When two Hall of Fame athletes share an inspirational message it is hard not to sit up and listen.
O.M. Irwin School students sat riveted for two-hours while NHL legend Lanny McDonald and CFL Hall of Famer Rocco Romano shared a number of inspirational stories from their playing days and answered more than 60 minutes of no-holds-barred questions from curious students on Jan. 18.
The duo were in the Southwest through their jobs with Carson Energy Services, a URS Flint Company, but both admit it is important to share a positive lifestyle messages with today's students.
Rocco, hear from professional athlete.
"When I was growing up I was always looked up to someone for guidance and mentorship. Having an opportunity, for both Lanny and myself, to be athletes and play at the level we did was a great experience for us. But having the opportunity to learn from that experience, and then turn it around from a sporting environment and send a message that not only do you experience these things in sports, you're going to experience these things in life in general. And be able to turn that around into a message for these kids," Romano said.
"I think today it's even more so important for kids to hear that message and have that guidance. So it's great for us to have the opportunity to do that."
Romano had a standout 14 year CFL career, playing 10 seasons with the Calgary Stampeders, but had to overcome a dislocated knee cap before he played his first league game. The talented Canadian offensive lineman earned All-Canadian status in five consecutive years from 1992 to 1996 and again in 1999, and boasts Grey Cup championships from 1992 and 1998.
He played with Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and the BC Lions, and admits that staying focussed and dedicated to the challenges ahead of you is one of the keys to success.
"I think that's very important to get that message across to kids today. Through our careers, yes we did get challenged, and we took on those challenges. And what sport taught me was how to get through those challenges and how to persevere through those challenges. For these kids, the message that we're trying to get across is your challenge might not be presented to you by being involved in sport, it might be presented to you in the classroom. It might be presented to you just in your everyday life but down the road. And you're going to have to be in a position to take on those challenges and work through those challenges and not quit. School does that to you, life in general does that to you. And that's what we were trying to get across to the kids is drive through those challenges and look forward to what's waiting for you at the other side of the road."
McDonald had a distinguished NHL career from 1973 to 1989, reaching the exclusive 500-goal and 1,000-point level while skating with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Rockies and Calgary Flames. His last game was in 1989 following a game six win over the Montreal Canadians which gave the Flames the Stanley Cup final.
He recalled that over his playing career there were many influential players and coaches, but his playing days also produced some of his closest friendship.
"Those friendships last a lifetime, and you're going to end up with a half dozen of the best friends in your life from the kids you went to school with."
McDonald pointed out these special friends are always around, and later on in life, whether working together or doing things, they are around to lend a hand.
"It's everyone's responsibility to help each other - roll up your sleeves and let's get the job done - whether that's charity or community or work in general."
McDonald enjoyed his best pro season in 1982-83 when he scored 66 goals and 98 points in a year where he won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in recognition of the player demonstrating the qualities of perseverance and sportsmanship, along with earning Second All-Star Team honours for only the second time in his career.
He said he hoped the students could take a positive message out of their morning presentation.
"It's a priority when we have the time," he said. "We'll find a school and try and send out a message to young people about looking after each other, no bullying, team work, friendship."