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Friday, May 15, 2009

Dwayne Maddox: Champion In The Community

"Champions On The Field, Champions In The Classroom, Champions In The Community"

That mantra has been a fixture with the football team since Tom O'Brien's arrival. It's easy to quantify whether the team's living up to it on the field and in the classroom, but being a champion in the community is a bit tougher. It's easy to pay lip service to the concept without following through.

But it's clear that O'Brien will not let the community involvement aspect of his team fall by the wayside. There was the $30,000+ raised this year for cancer research at the annual spring game, renamed in honor of the late Kay Yow. O'Brien, on the Toys For Tots board of directors, once again took a commanding role in putting together a successful toy/donation drive. And several members of the team traveled to the Gulfport, Mississippi over spring break this year to continue the work done assisting folks impacted by hurricane Katrina.

But the big, flashy projects that get lots of ink don't tell the whole story. There are less flashy, lower profile community involvement projects that individual team members have undertaken that fly well below the radar.

Here's a perfect example: Dwayne Maddox returned to his old elementary school Thursday to speak with a group of fourth and fifth graders on the importance of school work.
By his account, Dwayne Maddox was an average student.

But somewhere around the seventh grade at Crest Middle School, the football standout started taking academics more serious. That eventually translated into being able to graduate a semester early from Crest High in 2008.

From there, he was able to get a head start at N.C. State University - where he has a full scholarship - and eventually earn Dean's List honors in just his first semester at N.C. State. Heading into his second full year in Raleigh, he's on pace to graduate as a communications major in just three years, while also competing at linebacker for Tom O'Brien's Wolfpack.

On Thursday, Maddox had a simple message for three classes of youngsters at Township Three Elementary School:

"Study hard and go to class. It's great to play sports in your free time, but school is why you're here," he said.

It's refreshing to hear that not only is Maddox on pace to graduate early and get that all-important degree, but that he has a grounded perspective on sports and the ultimate role it should play in a kid's life.

The cities and small towns of North Carolina are filled with former athletes who thought they would make it to "the bigs" while neglecting their schoolwork along the way. As a result, scores and scores of bright kids with no real education are left behind as cautionary tales.

Teachers, parents and other students can tell a kid to stay on top of their classwork, but sometimes it takes the voice of an athlete to get actually through to them. That's why I think visits to schools from athletes at the high collegiate or pro level carry such great weight with young kids. Catching them at the higher levels of elementary school -- where the athletically gifted students begin to focus on sports competitively -- is the perfect time to make these kinds of trips.

So kudos to you, Dwayne, for stepping out and making a difference in your hometown, and for being truly being a champion in your community.
"It feels great (to be able to come back). I remember when I was a kid and people would come to talk to us," he said. "As I get older, I understand what it means to be a mentor. I think the most important thing you can give to someone is your time."


  1. looks like they need to up the enrollment at the elementary school... there's only 20 4th and 5th graders!?!

  2. Hey, it's Shelby.

    But think of the teacher-to-student ratio!

  3. Nice post.

    Love to read these types of stories -- especially when they're NOT the cautionary tales.

    I remember in high school having an "assembly" where some former drug user pleaded with the students to stay away from drugs. My best friend at the time wisely remarked afterward, "it's a good message, but the guy is OK now. It's almost like he's saying, 'it's OK to almost throw your life away, because you can come back from it.' What would be more impressive would be to have someone who has NEVER done drugs tell the students why they shouldn't."

    I think what Maddox is doing is great. He's saying to the kids, "look, it can be done. You don't have to be a screw up or a 'jock.' You can actually be a good kid and good student." Kudos to him.