As he stood in front of the students at Carlynton High School, ready to share some insight with them, safety Ryan Mundy quickly remembered his days at Woodland Hills High School.
"It seems like only yesterday I was in your shoes," Mundy told the students at the local Pittsburgh school. "Being born and raised in Pittsburgh it means a lot to me to come out and speak to young adults like you. Before you know it you will be out in the real world, applying to college, looking for a job."
He stopped for a minute, looking at one student whose eyes were closed, and told him to wake up. While fellow students laughed, Mundy delivered a message.
"I could say something that might impact his life but he won't know it because he is sleeping," said Mundy."It's important to pay attention in life. You have to be aware of what is going on around you."
Mundy was on hand to help motivate the kids, who were preparing for PSSA tests, while sharing his story with them. His message was simple, stressing the importance of education, hard work and overcoming adversity.
"One thing you can always fall back on is your education," said Mundy. "I know I worked hard to get where I am and I wouldn't be here without my education. But it's important to apply yourself in the classroom as well as you apply yourself on the football field and in anything you do. Whatever passion you have, you have to transfer it over to academics. The main thing we can all fall back on is our education.
"I was a hard worker, but I could have worked harder. I don't want you to have any regrets when you look back. It's going to be too late then. You have to live life without any regrets."
Mundy, who attended the University of Michigan and went on to West Virginia University to work on his Masters in Athletic Administration, can definitely speak from experience. He understood how important his college education was and while it wasn't always easy, he never quit.
"Hard work was a key for me," Mundy told students. "I always wanted to be the best and to be the best you have to work hard. Everybody wants to do their best, has aspirations. You have to work hard for it. When you work hard you won't have any regrets, whether it works out or not, you can say you gave your best effort. You move on with life. Everything is not always going to be good."
While at Michigan he learned that first-hand. He missed his junior season to injury and when he came back as a senior had to fight for his position. With an extra year of eligibility he was ready to come back for a fifth season, but was told the team was moving in a different direction and was able to transfer to West Virginia and pursue his Masters and play football.
"That time was full of uncertainty, what was my next move," shared Mundy. "But I didn't worry because I knew I was going to graduate. That was the most important thing overall. If nothing else I was going to have a degree. I had to continue to work hard because I wasn't going to give up on my dream and that was ultimately to play in the NFL.
"I had some ups and downs in my life and career and that is why I say overcoming adversity has been a reoccurring theme in my life. It's important. The hard work gives you the foundation to overcome that adversity. You have to put the work in. you never know what might come your way."
Mundy was one of the lucky ones. The hard work did pay off when he was drafted by the Steelers in 2008. His short career has had its ups and downs, suffering an injury in his first preseason game after just eight plays, being waived his rookie season, re-signed to the practice squad, and making the final roster in 2009. It was those ups and downs that made him appreciate what he has and made him want to encourage others, especially kids, to keep reaching for their dreams.
"Chasing the dream for 16 years and for it to be over in eight plays was devastating, heart breaking," said Mundy. "But I went back to the work habit I established and that came into play. I didn't know what was going to happen with my career.
"You always want to be prepared for what might happen. You don't ever want an opportunity to come into your life and you aren't ready for it. They don't disappear; someone else just takes them. You need to start preparing for the next step in your life. This is the time to start thinking about careers and take it seriously. Don't ever let somebody tell you that you can't do something or it's not for you. Don't let anybody discourage you."