Archive for the ‘Football’ Category



Jets linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (55) wears special contact lenses and a helmet shade to prevent migraines.

By ZACH SCHONBRUN

FWhen he woke last Sunday morning, Jeremy Kerley sensed trouble already coming on. Fitful sleep is often his trigger, he said. The migraine eventually hit him like an anvil late in last week’s game against the Giants.

His eyes grew blurry and he felt what he described as a “sharp, shooting, throbbing pain.” He wanted to sit down. He wanted to lie down. He knew he needed to leave the field.

Kerley, the Jets’ punt returner, departed to the locker room and did not return. As the Jets came from behind to beat the Giants in overtime, he was receiving intravenous fluids and oxygen to help relieve the anguish from a struggle that has afflicted him since high school.

For Kerley, migraines are the silent menace that constantly lurks. They ambush him almost once a month, even though he rarely talks about it. He knew his grandfather got them; only recently, he discovered that his dad did, too. He just never knows when they will affect him.

Though Kerley is one of approximately 38 million Americans who suffer from them, migraines are not something that is openly discussed in N.F.L. locker rooms. They are far more common in women, and often minimized as simply a headache, a stigma that Kerley acknowledged could make it difficult to pull himself out of a game.

But those who do struggle with migraines — which the Migraine Research Foundation considers a neurological disease, like epilepsy — understand the plight. When Kerley felt a severe headache coming on last season after a game at Minnesota, his teammate Percy Harvin patted him on the back.

“I know how you feel,” Harvin said quietly. He has struggled with migraines throughout his career.

Kerley did the same thing earlier this season, after linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin revealed that he had had migraines since adolescence. Kerley gave him recommendations about nutritional supplements that he found helpful, like fish oil and magnesium. Mauldin also now takes prescription medication to both relieve and prevent severe headaches.

He said that light could often trigger his migraine episodes, so Mauldin wears special contact lenses and a protective shade on his helmet.

“It hurts because it’s pulsating and you can’t really stop it,” Mauldin said. “With a bruise or something, you can put alcohol or peroxide over it and it’ll be fine. Or if you’ve hurt a muscle, you can ice it. But you can’t put ice over a migraine.”

In September, a migraine forced Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones to the emergency room, something that is not uncommon, said Dr. Melissa Leber, the director of emergency department sports medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She typically treats patients intravenously. But that often cannot relieve the crippling symptoms right away.

“Some people can’t even get out of bed,” Leber said. “Others can function just while not feeling well. It really runs the gamut for how debilitating it can be.”

Migraines are thought to be related to the brain’s trigeminal nerve, which can grow hypersensitive and cause pain signals to fire throughout the brain, typically concentrated around the eyes or temples. Though migraines are strongly hereditary, showing up in people who have had no sports history, they are often clinically similar to post-traumatic headaches, like the headaches that arise after a concussion, according to Dr. Tad Seifert, a neurologist at Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Ky.

During the summer, Seifert led a study of 74 high school football players in the Louisville area and found that 33.8 percent of them suffered from migraines, a rate twice that of the normal population. The rate rose to 37.5 percent in players who reported having sustained a concussion once in their lives, and 40.7 percent in those who reported multiple concussions.

“The elephant in the room is whether there is some influence of contact sports and the development of frequent or chronic headache later in life,” Seifert said. “And if so, how much?”

Seifert, who also chairs an N.C.A.A. task force on headaches, said that he expected to publish a similar report involving 834 Division I athletes in the spring. Though he would not go into detail about the results, he said that it looked to be “very similar to what we’ve found in this sample of high school players.” Mauldin, it should be noted, sustained a concussion earlier this season.

There is no cure for migraines, and sufferers often go the rest of their lives “controlling” the issue, Seifert said, comparing it to those dealing with high blood pressure or diabetes. What concerns him, though, are the studies that have shown that people with migraines are more susceptible to concussions, and when they do sustain one, it takes them longer to recover.

“We know that the migraine brain is just wired differently,” Seifert said. “And we know that it’s a brain that is hypersensitive to external injury. And those pain receptors that are in overdrive — it takes that much longer to calm down and return to baseline.”

In the time it takes for the receptors to settle, though, the pain can bring a linebacker to his knees.

“When they pop up out of nowhere, you start to feel a sensation like in between the middle of your forehead,” Mauldin said. “But it’s in the back of your head as well. It’s like somebody’s punching you in the side of the head.”

Kerley said he had yet to receive a migraine disease diagnosis, but he thinks it could be related to difficulties he regularly has with sleeping, being someone who has sleep apnea. When he feels a headache coming on, he has a nasal spray that he said often cured his symptoms within a half-hour. But last Sunday, it was too late.

“If you don’t catch it while it’s early, it could get pretty bad,” Kerley said. “Mine got there.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/sports/football/migraine-headaches-a-lurking-malady-in-the-nfl.html?emc=edit_th_20151213&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=41412344&_r=0

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Some NFL players spend their offseason working out. Others travel around the world. Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel has done both while also getting an article published in a math journal.

Urschel, the Ravens’ 2014 fifth-round pick who graduated from Penn State with 4.0 GPA, also happens to be a brilliant mathematician. This week he and several co-authors published a piece titled “A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians” in the Journal of Computational Mathematics. You can read the full piece here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1412.0565

Here’s the summary of the paper:

“In this paper, we develop a cascadic multigrid algorithm for fast computation of the Fiedler vector of a graph Laplacian, namely, the eigenvector corresponding to the second smallest eigenvalue. This vector has been found to have applications in fields such as graph partitioning and graph drawing. The algorithm is a purely algebraic approach based on a heavy edge coarsening scheme and pointwise smoothing for refinement. To gain theoretical insight, we also consider the related cascadic multigrid method in the geometric setting for elliptic eigenvalue problems and show its uniform convergence under certain assumptions. Numerical tests are presented for computing the Fiedler vector of several practical graphs, and numerical results show the efficiency and optimality of our proposed cascadic multigrid algorithm.”

When he’s not protecting Joe Flacco, the 23-year-old Urschel enjoys digging into extremely complicated mathematical models.

“I am a mathematical researcher in my spare time, continuing to do research in the areas of numerical linear algebra, multigrid methods, spectral graph theory and machine learning. I’m also an avid chess player, and I have aspirations of eventually being a titled player one day.”

– See more at: http://yahoo.thepostgame.com/blog/balancing-act/201503/john-urschel-baltimore-ravens-nfl-football-math#sthash.avUHj2Tm.dpuf

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

By Stephanie Meade
Founder, Editor-in-Chief of InCultureParent.com

When the multilingual Coke ad came under siege at first I couldn’t be bothered to listen to the noise, because that’s all it was to me — misguided rumbling that didn’t deserve attention. But as the #speakamerican clamor crowded headlines and my twitter stream, I knew our children were the ones who had the most powerful message for us all.

Bilingualism is the proud voice of the U.S. with a growing percentage of children growing up bilingual and multilingual. For these kids, bilingualism is just as American as French fries, apple pies and pizza. And then add in some curry, tagine and tamales too. Currently one in five households, including my own, speak a language other than English at home. And those statistics don’t even count the speakers of English at home that are learning a new language at school. There are over 530 immersion schools in this country and demand for them is outpacing supply in many communities. When I hear polemics about English only, it confounds me why so many see language in zero-sum terms. English can and does peacefully coexist together with hundreds of other languages, as it always has. English-only discourses are a rearview mirror perspective of our nation, one that fails to confront the reality of the present or consider the future of our country in the context of a globalized world.

Speaking another language is not a threat to the fabric of the U.S. — it is the very thread that makes the fabric beautiful. And more than that, it is the thread that when woven together gives us strength. So let’s stop looking in the rearview mirror and start considering the America that will lead us into the future.

What language does America speak? English and over 300 other languages.

I speak English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. I’ve studied Russian, Japanese and German. And I’m learning Arabic.

#ispeakamerican

What languages do you speak?

* Please note: We tried very hard to find a Native American language to represent in our clip, and regret we could not find one in time. There were also many other languages we wanted to include, and it was strictly a matter of timing that we couldn’t represent more.

This video was originally published on InCultureParent, an online magazine for parents raising little global citizens.

Follow Stephanie Meade on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/incultureparent

texas1

Six years ago, Michael Sorrell made a decision that threatened his reputation and maybe his job. His tenure as president of Paul Quinn College started in 2007 and, shortly thereafter, he opted to cut football in an effort to save money. The response on campus was not pleasant.

“Predictably, we had folks who were, I guess, the reaction was loud,” Sorrell says.

This was in football-nuts Dallas, only seven miles from the heart of the city. Sorrell was not anti-sports, either. He played basketball and loved football. He just felt the sport was “something economically we could not justify.”

Sorrell made an offer to the angry defenders of the sport: Raise $2 million to save football, and he would match it. “To date,” Sorrell says, “no one has raised a dollar.”

College football is dealing with an emerging financial crisis. It’s plaguing programs as large as the University of Tennessee, which was a reported $200 million in debt over the summer, and as small as Grambling, which is begging alums for donations after poor facilities led to a player mutiny earlier this month. Escalating coaches’ salaries and declining attendance have led to real concern that the entire college football complex will become insolvent, leaving only a few schools with thriving programs.

“We are standing on the precipice of an economic day of reckoning in higher education,” Sorrell says. “I think there will be more schools to do this. I think we’re just early.”

Football was eating $600,000 of Sorrell’s budget, and Paul Quinn is a tiny school of only 250 students. How could he continue to educate when so much funding was going to something that wasn’t building an academic reputation? He simply couldn’t. So the field sat vacant.

Sorrell moved on to a much bigger issue: his school is located in a food desert with neither a restaurant nor a grocery store nearby, and many of the students at the oldest historically black college west of the Mississippi are poor. Eighty percent of the students at Paul Quinn are Pell Grant-eligible. There’s a “clothes closet” on campus where students can get business casualwear for free, and money had to be raised so students could afford eyeglasses to read.

A year after the end of football, Sorrell was meeting with a real estate investor named Trammell Crow. They bandied about the idea of devoting a tract of land to producing food for the community. But where?

Sorrell joked that they should just build a farm on the football field. The jest quickly turned into a reality, and the school’s future was changed for the better. Some of the produce grown in full view of the scoreboard would go to local food banks and the surrounding community. Some of it, eventually, could be sold. Crow helped fund the farm, and slowly crops began to yield produce: kale, sweet potatoes, herbs, cilantro. In 2009, two years removed from the end of Paul Quinn College’s football life, a rather famous client struck a deal with the school for its food: Cowboy’s Stadium.

Legends Hospitality is now Paul Quinn College’s largest buyer for the “WE over Me Farm,” and the school has run a surplus of six or seven figures in four of the past five years. The money budgeted for football now goes to academic scholarships. This is a school that had one month’s worth of cash when Sorrell took over in 2007.

A potential disaster has turned into one of the most inspired decisions made at the college level. It’s not like Paul Quinn is SMU – the NAIA school is smaller than a lot of Dallas high schools – but it shows life after football isn’t necessarily bleak.

“We turned our football field into an organic farm,” Sorrell says. “It’s made us a national leader on this issue. There are no regrets. We didn’t have the resources necessary to change and really build a football program in the way we wanted to do it. This is what was right for us.”

Students who work on the farm are paid $10 an hour for overseeing the project, which will produce 17,500 lbs. of food for Cowboys fans this season.

“I’m in love with what we’re doing with the field,” says Shon Griggs, Jr., a legal-studies major who played football at his Atlanta high school. “It’s exciting and I’ve learned so much. I’ve personally gotten more out of the farm than the football field.”

Griggs spends 12 hours a week on the farm, and he considers it “a workout” that has benefits beyond sports.

“When I played football, I was able to strengthen my body,” he says. “Here, we’re impacting community, changing lives, teaching kids, and learning about nature.”
Griggs says the only downside is the coyotes that come around at night and try to break into the chicken coop.

The goalposts are still up at Paul Quinn College, and so are the scoreboard and the ticket booth, but nobody misses the sport much anymore. The treasure everyone guards most is that farm. Asked what would happen if those two acres were razed again, Griggs doesn’t hesitate.

“We would have a problem,” he says. “There would be a revolt. This is big.”

It is big. Those who work on the farm not only have experience and some take-home pay, but a built-in connection to one of the most famous buildings in America. The director of food and beverage at Legends Hospitality at Cowboys Stadium is George Wasai, who went to Paul Quinn College. He played football there.

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/ncaaf–how-one-small-texas-college-made-money-by-saying-no-to-football-065751785.html

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Washington-Redskins

It is time that the National Football League and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell face the reality that the continued use of the word “redskin” is unacceptable. It is a racist, derogatory term and patently offensive to Native Americans. The Native American community has spent millions of dollars over the last two decades trying earnestly to fight the racism that is perpetuated by this slur. The fact that the NFL and Commissioner Goodell continue to deny this is a shameful testament of the mistreatment of Native Americans for so many years. It is quite obvious that once the American public understands why the word “redskins” is so offensive, they will know that the word should never be used again.

The origin of the term “Redskins” is commonly attributed to the historical practice of trading Native American Indian scalps and body parts as bounties and trophies. For example, in 1749, the British bounty on the Mi’kmaq Nation of what is now Maine and Nova Scotia, was a straightforward “ten Guineas for every Indian Micmac taken or killed, to be paid upon producing such Savage taken or his scalp.”

Just as devastating was the Phips Proclamation, issued in 1755 by Spencer Phips, Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief of the Massachusetts Bay Province, who called for the wholesale extermination of the Penobscot Indian Nation.

By vote of the General Court of the Province, settlers were paid out of the public treasury for killing and scalping the Penobscot people. The bounty for a male Penobscot Indian above the age of 12 was 50 pounds, and his scalp was worth 40 pounds. The bounty for a female Penobscot Indian of any age and for males under the age of 12 was 25 pounds, while their scalps were worth 20 pounds. These scalps were called “redskins.”

The question is quite simple: suppose that a “redskin” scalp that was brought for payment was your mother, your wife, your daughter, your father, your husband, or your son? The fact is Native Americans are human beings, not animals.

The current Chairman and Chief of the Penobscot Nation, Chief Kirk Francis, recently declared in a joint statement that “redskins” is “not just a racial slur or a derogatory term,” but a painful “reminder of one of the most gruesome acts of . . . ethnic cleansing ever committed against the Penobscot people.” The hunting and killing of Penobscot Indians, as stated by Chief Francis, was “a most despicable and disgraceful act of genocide.”

Recently, I and nine Members of Congress explained the violent history and disparaging nature of the term “redskins” in a letter to Mr. Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington football franchise. Similar letters were sent to Mr. Frederick Smith, President and CEO of FedEx (a key sponsor for the franchise), and to Mr. Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League.

As of today, Mr. Snyder has yet to respond. Mr. Smith ignored our letter as well, opting instead to have a staff member cite contractual obligations as FedEx’s reason for its silence on the subject.

Mr. Goodell, however, in a dismissive manner, declared that the team’s name “is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.” In other words, the NFL is telling everyone—Native Americans included—that they cannot be offended because the NFL means no offense. Essentially, Mr. Goodell attempts to wash away the stain from a history of persecution against Native American peoples by spreading twisted and false information concerning the use of the word “redskins” by one of the NFL’s richest franchises.

Mr. Goodell’s response is indicative of the Washington football franchise’s own racist and bigoted beginnings. The team’s founder, George Preston Marshall, is identified by historians as the driving force behind the effort to prevent African Americans from playing in the NFL. And once African Americans were allowed to play in 1946, Marshall was the last club owner to field an African American player – a move he reluctantly made some 14 years later in 1962. It should be noted that Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy presented Marshall with an ultimatum – unless Marshall signed an African American player, the government would revoke his franchise’s 30-year lease on the use of the D.C. Stadium.

Congressman Tom Cole, the Representative from Oklahoma, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, and a member of the Chikasaw Nation, states: “This is the 21st century. This is the capital of political correctness on the planet. It is very, very, very offensive. This isn’t like warriors or chiefs. It’s not a term of respect, and it’s needlessly offensive to a large part of our population. They just don’t happen to live around Washington, D.C.”

Congresswoman Betty McCollum, the Representative from Minnesota and Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, states that Mr. Goodell’s letter “is another attempt to justify a racial slur on behalf of [Mr.] Dan Snyder,” owner of the Washington franchise, “and other NFL owners who appear to be only concerned with earning ever larger profits, even if it means exploiting a racist stereotype of Native Americans. For the head of a multi-billion dollar sports league to embrace the twisted logic that ‘[r]edskin’ actually ‘stands for strength, courage, pride, and respect’ is a statement of absurdity.”

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Representative from the District of Columbia, states that Mr. Snyder “is a man who has shown sensibilities based on his own ethnic identity, [yet] who refuses to recognize the sensibilities of American Indians.”

Recently, in an interview with USA Today Sports, Mr. Snyder defiantly stated, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps.” Mr. Snyder’s statement is totally inconsistent with the NFL’s diversity policy, which states:

Diversity is critically important to the NFL. It is a cultural and organizational imperative about dignity, respect, inclusion and opportunity . . . The overall objective of the [NFL’s] diversity effort is to create a culturally progressive and socially reflective organization that represents, supports and celebrates diversity at all levels.

It is critically important that the NFL promote its Commitment to Diversity, and uphold its moral responsibility to disavow the usage of racial slurs. Just as important is the moral responsibility of the NFL’s 31 other football club owners to collectively have the necessary courage to stand up and speak out against the use of this derogatory term. Mr. Snyder, more than anyone else in the NFL, should display greater sensitivity and appreciation for a people who have been maligned and mistreated for hundreds of years.

Ms. Suzan Harjo, President of the Morning Star Institute – a national Native American rights organization – and a member of the Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee tribes, summed it up best when she stated: “[Redskins] is the worst thing in the English language you can be called if you are a native person.” This is not just a statement, but a direct invitation for Mr. Snyder and the NFL to do the right thing. I challenge Mr. Snyder to be reasonable, and to realize the harmful legacy that his franchise’s name perpetuates.

In an attempt to correct the long-standing usage of the term “redskins,” the bill H.R. 1278 entitled, “The Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013” was introduced. This bill would cancel the federal registrations of trademarks using the word “redskin” in reference to Native Americans. The Trademark Act of 1946 – more commonly known as the Lanham Act – requires that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) not register any trademark that “[c]onsists of or comprises . . . matter which may disparage . . . persons, living or dead…or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” 15 U.S.C. §1502(a).

Native American tribes have a treaty, trust and special relationship with the United States. Because of the duty of care owed to the Native American people by the federal government, it is incumbent upon the federal government to ensure that the Lanham Act is strictly enforced in order to safeguard Indian tribes and citizens from racially disparaging federal trademarks.

Accordingly, the Patent and Trademark Office has rejected applications submitted by the Washington franchise for trademarks which proposed to use the term “redskins” – three times in 1996 and once in 2002. The PTO denied the applications on grounds that “redskins” is a racial slur that disparages Native Americans.

In 1992, seven prominent Native American leaders petitioned the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to cancel the federal registrations for six trademarks using “redskins.” The TTAB in 1999 ruled that the term “redskins” may, in fact, disparage American Indians, and cancelled the registrations. On appeal, a federal court reversed the TTAB’s decision, holding that the petitioners waited too long after coming of age to file their petition. A new group of young Native Americans petitioned the TTAB to cancel the registrations of the offending trademarks in 2006. The TTAB held a hearing on March 7, 2013. A final decision is pending.

H.R. 1278 is supported by a number of major Native American organizations, including the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) – the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving tribal governments and communities. Mr. Jefferson Keel, a member of the Chikasaw Nation and President of NCAI, stated that our efforts as Members of Congress will hopefully accomplish “what Native American people, nations, and organizations have tried to do in the courts for almost twenty years – end the racist epithet that has served as the [name] of the Washington’s pro football franchise for far too long.”

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) – the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide – also supports the call to change the Washington franchise’s racist name. NARF recently issued a statement describing our efforts as “a clear signal that some [M]embers of Congress do not take anti-Native stereotyping and discrimination lightly. These Representatives now join Native American nations, organizations and people who have lost patience with the intransigence of the Washington pro football franchise in holding on to the indefensible – a racial epithet masquerading as a team name.”

Despite the Native American community’s best efforts before administrative agencies and the courts, the term “redskins” remains a federally registered trademark. It has been well over twenty years and this matter is still before the courts. This injustice is the result of negligence and a cavalier attitude demonstrated by an administrative agency charged with the responsibility of not allowing racist or derogatory terms to be registered as trademarks. Since the federal government made the mistake in registering the disparaging trademark, it is now up to Congress to correct it.

Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega has represented the territory of American Samoa in the United States Congress since 1989. Faleomavaega is a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and serves on the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. Faleomavaega is also a member of the Congressional Native American Caucus.

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/30/its-time-change-redskins-racist-name

Kitna-desk2-jpg_055221

Before he left the Dallas Cowboys to come home again, Jon Kitna had one request of the two principals who run Lincoln High School:

Give me your worst students.

The other teachers told him to stop. This was last February and it was going to be hard enough to teach three algebra classes in the middle of a semester. He was two months gone from an NFL career that went for 16 years, after all. Yes, this was his old high school, the one where he was a star quarterback in the early 1990s, but didn’t the new football coach understand what he was getting into?

Didn’t he see the numbers? Didn’t he know that four of every five of the students were on free or reduced lunches? That finding a meal was more important than understanding negative integers? Inspiring the best students was going to be difficult enough. Save himself, they advised. Start slow. Make it easy.

Kitna shook his head. Easy wasn’t the point. At 6-foot-4 with a buzz cut and a body built for football, he fills the classroom doorways. He would not be intimidated. And how could they understand this was the only job he ever wanted – that his time in the NFL was a daily preparation for this moment? No, coming home was supposed to be as hard.

And so again he told the principals to have the other math teachers select the students they didn’t want – the ones who didn’t listen, who didn’t try, who didn’t care. He would take them all. The principals nodded. Lists were made, class rolls prepared. The new football coach was handed three dream teams of troublemakers. They wished him luck.

Only something happened in those three algebra classes, something no one could have imagined. The students who didn’t listen suddenly did. Those who never did work turned in assignments. And when the results of the math assessments came in, Kitna’s students were second best in the school. It wasn’t because their teacher was an NFL quarterback. Many of them didn’t have televisions at home. They had little idea who Jon Kitna was. No, this was something else. Something bigger. Something one of those two principals, Pat Erwin, considers in his office one recent day and finally calls: “The Kitna effect.”

He doesn’t have to be here, of course. Sixteen years as an NFL quarterback brought him more than $20 million. It gave him big homes and nice cars. It allowed his wife Jennifer and three children to never need again. When he walked away from the Cowboys after the 2011 season, he could have gone to the golf course or the broadcast booth or even one of those sprawling high schools with a giant stadium in a suburb of Dallas if he only wanted to coach.

“I don’t think that’s what my purpose was,” Kitna says. “This is my challenge. This is what I was meant to do.”

He is sitting at a teacher’s desk in the front of a classroom not long before his Algebra I class. Everything has changed in 20 years. Things seem worse now. There are so many more drugs. The poverty shocks him.

Yet people he knows from the old days say the school was more violent when he was a student. Gangs roamed the halls. He remembers the gangs but many of those kids were also his friends and they shielded him from what they were doing. Perhaps his memories are sanitized. Maybe because he was surrounded by wealth for so long the hardship here is all the more unsettling.

He sat with his team in a pregame study hall one fall day and told the players to close their books. Something was missing. What was it? He could sense they wanted to learn. He could see them working in school. They tried hard at football practice. And yet simple homework assignments went unfinished. Grades that had improved then mysteriously dropped. For every step forward there was a stumble.

“What is the disconnect?” he asked.

For several moments no one said anything. Then slowly the stories spilled out. Terrible stories. Heartbreaking stories. The players told of homes without parents. They said nobody in the house asked to see their homework. They talked of barely existing at all. They said the only place anyone seemed to care was at school. And they told him that even then he was the only one to whom they could relate.

“It was eye-opening,” Kitna says. “It was tearful to hear kids say: ‘My parents when I am doing my homework tell me to stop doing my homework and go sell drugs.’ Or to hear a kid say: ‘I don’t ever eat because I want my mom to eat and only one of us can eat.’ ”

For a moment Kitna is silent.

Then he stops and looks up wistfully.

“All that being said, I’m on a gold mine,” he continues. “This place is a freaking gold mine because these kids are super, uber-talented. Not just athletically. You’ve got kids who can sing and blow the pipes off of things. You see kids who can do acting and drama-type stuff and arts that are just amazing.

“People [in the NFL] said I got credited for being a great leader, they [said] ‘even as a backup people are drawn to you.’ And they’d say ‘why?’ Because I went here. It’s because I went here. I’m thoroughly convinced of that because if you go here you don’t just get to be one kind of person, you have to be able to adapt and intermix yourself into all different kinds of cultures and situations.”

A buzzer sounds. Time for class. The room begins to fill. The kids are laughing. A few say “hello.” One asks what they are going to work on that day. Kitna watches them and smiles. “I’m on a gold mine here,” he says again.

It takes a village to change a culture, and Kitna has filled his coaching staff with friends and associates he has known over the years. This includes former Oregon State player Casey Kjos, a cousin who he raised as a son, and Eric Boles, his teammate at Central Washington University who played briefly in the NFL. Jennifer and his brother’s wife take care of details like making meals for the team during training camp because they figure the players will otherwise not eat. Since the school had little money for things like uniforms and equipment they took over the booster club and website, and set up a 501(c)(3) and began soliciting donations.

To show his seriousness, Kitna spent $150,000 to fill the weight room with equipment as nice as that in any NFL practice facility. He had the walls painted and named it after his old Lincoln teammate and longtime NFL safety Lawyer Milloy. Soon others followed. Carson Palmer, a teammate in Cincinnati, bought two industrial washers for uniforms. Current Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo provided the money for new jerseys. Calvin Johnson, his old receiver in Detroit paid for new equipment as did Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Since the kids didn’t have their own spikes for practice, the Cowboys boxed up dozens of cleats. When Nike took over the NFL uniform contract in the spring, the Seahawks sold their now useless game pants to Lincoln at $1 a pair so the team could have practice uniforms.

Several times, Erwin, the co-principal, has walked into the school on Saturday mornings and found Kitna washing uniforms.

“I think what he is trying to do is see what can happen to kids in a high-poverty area when you put them in a world-class setting,” Erwin says.

But inspiring kids who come from nothing is not as easy as wearing Marshawn Lynch’s pants and Dez Bryant’s old cleats. For every moment of joy comes a day that makes no sense.

Not long after he arrived, Kitna took the football team to Seattle for a series of 7-on-7 drills at the University of Washington. When he sent notes to the parents, only three called to ask about the trip.

Then when the bus returned to Lincoln at 11:30 p.m., Kitna was stunned to discover not one parent or relative had come to meet them. He and the coaches split the players up and drove them home. It was 12:15 a.m. when Kitna dropped off the last of the players in his car. And as the door shut and the player waved good bye, Kitna wept.

“I could never fathom that my son would leave for school at 6:30 a.m. with no money for food and some coach I never met or know is going to take him to the University of Washington for 7-on-7 drills and I don’t even know what that means and then not have any transportation when he gets back,” he says. “That’s when it hit me how hard this was going to be.”

And yet he keeps pushing because this is all he knows to do, walking through the halls with a computer bag over his shoulder, nodding to kids, calling them: “Dude.”

“Jon does everything he has with his whole heart,” says Boles, who is one of his assistants. “I told him: ‘You are responsible to the kids but you are not responsible for them. You can’t control it, Jon.’ But his belief is: If they can make one decision a week or one decision a day that is better than the day before then you are making an impact.”

Or as the other co-principal, Greg Eisnaugle, says as he stands in the hall one day: “He just exudes positivism. He makes the kids feel they are worthy.

Then Eisnaugle pauses.

“Have you met Rayshaun Miller?” he asks.

On the dream team of troublemakers, Rayshaun Miller was a lottery pick. He rolled through his first year and a half at Lincoln tormenting teachers so much that many threw their hands up in frustration. The tales of his arrogance and disrespect filled the main office. Once Erwin found him in the hallway boasting of his 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash and how he would tear through opponents on the football field.

“How will we know, Rayshaun?” Erwin said. “You can’t stay eligible.”

But there is also something compelling about Miller. He is bright. While most teenagers find it difficult to connect with adults, he makes eye contact. His handshake is firm. He likes to talk. This is the student Kitna met when he arrived last February, not the one who drove the teachers mad. At the time Miller was failing pretty much everything. Kitna said he would pick him up at his house at 6:30 every morning and drive him to school where they would work on algebra before the students arrived. Later in the day, he was in Kitna’s class, which gave him more than two hours of math daily with the new coach.

His grades soared. The kid who was failing got A’s and B’s. The kid who mocked his teachers waved good morning. When other students fought, he broke them apart. Soon word came to the office of a new, different Rayshaun Miller. And everyone wondered just what had happened.

Miller stands in the weight room after school one day and says: “I got my act together.”

He was born in Sacramento, Calif., and was sent to live with his father in Tacoma when he was 6 to escape the violence of his old neighborhood. He hasn’t seen his mother or brother since. He says he carried the anger over this for a long time. It was Kitna, he says, who told him he couldn’t use his background as a reason for giving up.

“He taught me there is no excuse for not trying,” Miller says.

Then Miller starts to talk about his old self, the one who tried to fail. He tells a story of a time he mocked a student for getting an A in a class. He remembers calling the student “stupid.”

Now, in the weight room, Miller laughs.

“Can you believe that?” he says. “I called someone ‘stupid’ for getting an A.”

Football was a miracle for Kitna. Even he never imagined he’d be in the NFL. It took years to become the starting quarterback at Lincoln. Nobody was waiting with a scholarship when he graduated. His parents helped him pull the money together to go to Central Washington, an NAIA school halfway across the state, where he found himself at the bottom of a long list of quarterbacks. Eventually he became the starter. His senior year, Central won the NAIA national championship, which got him mild acclaim in Washington but did nothing to further his career.

Assuming he was done with football, Kitna finished his teaching degree and began pursuing the dream he and Jennifer talked so much about: teaching and coaching. Lincoln was actually looking for a head football coach. He applied but was turned down.

Then a few days later Dennis Erickson showed up on Central’s campus.

The Seahawks coach at the time was there to give a tryout to his nephew, Jamie Christian, who was one of Central’s receivers. The tryout was a family favor, yet what amazed Erickson was the quarterback whose throws looked like rockets zooming into Christian’s hands. The Seahawks offered Kitna a contract and a spot in their 1996 training camp. He made the practice squad and after the season was placed on the roster of the Barcelona Dragons of the World League. Barcelona won the league title on home turf. Kitna was MVP of the championship game and left the field to chants of “Keeetna! Keeetna! Keeetna!” He was anonymous no more.

He made Seattle’s roster in 1997 and became the team’s starting quarterback in 1998. In 2001 he went to Cincinnati, then to Detroit in 2006 where he threw for 4,000 yards two consecutive seasons, eventually landing in Dallas in 2009.

Yet while this became his football narrative, it was never the story he wanted to tell. Rather the one he repeats, offering to anyone who will listen, is more complicated. It starts with a young college student from Tacoma who understood little about who he was. He went to parties. He drank until he was drunk. He stole. Boles, who speaks to companies about their image, once told a group from 7-Eleven: “You guys can invoice Jon Kitna because he stole so much from you.”
Boles was going through a religious awakening at this time. And he talked to Kitna a lot about what he learned. One night Jennifer, who was Kitna’s girlfriend at the time, came home to find him in bed with another woman. In the midst of the ensuing argument, Boles’ words suddenly made sense. And what came from that night was a different Kitna. The drinking stopped along with the stealing and the partying. His expressions of faith were overt, manifesting itself in T-shirts with slogans like “God Athletic Department” or caps with crosses. His bookshelf filled with spiritual texts.

His purpose became clear. He would teach. He would go back into the cities, to the worst of neighborhoods and he would make children better. He would tell them about choices and respect and responsibility. He was going to change lives.

With Lincoln being a public school, faith is not a part of the lesson plan. Kitna understands this and seems to respect it. After all, he is teaching in a district where students come from all over the world and from a variety of religions. And don’t the lessons he is trying to teach apply to everyone regardless of belief?

“Character is an every day, all the time thing,” Kitna says. “It’s who you really are. It’s not what you turn on and off when you’re around a coach or at home with your parents.”

He has a philosophy that he took from a team chaplain in Detroit. He calls it “the four pillars of manhood,” with each represented by a letter that forms the acronym: “R.E.A.L.” as in: A R.E.A.L. man…

Rejects passivity
Empathizes with others
Accepts responsibility
Leads courageously

And while R.E.A.L. is gender specific and targeted first toward the Lincoln football players, Kitna believes it to be a message that can be embraced by all the students. Who doesn’t need to be reminded to show empathy or courage or take responsibility for mistakes? Virtues are virtues, whether they are taught by a preacher or a math teacher or a football coach.

“Win with grace, lose with dignity,” Kitna says.

He sighs when he hears the complaints about NFL players celebrating touchdowns and sacks – mocking the failures of the opponent on that particular play. If people want to change this, he says, the time to do so isn’t when the players are in the NFL. It’s too late then. You have to reach them when they are teenagers.

And the lessons are harsh. One day this fall Kitna was told of a football player who watched another student draw a derogatory picture of a classmate. The football player had nothing to do with the drawing but he laughed. Kitna had a meeting with the player, the teacher and the student who was the target of the drawing.

“Well you didn’t do anything to help the situation,” Kitna told the player. “You didn’t reject passivity.”

Then he suspended the player for two series in the upcoming game.

Later that week, a group of football players surrounded a group of girl volleyball players from a different school who had come to Lincoln for a match. Two of the players danced suggestively in front of the girls. When Kitna found out about it the next day, he gathered the team together.

“Who was there?” he asked.

Two players raised their hands.

“Who else was there?” he demanded.

Eventually five more players stood before him with hands raised. “You who did it, you are out a half,” Kitna said. “And you who didn’t do anything about it, you are out for two series.”

Months later, now, Kitna shakes his head. Lincoln lost its starting quarterback, a starting defensive lineman, starting center, a starting receiver and a starting linebacker for parts of that next game. The other team returned a punt for a touchdown, perhaps in part because special teams practice was canceled for the meeting about the volleyball incident. The replacement quarterback had a pass intercepted for a touchdown and Lincoln lost. It was a critical defeat in a 5-5 season.

“They got to feel the impact of losing a football game because of the decisions we make,” he says. “But the greater things was [that] the freshmen got to see it. ‘Coach doesn’t play, he really means this.’ ”

In the classroom a projection device turns on, the lights go dim and Kitna stands before his Algebra 1 class with a problem to solve. Behind him, on a screen, is a drawing of a yellow cab with the following question:

“A taxicab company charges a flat fee of $1.85 plus an additional .40 cents per quarter mile. A: Write a formula to find the total cost for cab fare. B: Use this formula to find the cost for one person to travel eight miles.”

The students unpack their bags, pull pencils from holders and take school-owned calculators from felt caddies that hang on the wall but already something is wrong. Kitna can sense it. Then it hits him: Almost none of them have been inside a taxicab. They are staring at him because they don’t understand the question.

Before the first X or fraction or set of parentheses can be scribbled on paper, Kitna must explain taxicabs. He shrugs. Teaching is making him a very patient man. Carefully, he explains the concept of a taxi meter.

He had to give up two of the algebra classes this fall because the demands of building the football program became too much. He replaced them with weight training which gives him more time with the football players. He thinks it’s important that they see him as much as possible.

But there is also a part of him that loves this class. And there are so many stories, like the one of the girl who barely spoke for the first few weeks who is now one of the best students. He can see the recognition. He can feel learning. This makes him happy. For, yes, he is sitting on a gold mine.

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nfl–former-nfl-qb-jon-kitna-finds-%E2%80%98gold-mine%E2%80%99-at-a-school-where-other-teachers-only-saw-problems-194739063.html;_ylt=Ar6kvx3k_zQSjPSgERE96qY5nYcB;_ylu=X3oDMTRqMWdwbDRoBG1pdANMSVNUUyBNaXhlZCBMaXN0IEZQIEV4cGVydHMEcGtnAzIxOTE5NTcxLWE1YjgtM2ExMS04OGY2LTIzNWRmY2ZkMWM0YQRwb3MDMwRzZWMDTWVkaWFCTGlzdE1peGVkTFBDQVRlbXAEdmVyAzAwNDljNzIzLTRhYjQtMTFlMi1hZmJkLTNmOTY0NmQ5Y2ZmNw–;_ylg=X3oDMTFpNzk0NjhtBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25z;_ylv=3

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Usually, when an analyst says that a team was hungry for a state title, they mean that in a figurative sense. In the case of the Burke County (Ga.) High football team, that phrase meant something quite a bit more literal: The players were actually hungry.

As reported by CBS News, one of Georgia’s newly crowned champions made a quantum leap in performance in 2011, and its coach has little doubt that better nutrition — mostly in the form of simple access to more food — was a big part of the improvement.

“We’re probably like most small towns in America right now — you know, we’re struggling,” Burke County football coach Eric Parker told CBS. “So, bringing food home and putting it on the table for a lot of our people, you know, that’s a big deal.

“We had kids who literally by Tuesday had to be removed from practice because of the intensity and the amount of energy they were having to expend.”

There was a reason for that: For many of Parker’s athletes, the only meals they would eat all day were school-subsidized breakfasts and lunches. After Parker raised the issue with Burke County school nutritionist Donna Martin, the nutritionist discovered the school could apply for a federal program called the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

With that federal funding, Burke County suddenly could feed 500 lower income students dinner for just $3 per meal. No sooner had the in-school dinners started than the team’s performance began to turn around on the field.

“A lot of people — they was hungry, tired, and sleepy sometimes,” Burke County defensive lineman Jessie Bush told CBS of the team before many of its members began receiving dinners at school, too. “We started getting better [with the additional food]. You didn’t hear nobody coming out and saying they were tired or hungry.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Burke County rolled to a 14-1 overall record and, eventually, a memorable 28-14 victory in the Georgia Class AAA state championship game against Peach County (Ga.) High.

http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Georgia-school-overcomes-hunger-to-claim-state-t?urn=highschool-wp10283

 

Thanks to Mr. Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.