Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 11 No. 5 | May 2019

s he walked into the cafeteria at Price’s Fork Elementary School and saw a group of approximately 100 third-, fourth- and fifth- graders taking seats on the floor, Tyrod Taylor quickly came to a distinct conclusion. Even with all his awards, all the big games that he’s played in, and all the millions he’s earned from a successful career in the NFL, Taylor was still the biggest kid in the building. In town for the annual Spring Game on April 13 and various other social outings on one of his rare free weekends, the former Virginia Tech quarterback carved out time to spend nearly two hours at the school the Friday beforehand, imparting some wisdom on Blacksburg’s youth—of course, in the most fun of ways. Stand there and give a stodgy speech to a bunch of energetic kids? Simply not Taylor’s style. His messaging was interactive, talkingmixed with throwing footballs, handing out cleats and helmets, signing autographs, and taking selfies. “I was one of the kids that looked up to the people that used to come speak at our school, and I was one of those kids that paid attention to everything that was said because I wanted to get to that level, whether it be sports or just at the top of my profession,” Taylor said afterward. “Today was good to have interaction. It was the first time I had done something like that, but of course, just trying to give back to the community and trying to inspire the kids because I was once one of those kids sitting in those same seats and looking for inspiration to be the best version of myself.” Taylor started out by encouraging the children to set goals for themselves. As a kid—roughly their age, actually—he made a list of 10 goals and taped the sheet to his bedroom wall. He said he didn’t remember goals 4-10, but he remembered his top goal of becoming an NFL player. He accomplished that in 2011 when the Baltimore Ravens selected him in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Shortly after telling that to the children, he grabbed a football—one of five sitting next to him. Each football had a Post-It note taped to it, with awordwritten on the note. The five words were focus, balance, teamwork, pain, and believe. He threw the balls into the hoard of kids, and he made each person who caught one of the footballs join him at the front of the group. He then made each child tell the audience what that word meant to him or her. He stopped at teamwork and split all the children into two groups. He gave them five minutes to name a team captain and pick a mascot. As expected, there was a little chaos among the 7-, 8-, and 9-year-olds. Principal Kelly Roark, assistant principal Melanie Harrell and a couple of teachers jumped in to try to streamline the situation, but Taylor proved his point with the example. “When you’re on a team, sometimes you have a lot of people, and everyone has anopinion,” he told them. “You have to work together to make a decision.” He saved the word “believe” for last, telling the children to believe in themselves even when others may not. “To never give up,” Taylor said of what was his overarching message. “There are going to be ups and downs. Even at the professional level that I’m at now, there are still good and bad days, but the idea is to keep striving and continue to keep chasing something that you’ve set your mind to. “Don’t let things get in the way of it. There are going to be hiccups. There are going to be speed bumps. There are going to be things that throw you off the path, but continue to keep your focus on your original goal, and ultimately, you’ll get to A Former Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor spoke to children at Price’s Fork Elementary the day before the Spring Game, using the outing as a way to give back to a community that gave so much to him by Jimmy Robertson 36 Inside Hokie Sports