Recently, QB Terrelle Pryor visited the students at Barack Obama Academy, an alternative middle school, in Oakland, Calif. The Raiders starting quarterback returned to the school after spending time with students there last season.
Remnants of Pryor’s visit in 2012 could be seen throughout the hallways of Barack Obama Academy. A signed group photo hangs on the wall above the principal’s office and some of his most important messages are printed on posters that hang in the hallway.
“The visit last year meant a lot to the kids,” said Adeya Byrd, program manager for onsite Seneca Medical Health Services. “Up until graduation day that was what they talked about. The 7th graders that are now 8th graders here, they still talk about the 10-second rule. They talk about meeting Terrelle. We have the picture up in our office. The fact that he actually emailed me to check on the kids a few months later was amazing. Letting the kids know that got them excited. It was really exciting. It meant a lot to the kids.”
“It’s good to have success on the football team, but any time you can [make an impact] on children and have something like that, I think that’s a positive,” said Pryor. That’s a goal and an accomplishment as well.”
Pryor was candid with the students last year and did the same with the students this year. “Just helping them understand some of the struggles I had, adversity I had to go through and I think it’s good to share, especially with younger kids, so they understand where I’m coming from,” explained Pryor. “They see me at a level, in the NFL, and that speaks volumes to children because they want to be there. I think it’s good to share with them struggles and adversity that you have deal with and understand the goals I had to set to get to the mark where I’m at and how I’m still trying to get better every single day.”
QB Terrelle Pryor answers the students questions. Photo by Tony Gonzales
One of Pryor’s big talking points was to not give in to peer pressure and make the right decisions. “I think goal setting and being able to stand up to the peer pressure and know when to walk away is very important especially with the kids that we work with and the communities that they’re in,” said Byrd. “A lot of times it’s easy to make the wrong choice. Just having them know that they’re better than that and they can say no and walk away are some of the things we try to get our kids to hear, but it’s always good to hear from somebody that is known in the community and shows that they care.”
The third-year quarterback related his experiences to what the kids are currently going through. “When you want to have success, there’s a lot of people that try to bring you down,” Pryor said to the students. “I know how you feel. I came from a tough neighborhood as well and you can’t get involved in that peer pressure. You have to want to be different. You have to want to excel individually. If there’s somebody that’s holding you down or questioning the success you want to have, they shouldn’t be around you. You shouldn’t have them as a friend, period. I think that’s something you really have to take in.”
Pryor reiterated to the group the importance of the 10-second rule, which essentially means that before making any decision, take 10 seconds to think before taking action. “There’s always enough time to decide whether you want to go about it the right way or go about it the wrong way,” said Pryor.
Giving back to the community is significant for Pryor. “It’s important to always try to better other people along with trying to better yourself,” said Pryor. “All I want to do is share my stories and help kids understand that there’s going to be adversity, there’s going to be things you go through, but it’s your you should always have a goal that you have set that you want to accomplish. I think it’s good to share overcoming things and having success. I believe it’s great to come out and support children.”
The Raiders time at Barack Obama Academy is proving to have a lasting influence on the students. “To know that there are still people in the community, like the Raiders, and they come and still care about [the students], they’re not forgotten, I think that’s a huge, huge impact for our kids.”