Houston Texans Ambassadors advise football players to ‘hit the books’

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The Houston Texans Ambassadors are a group of former NFL players who represent the team throughout the year by visiting schools and speaking to high school football players, as they did at Worthing High School recently in honor of Black History Month. Jerry LeVias (Houston Oiler 1969-1970) and ND Kalu (Houston Texan 2006-2008) were joined by a surprise guest, current Texan defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. All three players talked about their experiences in the NFL.

Kalu was in the NFL for 12 years as a defensive end after being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1997, and he finished his career with the Texans. “I jumped at the chance to talk to you all,” he said. “My main thing is education. If you make it into the NFL, you will have to use your mind. My advice to you is to hit the books while you’re in high school – unless you want to end up dead or in jail.”

Wilfork has been in the NFL for 12 years and is considered one of the premier defensive tackles. He was drafted out of University of Miami by the New England Patriots and now plays with the Texans. “I started playing football at the age of 4, and that’s all I ever wanted to do,” he said. “By the end of my junior year in high school, I was getting so many offers from colleges that I filled 20 garbage bags, but I was waiting to hear from University of Miami. Then, after they drafted me, I had to sit out six months due to poor grades. It took a solid month of studying just to pass my high school tests.

“Your career won’t last forever,” Wilfork said. “Every time I stripe up, I think ‘just one play, and it could be all over.’ So if it’s not football, what’s it going to be? What are you going to do? At age 20, I lost my father and mother, and I had to drop out to support my family. After I retire, I’m going back and finish college. Buckle down now, because football doesn’t last forever.”

Even though he is a small guy, LeVias was all-state and all-American in high school. “I wanted to be popular in high school so I started studying, and I became president of my high school class and graduated third out of 100. I had scholarship offers all over the place, but not from the black colleges down south, because I was too small. Then I got an offer from Southern Methodist University, and my coach—Coach Hayden Fry—was the only one out of 90 coaches who talked to me about education. ‘Be a student athlete and graduate from college,’ he told me.”

LeVias was the only African-American on the football team, and he has described his years there as a “living hell.” The other teams would say things to try to upset him, get him off his game. “Then I met Martin Luther King, who gave me some advice. ‘Always keep control of your emotions,’ he told me.

“When I graduated, I was drafted by the NFL, and I got a job offer from an oil company,” LeVias added. “I said yes to both and pulled in two salaries. So if you can’t go to college, go to a vocational school. Learn how to do something.”

After their presentations, the men answered questions, posed for pictures, and signed autographs.