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Ex NFL player speaks at HMS

Staff writer

Steve Fitzhugh learned that he had the power to hold the attention of young people while speaking to kids for the Denver Broncos.

As a former NFL player, he found that he was in a position that immediately garnered respect and interest from children. Fitzhugh decided to harness this admiration to talk to middle school students across the U.S.

Fitzhugh advised the sixth, seventh, and eighth students at Hillsboro Middle School Feb. 10 to stay away from drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Fitzhugh uses a variety of impressions — from valley girl to an Englishman — and comedy to keep the eyes of the audience firmly fixed upon him.

“It has to be edutainment,” Fitzhugh said. “I have to use humor and role playing.”

He involved the students in the presentation, even bringing one of the students to the front of the auditorium for a demonstration.

The main message Fitzhugh gave to the students was to believe in themselves and stay away from bad influences — like friends who pressure others to smoke or drink — and young people will be a success.

Fitzhugh met a crowd of children asking for autographs after his lecture. Fitzhugh marvels that people continue to seek his autograph.

Fitzhugh’s NFL career was only five games. He played two games in 1986 and three games in 1987 for the Denver Broncos before a nerve injury ended his career. Fitzhugh’s career arc is common in professional football; he said that the average career length for a NFL player is only two to three years.

“I get this all the time: Steve, I want to play in the NFL,” he said. “’That’s great, but what are you going to do after that.’”

What Fitzhugh did was become an ordained minister. Although Fitzhugh spends most of his time on the road speaking to students for his Power Moves organization, he is a minister at a church in Washington, D.C. He is also a national spokesman for the Fellowship of Christian athletes.

He often holds chapel services for NFL teams when they visit the Washington, D.C., area.

But, Fitzhugh is respectful of the secular nature of public schools and keeps religion out of his speeches.

“Create a moment for life change,” he said, “and God will change any life.”

But, Fitzhugh does not speak from high upon a pulpit; just the opposite, he uses some of his own life experiences to augment his points. Fitzhugh’s mother, a regular smoker, died of cancer; Fitzhugh’s brother died from an overdose of crack cocaine. Fitzhugh believes if he can get out of an unhealthy environment and become successful, so can anyone else in a similar situation.

“I had a ton of dysfunction in my family,” he said. “I just tell (children from similar situations) to be themselves. A lot of times when kids get in trouble they’re trying to be somebody they’re not.”

Fitzhugh has traveled all over the world — from Paris to Africa — telling children a simple message: they have the power to stay focused and be successful.

“These can be the first days of the best days of your life,” he told the students.

Last modified Feb. 17, 2010

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