By Teresa Varley
Safety Ryan Clark knows the importance of believing in oneself, staying strong and having a positive attitude. That is why he was the perfect person to visit two area schools recently to deliver key messages.
Clark went to Mon Valley AIU and West Mifflin Middle School to share words of encouragement with the students.
At Mon Valley AUI Clark talked about the importance of making good choices, being prepared and having a good attitude. He also gave the kids plenty of time to ask him questions, which hit on just about every topic.
"They asked me what kind of car I drive and what was the Super Bowl like," said Clark. "They wanted to know things I overcame as a football player. They asked how much time we work during the week. They get confused with what they see on television and what we do all week. They asked about injuries and who is my best friend on the team. They asked me just about everything."
When Clark arrived at West Mifflin he was greeted by a short highlight film of himself, showing some of the hits he has delivered on opposing receivers and running backs.
"I had to explain to them I am not crazy the way I hit people," laughed Clark. "That was cool. We had fun."
But the message was also serious. He spoke to students who were preparing for the PSSA standardized testing and talked to them about respect, attitude and effort.
"I tried to stress to them as far as effort goes the way that they compete if they are playing a sport you need to compete that same way in school," said Clark. "Once you out and you are trying to get a job, that is how people want to judge you. That is how you are ranked, how you get slotted, by the grades you make and accomplishments."
Clark, who was invited to come back to the school some time as "principal for a day" because that is something he said he would like to be one day, understands how important it is to reach out to kids while they still have an opportunity to shape the direction their life is going in.
"It's tough to get a second chance once you are an adult," said Clark. "You have bills to pay and you have to take care of yourself. It's not a carefree time, but it's a time when other people are looking out for you so you can have an opportunity to make a decision to set up your future. I was telling them don't let this time pass you by and don't grow up too fast. Enjoy it. This is a time to learn. This is going to develop who you are going to be as an adult."