Rupert Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Townsend speaks of community’s importance in a child’s upbringing

It would have been easier for him to play against world class receiver Randy Moss in front of 80,000 or 100,000 fans than to speak in front of a few hundred hometown supporters of the Boys and Girls Clubs of North Mississippi.

At least that’s what world champion defensive back Deshea Townsend of the Pittsburgh Steelers told us last Thursday night while taking the podium as the featured speaker of the night.

But the 32-year-old cornerback quickly seemed at ease as he addressed the crowd showing the same confidence at the podium he has shown since playing quarterback for the South Panola Tigers’ 1993 state championship team–a team that started South Panola’s state championship dynasty and arguably the most talented team ever.

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Townsend told the crowd he was proud to tell where he was from, how he grew up and to brag about South Panola’s football team to cheers of the partisan crowd attending.

He also told the crowd that after 11 years with the same team in the NFL, he was proud of what he had achieved but said, “There is so much more I want to achieve.”

Through a non-profit organization, Townsend wants to offer an ACT tutoring program, young men’s etiquette classes, teach proper ways to dress, public speaking, proper ways to work out and provide other opportunities for young people to become successful.

Townsend noted that his parents spent a lot of time with him, a trait that he says is important for success and one that he carries on with his three children.

“The more time we invest in our kids, the better they will do,” he stressed.

It also takes community, according to Townsend who explained, “The community must be the parent if the parent is not around. We must give kids every opportunity to be successful.”

He said there was no local Boys and Girls Club when he was young but explained, “Dennis Hoskins and Otis Cooper kept us busy all summer to keep us out of trouble.”

Besides helping lead his high school team to a state championship, Townsend also started for Alabama for four years before being drafted by the Steelers.

“Six corners have been drafted to take my job. They haven’t got it yet,” said the confident football veteran who included prayer as an ingredient for success and said, “There is nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it.”

Townsend has always remembered his roots and returns each summer with fellow NFL players to host a youth football camp and has contributed his time and talents on many occasions.

His words were not unique as we often hear similar phrases and pleas to help build better community.

Deshea Townsend is a local asset and his words are tried and true. This message, coming directly from him, gives listeners a perspective that what he says, will work.

Every child and every parent needs not only to hear it, but to know it.