College & Workforce Readiness

Now in Super Bowl 50, a Denver Broncos Player Remembers His Teacher’s Doubts

By Ross Brenneman — February 06, 2016 1 min read
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Sunday is Super Bowl 50, and among the many gifted athletes taking the field, at least one of them has noted that his success on the field happened without the support of a former teacher.

During the Super Bowl’s media week, Aqib Talib, a star cornerback for the Denver Broncos, recalled for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette a short paper he wrote in elementary school about what he wanted to be when he grew up; he chose NFL player, which his teacher apparently considered a dubious choice:

“So my teacher told me, ‘Seriously now. We’re writing about really serious jobs.’ So I said, ‘Just cause you’re not that talented and you’re not goin’ to the NFL, that don’t mean I ain’t goin.’ Got me a little in-school suspension for that. I kind of talked back to her I guess. She pulled me into the office. I’ll never forget it. And then I said it again, ‘Just ‘cause you’re not goin’ to the NFL don’t mean I’m not goin’.”

That teacher was wrong in his case; however, she was probably doing some very easy math. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, of the nearly 8 million students currently participating in high school athletics in the United States, only 460,000 of them will compete at NCAA schools.

Furthermore: Only 1,696 players compete in the NFL each season (32 teams, 53 players each), plus the random additional players who get signed when starting players are injured or waived. When accounting for the millions of students who join the eligibility pool every year, the odds were very much not in Talib’s favor. Heck, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (*cough* greatest of all time) barely made his team’s roster.

There’s a virtual cottage industry of adults who will tell children to abandon hope for superstardom. They may be right to do so. But as Talib shows, those who make it big don’t forget those who doubted them.

Speaking of career counseling: This past week was National School Counseling Week. In a video made for the occasion, late night TV host Seth Meyers reflected upon the wisdom of one of his high school teachers, who warned him not to be lazy:

Between Meyers and Talib, two very successful people, with two very different experiences in career counseling.

Image: Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib speaks to reporters in Santa Clara, Calif. The Denver Broncos will play the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. —Jeff Chiu/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.