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Philadelphia Eagles Linebacker DeMeco Ryans visits St. James School to speak with students and staff about following the right path. Here, 7th grade student Robert helps Graduate Support Director Kevin Todd introduce the star player.

On Monday, November 9, students and staff were excited to welcome Philadelphia Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans, his wife Jamila, and their 19-month-old son MJ.

Watch This: DeMeco Ryans Visits St. James School

DSC_0113After a tour of the school and grounds to learn more about St. James, DeMeco spoke at an assembly for the whole school. He encouraged students to “always do your best,” stressing the importance of respect and hard work academically. Excellence on the field and in the classroom is important to DeMeco and helped him achieve his success, he told the packed dining room. While in high school, he earned Super All-State Honors on the football field and Academic All-State in the classroom. This helped him earn a scholarship to the University of Alabama, where he was the 2005 recipient of the Lott Trophy, awarded in recognition of excellence on and off the field, and a consensus all-American.

DSC_0274Students had the opportunity to ask DeMeco lots questions. They were curious about everything it took for DeMeco to become a Philadelphia Eagle.

“If I wanted to be successful, I had to take the hard path,” said DeMeco to the student body.

When asked about his motivations for playing football, DeMeco spoke about his desire to follow a different path when he was growing up in Alabama–in a rough neighborhood with gangs–and the challenges that he overcame to achieve his current level of success.

“You guys have wowed me,” said DeMeco. “When I stepped in the building and see how you guys greet all the guests is just unbelievable. You guys taught me something—that I should have the respect of others…you guys are doing a fantastic job. Keep up the great work.”

prepping-drillsAfter he shared his inspiring story, students had a chance to practice with a pro when DeMeco and his family went outside and ran a few drills with students, who had no trouble showing off their skills and learning some tips from the pro linebacker.

Thank you to the Ryans family for spending time with St. James and sharing your inspiration, advice, and wisdom.