- Associated Press - Saturday, April 22, 2017

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - Each day, former NFL player Jimmie Bell wakes up and thinks about the kind of mark he wants to leave on the world.

“How will you choose to be remembered every single day?” Bell asked a group of students Tuesday at Parker-Bennett-Curry Elementary School. “Our legacy is one of the most important things we have because our legacy follows us for our entire lives. We should never take our legacy for granted. We should never be casual with how we choose to be remembered.”

Bell, a former NFL defensive lineman, spoke to about 150 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders during an assembly provided by the nonprofit Sports World Inc. He stressed the importance of making your mark on the world, avoiding bad choices and sticking to your dream and living with as few regrets and missed opportunities as possible.

“I hope that they will leave here kind of pumped up to continue believing in themselves,” Principal Delvagus Jackson said of Bell’s talk.

Jackson said the school has been trying to establish a “growth mindset” and teach students to have grit. He hoped the presentation, which Sports World provided free of charge, would align with that message.

Bell noted that he’s no stranger to struggle. His hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, was known as a “rougher” place to grow up, he said, but he had parents who guided him despite how much of a “knucklehead” he was.

Life doesn’t always pan out as planned, Bell said, but it happens whether you make it or not.

“We’re 100 percent responsible for our own legacy,” he said. “No one else can say, or dictate or make up how we all choose to be remembered, except for us. I think that’s amazing that I’m the only one who can leave an impression on an individual or a group.”

Bell urged students to fight through hurdles.

Growing up, Bell said he dreamed of getting a college degree and playing in the NFL. He remembers that feeling he got when Ohio State University recruiters first noticed him as a high school defensive lineman. He said he also remembers, just a week into his freshman year in college, what it felt like to tear up his knee and see those people turn their backs.

“If I was going to live that dream that I had in my heart, I was going to have to trust and believe in the most important person in my life,” he said. “I had to have the courage to look in the mirror and believe I was actually the most important person in my life.”

Bell urged the students to realize that “you guys are the only ones who can make any of the positive choices and decisions to move you closer and closer to the dreams that you guys have in your heart.”

Now 43 years old, Bell knows he still doesn’t have all the answers, unlike what he thought when he was younger. He looks back on his commitments to football and school and asks, “What if?”

“Live your lives with as light of a ‘what if’ bag as possible,” he told the students.

Noa Baltazar, a fifth-grader at the school, said she learned there are “a lot of choices in the world, and we don’t get to choose all of them. …

“Choose the ones you can do,” she said.


Information from: Daily News, https://www.bgdailynews.com

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