Indian football team members visit the Washington Redskins
When Assistant Principal Jamie Harris first came to Berkeley Springs High School one of the first things he introduced to his new school was the Washington Redskins 4th & Life Program.
Every year the Washington Redskins host this annual event at Fed Ex Field, home of the NFL franchise.
The 4th & Life program is a curriculum-based program for high school athletes focusing on what it takes to be successful on the field, in the classroom, and in the workplace. The curriculum illustrates important life lessons by using examples from Redskins players, coaches and alumni.
Football players from area high schools participate in the program each year, culminating with player-led interactive forums at Fed Ex Field, sponsored by Coca-Cola.
Curriculum cards are provided to all student-athletes that attend the forum and feature tips about staying on the academic track, preparing early for college, and other careers in sports besides playing.
This year Harris was able to send the Berkeley Springs junior and senior football players along with Head Coach Angelo Luvara and Assistant Coach Matt Puffenberger to the event held on October 9.
There the team was joined by more than 400 football players from the DC, Maryland and Virginia schools and got the chance to listen to Redskin legend Rick “Doc” Walker, current Redskin’s players Josh Morgan, Lorenzo Alexander and Josh Wilson.
Redskin’s cornerback and Maryland native Wilson appeared at his second community function of the season, at the “4th And Life” high school football forum at Fed Ex Field. He had the opportunity to share his unique perspective on high school football, considering he came from the same playgrounds and weight rooms as many of these student athletes. The former DeMatha product remembered the glory days of his team’s state championships, but also shared some far more humbling stories as well.
Wilson said he wasn’t always the polished professional that takes the field on Sundays. Back when he played under Friday night lights, he learned how to be a respectful gentleman.
“Character is ‘the type of person that everyone sees you as.’ It’s not just who you believe you are, or who you want everybody to think you are,” he explained. “You can sit here and say that you’re this type of player or that type of guy, but if nobody takes you seriously, then you aren’t who you say you are. And if you’re the most talented person on the team, but I don’t trust you on the field, then that’s because you aren’t who you think you are.”
Both Wilson and emcee Rick ‘Doc’ Walker discussed how image has taken the place of character as a point of emphasis in today’s culture. Style over substance is more than just a generational gap – it’s something that could crush NFL dreams before they even begin.
“Right now, no matter how hard you think you are, or how hard your situation is, you’re still a boy,” Wilson bluntly told the students. “And it’s not cool to sit there and pretend you’re a thug. I had some friends that liked to pretend we were thugs. Looking back on it, we lived in the suburbs, man; we’re not thugs. We don’t have a tough life.”
“It’s not all about being a thug; it’s not all about being tough. It’s about being successful. There isn’t anybody in the NFL that’s a thug. In order to be in the NFL, you have to go to college for at least three years. You can’t be a thug and go to college.”
Wilson had absolute attention from the room as he finished his speech to the student athletes, wrapping it back around to the strength of character and substance.
“So you have to think about what’s more important: for you to be tough or hard, this or that person, or for you to be successful? If you want to be in the NFL, you have to figure out not only how to get into college, but how to stay in college for three years. Is it more important for you to act a certain way, even though you’re not really that way, or is it important for you to do everything you can to be successful?”
“I have been part of the Washington Redskins 4th & Life Program since 2004 when I was an assistant football coach in Brunswick, Md. I have got to see how much the program has grown over the years, and vowed as long as I was a coach or part of the school system that my football programs will take part in this program. It is great for the players to gain an understanding of what it takes to get to the pro level or when those dreams fail, what it takes in academics to get somewhere in life. Working with the Redskins Charitable Foundation we are already exploring ways to set up job fairs for the high school players and working to find ways to develop an academic program that allows schools to work in conjunction with Redskin players past and present. I am just excited that I have gotten Berkeley Springs involved,” stated Harris.