Special to South Florida Times
MIAMI — Former National Football League player Tim Lester has adopted the goal of ensuring that some of life's lessons, learned through adverse situations as well as triumphal moments through sports, are imparted to the minds of youths who have made life-altering mistakes. He and the Miami Job Corps have partnered to form a mentoring program through usage of flag football.
On April 30 the Miami native spoke to an auditorium full of at-risk students at the Miami Job Corp Center, 3050 N.W. 183rd St., Miami Gardens, sharing his rocky road to stardom as a running back for eight seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, and dissecting the mistakes that could have derailed his professional football career.
Lester explained that his hope is to provide a steady hand of guidance to the young men within the program by incorporating such skills as team building, leadership and effective decision making.
In a humble tone he explained to the students that beyond the glitz and glamour of a NFL player’s life was a man who knew he could have been in the same position the students find themselves in today as his life was full of bad decisions. Instead of letting those experiences make him fall by the wayside, he said, he decided to make a difference.
“It is very hard to relate to someone if you have never been through the same experiences,” Lester said. “Too many times words will fall on deaf ears when it comes to the youth because they feel that they are in that situation all by themselves. But if you come to them as a person that has been through the same things that they are going through at the moment, they will be more inclined to listen.”
Lester took the students through a slideshow that provided a photographic timeline of his life — including pictures of deceased family members, old girlfriends, heralded newspaper clippings, music videos and motivational slogans.
He focused most of his attention on the words, “Life is all about the decisions we make.” Lester took a long pause after restating his mantra, then pointed to a picture of his deceased uncle.
“You see this man right here? He made the wrong choices with alcohol that cost him his life. Two of my uncles died at a young age because of the choices they made. Instead of me learning from what others did and take a smoother path, I made mistakes that consistently altered my path. By drinking and driving, I found myself in a coma. That one decision could have ended my career and my life. But fortunately, I had people in my corner that gave me the courage to keep going. That is what we want to bring to you.”
In an initiative set to start in August, Lester and the Job Corps have developed a team of established but storied men who will serve as mentors. He also has partnered with Women of Strength for a June 9 Yacht Cruise, and on June 10 will speak at Faith Community Baptist Church in Miami. For more information contact Marcia Grant at 305-467-5044.
He said he believes that life's influences can easily alter the decision-making process. He cited hip-hop legends Tupac Shakur and Eazy-E, who died of gun violence and AIDS, respectively, to illustrate his point that the music the youth listen to can have a negative effect on impressionable persons.
Sanjaye Wesley, who at 21 years old is getting certified in accounting, said many of the bad decisions made in his past were due to the influence of his peers and music. “Now that I look back, the crowd that I was hanging around brought me down more than they lifted me up,” Wesley said. “Following the wrong crowd kept me from doing the right thing.”
Now Wesley has the opportunity to learn from a different crowd.
Photo: Tim Lester