High school football players from the greater Washington D.C. area were welcomed over Zoom to the annual 4th & Life High School Football Forum hosted by the Washington Football Charitable Foundation on Tuesday.
The event allowed student athletes to hear from current and former Washington Football players about their journeys to the NFL, the importance of education and how youth football coaches helped shape their careers and life after the NFL.
NFLPA Senior Manager Dior Ginyard kicked off the forum by introducing the panelists, which included alumni Santana Moss and Darrel Young and current long snapper Nick Sundberg. Moss started the conversation by emphasizing to the high school student athletes the importance of getting a degree and having a plan other than football.
"I remember my junior year of college, I had agents and scouts come to me and say, 'You can leave after this year because of what you just did in your three years of collegiate level.' The only thing that stood out in the back of my mind was my mom always said to get my education, so I stayed another year and got the education. ...When I was done with football, I went back and got my master's. I know I talked a lot about education, but I want you to know how valuable it is."
Young, who played fullback in Washington from 2009-15, spoke about the unexpected hurdles he faced towards the end of his career. He stressed building relationships with as many people as possible, no matter what point of their life they may be at.
"Authentic engagement always took me to the place I knew I needed to go to. It's not about what I know or who I know; it's about who knows me. No one tells you when football is done. I applied to an internship the day I got cut in Carolina and got a call from the NFL office the next day offering me an internship, but that was because of the relationships I made."
Sundberg talked with the high school student athletes about work ethic and how important it is for them to start installing it into their everyday life.
"My coach in high school was a 'rule with an iron and fist' kind of coach. We weren't allowed to miss anything. Offseason, winter workouts, springtime, summer, it didn't matter. If you missed one day you weren't welcome back. I kind of resented him for that when I was young. ...But looking back at it, the discipline that it took to do all of that was what made me who I am today. I didn't know it at the time, but he was instilling that work ethic in me when I was 16 that I still carry at 33."
Following the event's opening discussion, student athletes, coaches, and panelistsseparated into various breakout sessions to further discuss life outside of football. The coaches' breakout room, led by the Positive Coaching Alliance, included conversations about different strategies to develop the young men they work with on a daily basis.
Cletus Coffey with PCA preached to the high school coaches, "The biggest challenge we face in 2020 is coaching competency. We need to transition from coaching competency...to coaching humility. I'm willing to learn."
In the student athlete breakout session, Moss and Young led the discussion with the high school students about their goals and life outside of football. Some of the topics of conversation included financial hardships, goal setting, planning ahead and managing time. Moss closed out the forum by giving the promising student athletes this piece of advice:
"My role was always a lot different from someone else, it's always going to be that way. Don't look at the next man and what he's going through… Understand that you're different for a reason. Understand that you're going to go through what you go through for a reason because in order for you to be who you are it has to be different; it can't be easy."