The NFL offseason is generally filled with headlines about free agency, the NFL draft and players who get in trouble with the law.
Every year though, NFL players are doing more in the offseason outside of just lifting weights and getting ready for the next season. Some are actively volunteering and taking part in events to help communities.
Take Joseph Barksdale for example. After a successful career at Louisiana State University (LSU) where he started 39 consecutive games over his last three seasons and was named Second Team All-SEC, he was drafted in the third round by the Oakland Raiders. Now a member of the St. Louis Rams, Barksdale is finding a way to give back to the community he grew up in—Detroit, Michigan.
Today, March 14th, 2013, Barksdale will be hosting an event at the high school he attended, Cass Technical High School, called the "Uplift Your Game" Youth Leadership Seminar. It’s a school familiar with success in sports, winning the last two Division I state championships in Michigan and, along with Barksdale, having produced former first-round pick Vernon Gholston and NBA player Chris Douglas-Roberts.
However, what Barksdale realizes and wants to get across to these students is that sports aren’t everything in life.
“Being a well-rounded person and not putting all your eggs in one basket,” Barksdale said about what his main message at the seminar will be. “You can’t play a sport forever. People need something to do after sports. Most people don’t know how to manage it.”
Barksdale believes it’s important to instill being a well-rounded person early on. He was a 5-star recruit as a defensive tackle despite never playing a down of football before high school, saying he was more of a basketball player before that. In addition to the football accolades, Barksdale graduated with a 3.5 GPA and was an active volunteer.
“I helped to serve the homeless on Christmas Day,” Barksdale recalled of his first time volunteering. “It was a real eye-opener for me. Felt good to help to people and is something I’ve been passionate about since.”
Barksdale will be speaking at the event along with his agent and former college basketball player Isaac Conner; Everette Pearsall, a Watkins Award board member; program supervisor for Central Care Management Remele Penick; and University of Texas professor and associate vice-president Dr. Leonard Moore. Dr. Moore previously taught at LSU, where he was able to meet Barksdale during his first semester.
“We clicked sort of like his first day of class I believe,” said Moore. “He just seemed like a different kind of ballplayer.”
Barksdale enrolled at LSU early, a move that if he didn’t make would’ve led to never meeting Moore, who left for Texas in June of 2007.
After not talking for nearly five-and-a-half years, Barksdale got a hold of Moore, something he said he was “blown away by.”
“I remembered him vividly,” Moore said. “I think he saw and recognized the work I did at LSU with black athletes and that stuck with him.”
Moore has experience working with the football teams at Texas, LSU, Georgia and Ohio State in helping to assist athletes off the field.
“(Moore) does a lot of work with both high school and college programs to help get the best of their kids mentally,” said Barksdale. “See where the players’ minds are at.”
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Moore didn’t always excel in the classroom. During high school, he had a 1.5 GPA and scored a 15 on the ACT. Moore’s experience from having to overcome that is a message he tries to get across to the youth.
“Test scores and a GPA don’t define you,” Moore elaborated. “You may have got a bad start academically but there is hope.”
Moore enjoys working with football players because of the way football forces individuals to think.
“Main message, particularly for football players, is that football is an intellectual enterprise,” Moore said. “There is a transferable skill to the classroom from the field.”
Moore described it as “earth shattering to a lot when they hear it.” He is active in helping these young student-athletes get a chance at the next level.
“If you’re an average ball player and finish high school with a 3.0 GPA, we will find you a scholarship,” Moore stated.
Being a well-rounded individual is something Barksdale, Moore and the rest of the panel will certainly stress. Moore has a simple message to sum that up.
“We want ballers on the field and ballers in the classroom.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.