By SHEA STASKOWSKI
Growing up in a single-parent home can be challenging, but former Mississippi State quarterback Tyson Lee never used that as a crutch in life.
That is the message he brought with him to Armstrong Middle School Wednesday when he spoke to a group of seventh and eighth grade boys.
AMS teacher Henri Sue Kennard invited Lee to speak to the boys because she wanted someone the boys could relate to, who had lived a life similar to theirs and who has gone on to greatness. Lee is a role model.
“I just wanted to encourage these kids and let them know it’s not just about sports, the academics are important,” Kennard said.
The MSU graduate student has deemed 2011 as the year to “begin to believe,” and he is visiting schools to share his inspirational message with the youth. He explained to the students that at their age, they are at an advantage because they are surrounded by a vast number of people who truly care about them and their success. He added that until they start to care about themselves, the number of adults behind them is irrelevant.
“But there comes a point in life where there aren’t so many people who want to help you,” Lee said. “Until you make up in your mind that you want to be successful and that you can do it, it won’t matter.”
Lee was the first athlete at Itawamba Community College to be named a National Academic All-American and graduated from Columbus High School in the top 10 percent of this class. Though he is an accomplished football player, he stressed the importance of academics to the students.
“I don’t care if you’re the best player in Mississippi; if you don’t have the grades, you’re not going anywhere,” Lee cautioned. “When you leave these school walls and go home, it’s up to you to do your homework and study for the test.”
Lee left the students with a challenge to live their lives by obeying three rules. The first is to respect not only themselves, but also the people around them.
“You respect yourself by the way you act, the way you dress and the way you talk,” Lee said.
Secondly, Lee called the students to live responsibly.
“I think this is the biggest one,” he said. “Be responsible for you.”
Lastly, he challenged the middle school boys to display self control in their actions, words and deeds.
“They’re the future, that kind of sums up [why I’m here],” Lee said. “The decisions they make now affect not just them, but also the community they live in.”
Principal Elizabeth Mosley announced that she would be working to start a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at AMS next year and that Lee would be a part of that.