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The weight of a generation on my shoulders

Editor’s Note: This column was first published in The Daily Dispatch on Sunday, January 21, 2007.

“I am not a role model.”

When Charles Barkley uttered those six words in a commercial eons ago, his message was twofold.

1. Parents, raise your kids

2. “How can I be a role model? I’m a gambler.”

We heard you Chuck, but in reality, you were a role model then and for that 16-year-old who watches your games on ‘ESPN Classic’ and patterns their game after yours, you are a role model now.

Growing up, we all had role models – a person whose behavior we want to imitate – whether it was an athlete, an entertainer, a civic leader or a family member.

One of my first ever role models was Rickey Henderson.rickeyhenderson.jpg

The king of thievery, his 939-plus stolen bases is tops in the majors, so being a former track guy, whose early beginnings were scorching basepaths like the desert sun, it was only fitting that I would want to have the art of stealing bases down to a science like Rickey.

Then there was this guy who wore No. 20 for the Detroit Lions a few years ago. You know, he left the game in 1998, long before he was suppose to but was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004?

The things that Barry Sanders did with a football in his hands is equivalent to that of the ‘And 1′ ballers, making you look sick while putting on a show and producing numbers (15,269 yards, 3rd all-time in the NFL)barchi.jpg.

But I admired these two for their performances on the field. I had no idea about their character nor did I concern myself about it either. I just wanted to be great at baseball, then great at football so I looked at their skills and worried about character later.

And later is now.

I don’t just notice what an athlete does in competition but where his heart is at.

That is why I applaud Warrick Dunn. Little stature, humongous heart. His charity work (putting the down payment on a house for a single mother) goes above and beyond the call.house_gift.jpg

That is why I can admire Reggie Bush because of the effort he put forth for the Katrina victims, (by not only donating food but having a portion of his endorsement money from Reebok and Subway go towards the rebuilding process).

There are many young African American males throughout the nation, who do not have a positive male figure who they can look up to who isn’t rapping about rides, women or doing 360 dunks at Rucker Park. A male figure who is more tangible, whose choice of a career is more attainable.

I am 24 years old; old enough to be respected but young enough to still be connected to the generation.

I am a 24-year-old African American male who is thankful and blessed that I am not a statistic.

I feel that I have the weight of a generation on my shoulders and because of that, I want to set an example.

I want to be that figure that kids look up too.

I am a role model.

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