Former NFL star challenges Chelsea Park students

Former NFL offensive lineman Jeno James tells Chelsea Park students the importance of working hard to accomplish their dreams. (Reporter photo/Christine Boatwright)

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

CHELSEA – A gymnasium full of Chelsea Park Elementary students cheered as former NFL player Jeno James talked about how he became a football star Jan. 18.

“A vision is something that starts inside,” James told the hundreds of kids. “I had to do what it took to get in the NFL, and it started with working hard.”

James visited Chelsea Park as part of the Fuel Up for 60 Minutes initiative, through which the NFL encourages kids to be active for an hour a day.

Chelsea Park physical education teacher Kelly Stewart said the school received a $2,000 grant to purchase equipment and healthy food for students.

“We’re asking you to sign a student ambassador draft,” Stewart told the students. “You’d be saying, ‘Yes, I promise I will do 60 minutes a day and eat healthy foods.'”

Stewart then cranked up “Oppa Gangnam Style,” a song by the artist PSY, to get the kids moving.

“Put your hand on your heart,” Stewart said. “Is your heart beating faster? That is exercise.”

Chelsea High cheerleaders and football and baseball players attended the assembly.

“I like to play. As old as I am, I like to play, to exercise and eat the right foods because I want to be healthy too,” Shelby County Superintendent Randy Fuller said.

Wade Waldrop, Chelsea High School’s athletic director, encouraged the students to get involved.

“You want to grow up and be strong. Try to be active in something,” Waldrop said. “If you’re not involved in sports, it’s important you’re involved in something.”

James began his career at Auburn University, and then was drafted to the Carolina Panthers. He finished his career with the Miami Dolphins before retiring in 2007.

“The time is now to start eating healthy and working hard,” James said. “I started when I was your age, and it started with a dream and hard work.”