Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver
On their day off during a busy week of preparations for the upcoming Throwback Game at Raymond James Stadium, Haynesworth and Stroughter joined more than 50 students at Gary Adult High School for 60 minutes of roundtable discussion followed by a brief question-and-answer session.
Stroughter, who grew up in northern California, shared some of the personal experiences and valuable lessons he learned by watching the actions of his older siblings.
“The biggest advice I gave the students was understanding and knowing the consequences of their decisions,” Stroughter said. “I’ll stress that to this day, especially being in the position I am in right now.”
Growing up without the presence of a father in Hartsville, South Carolina, Haynesworth learned first-hand the challenges that youth from broken homes must overcome.
“Not everybody has a great, fresh start and a great childhood,” Haynesworth said. “But it’s not where you start; it’s where you end up. I’ve been in the same situations they are in, and I had to make that right choice to get where I’m at.”
The message delivered by Haynesworth and Stroughter resonated with the high school audience.
“A lot of the things they said really clicked with our students,” said Assistant Principal Carol Alda said. “I saw expressions on their faces that we don’t really see often. They start looking into themselves and see things that they can be doing differently. Our kids have so many challenges, and the fact that these players would take that time with them means a lot to us.”
Gary Adult High School accommodates students ranging from ages 16 to 21. The facility offers high school credit classes, GED preparation courses and adult education instruction. For many of the students, the school is a second chance for young adults who were unable to obtain a high school diploma.
“I like doing things with kids because this is our future,” Haynesworth said. “I try to teach my kids the same thing about being good people and doing the right things. Even though you got in trouble, you can still go for your dreams.”
For Stroughter, being a positive mentor and example to young people is not only a cause he enjoys but a task he considers a responsibility for a professional athlete.
“I’m not just Sammie Stroughter; I’m the face of an organization,” Stroughter said. “The decisions that I make affect not only the ones that love me but also the people that look up to me. I represent something that’s a lot bigger than myself.”
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