sophomore season, Toledo offered me a division one scholarship. No one on my team, not even the seniors, had a scholarship to go anywhere. Bowling Green, Illinois and Kentucky all made offers as well.  By my senior year, it felt like the whole country was offering me a scholarship.

Then, one day, my coach called me for a meeting in his office. I thought I was in trouble.

He was standing in the hallway when I got there and he said, “You got it.”

Confused, I said, ‘What did I get?”

He said, “You got the offer.”

I said, “I got a whole bunch of offers.”

I think he was playin’ with me, but finally, he said, “You got the Ohio State offer. They called me yesterday.”

I said, “Stop lying.”

I couldn’t believe it. When I went home and told my family, we all cried.

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But Eric, my story doesn’t end there. My whole goal was to get to Ohio State. I had no plan as to what I would do or what to expect once I got there. I thought Columbus would be sunshine and rainbows. Instead, it was thunder and rain. I left high school feeling like I was on top of the world and all of a sudden, I was back at the bottom. With no guidance and an extreme culture shock, I found myself making bad decisions, hanging out with the wrong people and not living a healthy lifestyle.

Kierre transferred to Youngstown State.

It reached a point where I thought it would be best to get a clean slate. I transferred from what was once my dream school to a much smaller school, Youngstown State. Of course, I thought I would ball out there, but then I tore my ACL.

Now, after months of rehab, I am better and back at it.

However, people keep asking me, “Are you still in school? Are you still playing football?”

I realized a lot of people, especially in the black community, give up and they expect me to do the same. But I am not letting anyone put me in that category – that’s not going to be me. I am going to keep going.

And If I ever need a reminder of how badly I want to be successful, all I have to do is hold my breath.

For years your words have stayed with me. So much so that I now want to spread the message. I decided to start my own company, called Dream and Motivate. I go to schools and I mentor kids, as I tell them to believe in themselves and to believe in their vision, even when life doesn’t go as planned.

Now, as I go down a similar path as you, I have so many questions: How did you turn motivation into a business? What marketing tactics did you use?

While I would love your advice on how to grow my company more than anything, I want to say thank you. Thank you for helping me find my purpose.

I believe I am here to be an example for others, showing them as you showed me that success isn’t reaching your dreams; it’s the ability never to stop fighting for them.

If you have time, I would love to talk.

Thank you again!

Kierre Hawkins
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