Written by John Giffin Tuesday, 16 February 2010 19:32
In an 11 a.m. session with high school students and 2 p.m. session with middle school students, Fitzhugh talked about bad decisions and the dangers of drugs, alcohol and sex. The presentation involved students with games, comedy and interaction.
He also addressed Tabor College students in the evening.
Fitzhugh played defensive back for the Broncos in 1986 and 1987. He was released during the ’87 season. While with the Broncos, Fitzhugh began speaking to young people through the Denver Broncos Youth Organization.
“That was my first exposure to using the platform to access the attention of young people,” Fitzhugh said. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Fitzhugh has since become a full-time minister and professional motivational speaker who has been stressing the importance of making good choices to students for more than 20 years.
Fitzhugh said he enjoys his career as traveling speaker because it has given him a chance to reach more than children who attend Sunday school.
“In that respect I’m only accessing about 20 percent of the students in America,” he said. “But, being a motivational speaker, I can get full school assemblies around the country. Without using faith language, I can hit them with some strong truth.”
Referring to students as either eagles who want to soar or as chickens—birds that prevent the eagle from getting off the ground—Fitzhugh said it’s likely the people students hang out with today won’t be around during their adult lives.
Fitzhugh has been using the eagle/chicken comparison for years.
“I heard a story about an eagle egg that fell into a chicken coup, and I kind of embellished on that,” said Fitzhugh. “Chickens don’t fly. I put together a whole presentation.”
Eventually, the presentation became part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ Play Drug Free Program.
Following a short comedic introduction, Fitzhugh asked for volunteers from the audience. Seven boys and seven girls from the HHS student body were selected and proceeded to the stage for a game of “agree or disagree.”
The students, who started in the middle of the stage, were asked to move to the left if they agreed or right if they disagreed. Fitzhugh then asked the participants various questions about drugs, alcohol and sex.
Fitzhugh followed with questions to the audience. With each question, students raised their hands to respond.
The responses on these behavioral topics did not surprise Fitzhugh.
“Very, very consistent,” he said. “Today...the responses I had to the questions I asked were very consistent with other demographics. I don’t care if it’s South Central L.A., Detroit, Wyoming, Atlanta, or Roanoke, Va. It’s very consistent.”
Fitzhugh described how drugs and alcohol has affected his family. He told the story of his “Big Brother Raymond,” who Fitzhugh said was the reason he started playing football.
Raymond was a top running back in Ohio who never played a game beyond high school or attended college because of his addiction to alcohol.
On Feb. 7, 1997, Raymond overdosed on crack and died. Fitzhugh described his brother as an “eagle that never left the ground.”
Fitzhugh also talked to students about learning from bad experiences, and finished the presentation with a hip-hop music video titled, “Nasty.” During the video about smoking, Fitzhugh rapped about the dangers of nicotine.
Fitzhugh not only speaks to students, but counsels NFL players about living life outside of football. He said despite the bad behavior by athletes frequently reported in the media, many athletes want to succeed as husbands, fathers and role models.
“The real tragedy is that those athletes who are holding it down and doing the right thing, they don’t get any ink,” Fitzhugh said.
“There are a whole lot of folks out there who are plugged in doing some great things.”