Former Steelers linebacker Levon Kirkland, who is the minority recruiter for Clemson University's admissions department, offered words of encouragement to students at Edisto High School in South Carolina on a recent visit there.
Kirkland recently spoke to the Edisto GEAR-UP program, which was developed by the South Carolina State Commission on Higher Education to help prepare students for college by offering tutoring, mentoring and financial aid,
For Kirkland the message was personal. Some doubted him growing up, thinking he wouldn't have the success he did in school, football or life after.
"I took an opportunity and made the most out of it. You guys have the opportunity to make the most out of it," Kirkland told the students, according to the Times and Democrat in South Carolina. "Our future depends on what you do."
Kirkland wanted to be a detective but instead had a successful 11-year career in the NFL, playing for the Steelers from 1992-2000. After his playing career he went back to Clemson and earned his sociology degree and is working toward his master's degree.
"The money can go, but the one thing no one can take away is my degree," said Kirkland, who illustrated the importance of the degree by letting the students know he couldn't even coach at the high school level without that degree.
Kirkland outlines four objectives for the students which included having a belief in yourself under all circumstances, a vision for the future, a plan, and plenty of hard work.
"The question is - are you going to bring that potential out?" asked Kirkland. "Give it your all. It's your time right now to make sure you do that. When I get older, I want to see one of you doing something great."