- Associated Press - Friday, June 30, 2017

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - At age 14, and weighing just 108 pounds, Steve Weatherford decided he wanted to be a professional athlete.

He knew he had a lot of work to do. “I was probably the skinniest kid on my sports teams … I didn’t look like I had a chance,” the former NFL punter told children attending Camp Navigate on Tuesday. Weatherford’s World Champion Foundation provides financial support for the camp.

“I knew I would have to get bigger, faster and stronger,” he told students. So he worked out each day, before school and after school, in addition to attending classes and team practices. Eventually, through hard work, he became one of the biggest, fastest and strongest guys on his team.

“I continually tried to become the best everywhere I went,” he said.

His recipe for success worked. A standout athlete at both Terre Haute North Vigo High School and college, he went on to play for five NFL teams and was part of the New York Giants football team that won Superbowl XLVI in 2012 by defeating the New England Patriots.

Weatherford, who let one of the Camp Navigate children - Patrick Farnsworth - wear his Super Bowl ring, encouraged the campers to set goals, work hard and stay positive. “Make sure that every day you wake up, you are working hard at something that’s going to get you closer to your goal,” he told them as he spoke at the DeVaney Elementary gym.

A positive attitude is important, he told them. “If you believe you can, you can. If you believe you can’t - you are right,” he said.

Weatherford also talked about some of his personal struggles growing up, including an inability to sit still and focus in class, which often got him into trouble. Weatherford’s mom, Lisa, described how she worked with her son to help him overcome the challenges caused by his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

When he was 8 and used to get in trouble in the classroom, his mom started getting up early with him - about 5 a.m. - and she would ride a bike around the neighborhood and he would accompany her, running. They used a flashlight, because it was dark outside.

The goal was to use up some of his boundless energy before he went to school.

“She had three other kids to take care of” and was probably tired, he said. But “she loved me so much she was willing to lose sleep to try to help me exercise” and burn up some of that energy.

The North Vigo graduate said he’s learned to take his most difficult challenge and turn it into his greatest strength. “No one has more energy than I do, so I choose to use that energy to work hard at things I care about,” he said.

Lisa Weatherford told the children they each have special gifts and she encouraged them to find and develop those talents. “Usually, it’s something you really like,” she said.

During his presentation, Steve Weatherford took questions from his enthusiastic audience, including Todd Jackson, age 11, who asked, “Do you have to be good at math to be a professional football player?”

Weatherford responded that to be on a high school or college team, students must maintain a certain grade-point average in subjects that would include math. The NFL wouldn’t want players who had bad grades in college because those NFL officials “would assume they are not smart enough or they are lazy,” he said.

Another child asked Weatherford why he no longer played professional football, and he replied that he had met his goals - he became a professional athlete, played on a Super Bowl-winning team and was able to play in the NFL for 10 years. At that point, he set new goals outside of football.

And one of the things he likes to do is help motivate others to find success, including children attending Camp Navigate. He said he hoped he was able to inspire them to pursue their dreams.

Farnsworth, who got to wear Weatherford’s Super Bowl ring, said of the former professional football player, “He’s amazing.”

In an interview prior to his talk, Weatherford said, “It’s good to be back home.”

He has been able to visit with family, and his children will be attending a vacation Bible school where his mom is an instructor.

Camp Navigate is one of the beneficiaries of his foundation, and “I’m happy to be able to see it in action,” he said.

Retired from professional football, he said he’s enjoying spending time with family and “being a dad.” He also has started some small businesses.

“I’m enjoying a new challenge, being a rookie all over again and learning how to do things I had no experience doing, but it’s been a lot of fun.

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Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune Star, https://bit.ly/2shOfMr

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Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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