Former NFL player Cedric James helps kick off athletic seasons for 2017-2018 school year at Waukon High School Meet the Team Night

Former NFL player Cedric James helped kick off the 2017-2018 Waukon High School athletic seasons as the featured speaker at the newly-developed Meet the Team Night Thursday, August 17. James delivered a message of "working with the spirit of excellence" to Waukon High School's student-athletes and others in attendance.

The Waukon High School 2017-2018 school year athletic seasons were kicked off Thursday, August 17 with the traditional sports drink scrimmages and Allamakee Athletic Booster Club appreciation meal, with the added dimension of Meet the Team Night and a featured speaker enjoying its second successful year with a presentation by former National Football League (NFL) player Cedric James addressing the crowd in attendance at the Waukon High School gym. James played his college football at Texas Christian University (TCU) before being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and also playing for the Dallas Cowboys and also the New England Patriots during their Super Bowl XXXIX championship season, and he had several of those jerseys on display during his message of perseverance and never giving up, but pursuing all of that with character.

James’ overall message was one of “working with a spirit of excellence,” approaching life with a sense of commitment and not just based on what you expect to come out of it. He furthered that message of commitment by saying, “do what you said you were going to do, long after the desire to do it is gone,” meaning being dedicated to something no matter how long it takes.

James said the bottom line on that whole approach to living a life of commitment is character, explaining that character is “who you are when nobody is looking.” “Don’t tell me who you are, show me who you are,” he said, adding, “Don’t tell me who you are because your actions speak louder and drown out anything you say.”

James then shared his own life experience in relation to the message he was delivering, explaining how he was a “nobody” from a small town in Texas who worked hard and ended up being recruited to play football at TCU on the same team that was led by this year’s NFL Hall of Fame inductee LaDainian Tomlinson. He said he opted to try his chances in the NFL instead of completing his degree at TCU, and he shared how he missed out on the NFL Combine that showcases top prospects, as well as three Pro Day opportunities due to injury, but yet his commitment to recovering from those injuries and the character that he showed those around him ultimately led to him being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings.

After his injuries persisted throughout his brief NFL career, James turned his focus back to his education, returning to TCU to complete his education and help develop the TCU Idea Factory, a unit of the College of Science & Engineering dedicated to supporting the entrepreneurial spirit of TCU students, staff and faculty by providing an environment and resources where an idea can be advanced to a prototype, and potentially, beyond. He has also developed a career as a motivational speaker, along with other entrepreneurial endeavors, echoing that idea that long-term commitment has been the key to all the opportunities and success he’s had in his life.

In his final life lesson he shared with the crowd in attendance, James drove home the idea that success and the opportunities for it do not come by taking shortcuts in life. He relayed a story of how a carpenter who builds houses was down on his luck one year, but how a wealthy man came to him and offered him the opportunity to build a $300,000 home. After receiving the check for $300,000, James said the carpenter’s thoughts turned to greed and how he could pocket as much of that $300,000 as possible by taking shortcuts in the process of building the home, knowing full well that the home would not last as long but not caring because he needed the money and as much of it as he could possibly gain by cutting those corners in the construction process.

James continued the story by saying that once the house was built, the carpenter met the wealthy man at the new house and just before they went inside the wealthy man turned to the carpenter and said that he knew he was having a tough year and that he had wanted to do something for him and his family. The carpenter thanked him for the opportunity to build the house, but the wealthy man then handed the house keys back to the carpenter and said, “no, I wanted this house built to give to you,” much to the carpenter’s dismay because he knew how the shortcuts he took would impact the quality of the home and that if he had known the house was going to be for his family, he would never have taken the shortcuts that he had.

James closed by saying, “You may not realize it, but we are all ‘building our own houses, every day’,” referring to life and the future. “And yes, some of them are being built by taking shortcuts in quality, but we can all knock down those poorly built houses today and start building new ones of better quality.”

He then wished all the student-athletes in attendance best of luck in their upcoming athletic seasons and school year, reminding them to “work with a spirit of excellence.”

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