The NCAA reported that in 2017, 6.8 percent of high school football players go on to play in college. Only 1.9 percent of those athletes reach the NFL.
To offer advice to those young players still pursuing their dreams, the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation invited student-athletes from seven local high schools to its annual 4th and Life High School Football Forum at FedExField in Landover, Md. The event provides students and coaches with valuable tools and life lessons about prioritizing academics, preparing for college and discovering their passion outside of the game.
Tuesday’s event featured a panel discussion comprised of five prominent NFL figures, both past and present, as well as time for students to break into small groups by grade level, moderated by leaders from the Redskins Charitable Foundation and its non-profit partners, Junior Achievement of Greater Washington and the jk livin foundation.
Former Washington tight end Rick “Doc” Walker emceed the panel discussion. Joe Ehrmann, a former defensive end for the Baltimore Colts and author of “Season of Life,” and Co-Founder of the InsideOut Initiative was the panel’s marquee participant.
Linebacker Chris Carter, defensive lineman Anthony Lanier II and Redskins Alumni Josh Wilson and Kyshoen Jarrett completed the rest of the panel.
The panel first discussed what it was like growing up as promising football stars, and how that impacted their relationships with family and friends.
“All I did was watch people around me and just learn from everybody else’s actions, whether that be my friends, my teachers or coaches,” Lanier said. “I didn’t grow up with a father in the household, so my coaches were my father figures in my life.”
Jarrett, who suffered a severe injury during his rookie season, talked about how his life changed after leaving football. He said he had trouble identifying who he was, and how many young men growing up often can’t comprehend what life is like without the game.
“Who am I as a man? I used to identify myself in the game of football. Football was me. If I looked in the mirror, that’s who I was,” he said. “I had to really figure out who I was: Kyshoen Jarrett. Football is a great sport, but you are more than football.”
In the Q&A portion of the panel, one student asked what it was like to play for the very first time in the NFL. With a laugh, Wilson recounted his first time taking the field back in 2007 with the Seattle Seahawks, one that ended with a fumble. He learned to overcome that miscue and others over time, too.
After the panel, students were broken up by grade and sent to different workshops.
Freshman tackled the importance of creating a health and wellness plan both in and out of season and sophomores discussed way to give back to their local community. Juniors learned how to become future leaders and entrepreneurs and the seniors were taught the basics of financial management after high school.
Before the sessions, though, Carter reminded the student-athletes that how they deal with adversity, whether on the field or not, will define who they are.
“Don’t run from anything, don’t run from your challenges,” Carter said. “I guarantee each and everyone one of you guys, more than most of you guys are going to be counted out. That’s just life. Don’t let anybody define you. Football doesn’t define you, but football is a tool that you can use to define yourself.”