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Former professional football player challenges students
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The middle and high school students at Southwestern Schools were challenged to make good decisions to better their own lives during a speech presented by former NFL defensive lineman Jimmie Bell on Oct. 4. - photo by Dena Harris

HAZEL GREEN—Former NFL defensive lineman Jimmie Bell shared a motivational message with the Southwestern middle and high school students on Wednesday.

Bell, an Ohio state native, played for both the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers.

His message was one of personal development.

“We need to do what we have to do in our own power to be who we want to be,” Bell said. “It is our own responsibility.”

Using his own personal experiences in both his upbringing and his professional football career, Bell explained the need for every person to take responsibility for their own future.

“Youngstown, Ohio, was a rough place to grow up,” Bell said. “It competes to be the No. 1 murder capital in the nation.

Growing up I learned I couldn’t take anything for granted. Every decision I made had consequences.”

Bell challenged the students to three tasks:

1) Take responsibility for your own legacy; consider your own attitude, efforts and actions when making decisions to build the future you want.

2) Fight for your dreams; make positive choices and decisions to move you closer to  your goals.

3) Reduce the “what ifs” in your life; put everything you have into every opportunity you are presented.

“Every choice will move us closer or further away from our dreams,” Bell said. “You have to learn to fight for your dream. You have to fight with a great attitude, with your head and your heart. Not every thing will work out the way that you want it to… You have to trust the most important person in your life, yourself. You are the one to make the positive decisions to move you closer to your dreams.”

He shared a story about relying on himself more than others. In 1992 Bell was one of the top defensive linemen in the country and he was highly sought after by college recruiters throughout the United States. He eventually chose to go to Ohio State University.

“After my first week in college, I found out I had a torn ACL,” Bell said. “It was one of the lowest points in my life. The people who promised they would be there for me were no where to be found.”

Bell was able to overcome that obstacle and was eventually recruited to the NFL.

“When I had the opportunity to follow my NFL dream, I did just enough to get by,” Bell said. “What if I would have put everything into my professional career? Everything we want in life will take hard work and dedication.”

Bell advised that hard work can help minimize the “what if” opportunities in your life.

“You don’t want to continually wonder how your life could be different,” Bell said. “You are not born a winner or a loser. You are born a chooser. The choice is always ours.”

Bell ended his session with a survey each student filled out. He then took a selfie with the students, who were dressed up for homecoming week, and autographed cards.