Tuesday, March 07, 2006
"Life is funny. It changes in ways you don't expect and at times you don't anticipate. Take this article, for example. As a football player for The University of Alabama Crimson Tide, I've been asked to talk with lots of reporters for lots of stories. Most of the time, I didn't mind. It goes along with the territory of playing for a school with such rich tradition and passionate fans. However, I was most excited to have the chance to write a piece that not only reflects on my career, but hopefully, points to some positive aspects of college athletics and college life that don't always make the sports page. And in keeping with past media interviews, if I can offer any words that might serve to motivate a high school student to make good choices about their future, then I'm all over that.
Winning the NCAA Top VIII award brought honor to me, MY FAMILY, AND MY UNIVERSITY, but it also gave me a voice, a platform to talk about some other important things. My college experience - tackling my coursework, competing for the Crimson Tide, trying to give something back to my community -- hasn't left much time to reflect. And while it's not yet clear where God may lead my life next, it is clear that many people have helped me get to this point. I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to some of those who have helped me along the way and to encourage those who may read this - especially students - to always strive for your personal best, whatever that may be.
That's one of the things my Mom emphasized growing up. "Do your best. Work hard. Take advantage of the opportunities you have been given." Those were, and are, some of the messages I took from my mom and tried to incorporate as a part of me. She always emphasized the importance of education. She knew good grades were key to a brighter future. She had high expectations, and we knew that anything less than a "B" was unacceptable. We also knew if we were capable of bringing home "A's," we had better land the "A." My Mom backed up her words with her actions. She worked two jobs most of my life, so my brothers and sisters would have those things and those opportunities we needed. Thank you, Mom.
To my teammates, guys, it's been a wild ride. I know the bond we share will never be broken, no matter how far the distance between us. I can't imagine a better group of friends to spend my college days with. I wish you all the best in life after football.
To my coaches, back at Jess Lanier and at The University of Alabama, thank you for the football skills you taught me and for giving me a chance to hone them on both the practice fields and in the game arena. I'd also like to thank the staff of the athletic department at UA for their support, encouragement and willingness to assist us in all of our endeavors as student- athletes - always expecting our personal best.
One of the things I always tried to emphasize to the high school recruits during their campus visits was the need to take care of the academic side of your life as a student-athlete. As a student-athlete on scholarship, we've been given a wonderful opportunity to earn an education. It's vital we don't waste it. If you want to succeed as a student-athlete, not just on the football field or on the court, but in the classroom, the UA staff will do their best to help you achieve your academic goals. But.you have to want it and dedicate yourself to it. Set academic, as well as athletic, goals.
I had a goal to graduate within four years, and I earned my management degree with six months to spare. We all have different goals and different abilities, but we can all do our best. The University has invested millions of dollars in the Paul W. Bryant Academic Center which was available to me at the end of my college career. I know it stands as a symbol of commitment to all Tide athletes, now and in the future, that they will have every opportunity to succeed academically if they make that a priority in their lives. The support is there if each student-athlete commits to that success.
To my teachers back in Bessemer and to the faculty at The University of Alabama, thank you for your high expectations and for the encouragement you gave to me and my fellow students on a daily basis. Teachers have one of the toughest jobs, and I thank you for all you are doing for the next generation of leaders of our state and nation.
You hear a lot about what's wrong with young people today, and we sometimes focus on the problems in college sports rather than successes. I am grateful that The University of Alabama and many other organizations look for success stories and honor accomplishments and don't solely focus on winning or losing a ballgame. Don't get me wrong, I love to win. I am energized by athletic competition, but I know when the game is over, making the grade and making a difference in the lives of others is the ultimate blessing."
University of Alabama Alumnus
A recent University of Alabama cum laude graduate, DeMeco Ryans was a consensus All-American linebacker for the Crimson Tide and was defensive MVP of the 2006 Cotton Bowl. He was awarded the NCAA's Top VIII Award in January, recognizing outstanding achievement in athletics, scholarship and community service and given each year to only eight student-athletes nationwide. He also won this year's Lott Trophy, symbolic of the nation's top defensive player and based on personal character as well as athletic performance. Ryans is presently training athletically in anticipation of April's NFL draft. You can follow DeMeco on his website at www.demecoryans.net.