Former Redskins tight end Rick 'Doc' Walker holds the rare distinction of being a champion at all three levels of football: high school, college (UCLA, 1975) and the NFL (Redskins, 1982).
But as the emcee of Tuesday's '4th And Life' high school football forum at FedExField, he used that credibility to make a scholastic impact on 600 area student athletes.
"Most of you here have done the most important thing: you have decided to be competitive," he began. "You put yourself at risk, because you believe you have a chance to be something special.
"No matter what you want to do with your life, the keys to success are hard work, GPA, character."
Walker was joined by a panel of athletes that included current Redskins players Lorenzo Alexander, Joshua Morgan, Chris Baker, Josh Wilson, and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist LaShawn Merritt.
"The gentlemen on this panel have all succeeded; we've all been where you are and we've all made a ton of mistakes," Walker told the student-athletes. "What we want to do is shortcut, so you don't make the same mistakes that we made.
"The most important thing that you will learn today, is that you must become bilingual and multi-faceted. You are not a one-trick pony. You are not simply a football player, you are a student-athlete."
Walker and each of the five panelists shared a unique story of overcoming adversity at an early age.
For Walker, it was the opportunity to participate in a gas station robbery with his friends in high school. Thanks to self respect and a fear of his mother, Walker had a successful football career while his friends went to prison.
For Baker, it was a meeting with his guidance counselor in high school to discuss his 1.90 GPA. If he passed high school, he would have football scholarships waiting for him, and would be the first person in his family to go to college.
Baker got a tutor and took the SATs eight times, finally qualifying for his Penn State scholarship on the last try.
"I've never worked harder at something in my life," Baker told the students. "But you have to be willing to work hard at everything. Talent is easy, it's success that's hard."
The panel engaged the audience with messages of rising above the negative influences in their lives and focusing on academic and personal success.
Just as a receiver works on catching drills or a sprinter works on track starts, the students were encouraged to focus on the tangible skills that would make them successful.
"It's not enough to just be a good athlete anymore," Alexander told the studentd. "Even if you do make it as a professional football player, most of us will be done by age 30. What have you done now to set yourself up for a lifetime of success?
"Not everyone is an A student. If you're a C student, go get help. It doesn't make you weak, it makes you smart. It all starts with school."