When the hubby taught at a very low income school, he was constantly trying to get his students to understand the value of education. Many times these kids did not see education as the way out of their current situation, and the Kobe Bryants and Jerome O’Neil stories of getting recruited to the NBA out of high school didn’t help his cause. In fact, they made the kids believe that basketball was their ticket out of poverty – not that reading and writing crap.
The hubby, never missing a teachable moment, would talk to the kids about the number of professional basketball players on an NBA team, how many on a college team, and how many on a high school team in an attempt to show them that their chances were slim to be the next Kobe. (Because I’m a curious sole and a math geek, I tried to figure out these stats.)
Players in NBA: 450
Players in Division 1 Colleges: 5040
Players in High School: 255,000
Of the 255,000 high school players, only 0.18% of them will play in the NBA.
(Assumption made in calculations: 15 players on each team at each level. Number of high school teams was estimated based on the number of schools associated with the National Federation of High School Association. And, clearly, I’m assuming for the sake of simplicity that each NBA player only plays 1 year. The percentage would be much smaller if you estimate the number of NBA player vacancies each year.)
In addition to these facts, he would remind them if they can’t read or do math, how could they be sure they were getting their fair share if they did make it big. If you don’t know how to calculate 10% of your salary, how can you be sure you agree that you agent should get that cut? If you can’t read a contract, how can you be sure your lawyer is representing you correctly – or if it says what it should say.
Little did my hubby know that he was marrying into a family that had someone in it that would shatter those odds. Josh Stamer is my cousin, and he plays for the Tennesse Titans NFL team. He grew up in a small town of about 600-700 people. He went to a high school that actually served several small towns in the area. This was done when the enrollment at any one school was so low it no longer made sense to keep the school open. Josh was a great basketball player who was actually recruited to play basketball in college. He started playing in college, but felt the pull to football instead. He made the college team at the University of South Dakota where he played linebacker. In fact, he started winning defensive awards almost right away.
Josh graduated with a degree in Business Administration and even had a job offer from Arthur Anderson – but he felt the pull to the NFL. He was picked up by the Giants, but was sent to play in the NFL Europe for a season. He came back to the states and bounced around until he was picked up by the Buffalo Bills. And, in the middle of getting bounced around, I should point out that he got his Master’s Degree in Public Accounting. I remember watching the Bills training camp notes every day and looking at the recent cut list to see if Josh would make it. We all celebrated when the day of the final cut came, and he wasn’t one of them.
Being on the West Coast, I have a disadvantage when it comes to seeing his games. They rarely are on out here. Now that Josh is playing for the Titans, we are hoping to see him more often. Regardless, I have a Google Alert setup to follow him in the sports press. I get emails every time his name is mentioned, and I read all of the articles. It’s the classic story of the small town boy doing big things. How can you not cheer for him?
Why do people love him? He has a great story. Josh doesn’t forget where he came from. He has visited his home town on at least on occassion and has visited the school of a second cousin as a surprise. Josh gives back. Most of the alerts I get mention he is participating in a fundraiser or volunteer effort on behalf of the Titans or Bills. He has served food for the hungry and spent time in the classroom.
Josh does not forget how lucky he is to be living his dream – and like my hubby points out to his kids who aspire, he has the non-NFL backup plan which required an education.
(Photograph by AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)