Even at 43 years old, former Notre Dame and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Devon McDonald still looks like he could stop a running back in his tracks.
But McDonald's task on Thursday morning was possibly even more important than any athletic achievement earned on the field: Attempting to inspire more than 1,000 students from two Imagine charter schools to reach higher, make good choices, and be hard workers in school and in life.
The Jamaican-born McDonald - with the accent one would expect - regaled students with tales of his childhood. From learning to play youth football, then coming to the United States and playing high school football in New Jersey, to being recruited by Coach Lou Holtz at Notre Dame, to being drafted by the Colts, McDonald stressed to the students that dedication and hard work would allow them to be the best they could be, no matter what path they chose.
At one point, McDonald even took off the national championship ring that he earned for the 1988 season at Notre Dame to emphasize that hard work is rewarded.
"Guys and ladies, to become a success, it's your choice," McDonald said.
Imagine Schools on Broadway Principal Ra'Chelle Spearman said at the conclusion of McDonald's presentation that it was important for students, even youngsters, to hear positive messages.
"The students work hard, and it's good for them to hear stories of success," Spearman said. "We have programs like these every month; the children lead them. Our teachers always stress that these are kids who want to do well. Academic achievement is important to them."