By Toria Smith
Marcus Hardison, defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals and a Natchitoches native, spoke to students at the Natchitoches Junior High April 7.
The event was part of the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program. This program makes it possible for its members to earn community service hours, go on field trips, visit college campuses and hear valuable advice from guest speakers.
”One of the program’s requirements is bringing in eight guest speakers,” JAG Coordinator Jacquelyn Rainwater said. ”One of the students mentioned wanting to meet an NFL player, so I contacted Marcus’ aunt about making that happen.”
”When my aunt called me about speaking here, I jumped on it right away,” Hardison said. ”I always have a great time interacting with kids.”
Hardison wants to mentor children and be a positive male figure in their lives.
”My coaches were my role models, and I want to be that for someone else,” he said.
Hardison stressed the importance of school in his speech, and told the students that it is important to set goals early and to stay focused on these goals.
”I’m pursuing my communications degree while playing football,” Hardison said. ”It’s important to remember that the NFL is not for long.”
There is a 1.5 percent chance of making it to the NFL, so the teachers and administrators of Natchitoches Junior High felt that it was important for the students to know that school should be prioritized in case a career in football does not pan out.
”We want to make sure that they understand that the chance of making it to the NFL is so small,” Principal Edwin Mason said. ”To hear it from an NFL player drives that home more than we could hope to on our own.”