In 2015, NFL tight end Charles Clay signed a five year $38 million contract with the Buffalo Bills, giving him the highest yearly average salary amongst players at his position. He is what the old men back home would call, " one heckuva ball player."
Clay grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas playing his prep football at historic Central High. Known globally for it's pivotal roll in the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960's, the famed high school now finds itself under the direction of a failing public school district recently taken over by the state's Department of Education. The community is unsettled.
On May 7, 2016, Charles Clay has returned to his alma mater. In partnership with Cincinnati based company Pro Camps, he is hosting a free football camp for youth in his home town. On a warm Saturday morning, the focus is on football. The educational climate in his hometown, however, does not go unnoticed by Clay, or his mother Jerrilyn. She forbid her athletically gifted son to play football his freshman and sophomore years of high school because his grades were not at a level she deemed appropriate for a young man living under her roof. She got his attention. The grades came up, and Clay became the standout player his coaches only dreamed he could be.
Charles Clay succeeded in the classroom before he succeeded on the gridiron. A loving and involved mother made certain of that. On this day, standing in the sun and speaking in front of a field full of wide eyes, Clay discusses the importance of education, dedication, and preparation. He knows that had his mother not insisted he make education his top priority, he would have never received a scholarship to the University of Tulsa or landed his dream job in the National Football League.
Message received Mr. Clay.
Struggling students and failing school districts across the United States could use more parents and leaders like Jerrilyn Clay. The NFL could use more men like her son.