At age 11, Devon McDonald set his sights on playing in the NFL.
On Thursday morning, the former Indianapolis Colts player shared his story and life lessons with students at both Imagine MASTer Academy and Imagine Schools on Broadway as part of academic achievement celebrations at each school.
He told students, many of whom are around the same age he was when he set his NFL goal, to work hard no matter what circumstances they must overcome and not to give up even after making bad decisions.
McDonald was born in Jamaica and came to the United States with his family when he was 11 years old. He is one of eight sets of twins who have played in the NFL. He played for the University of Notre Dames national championship team in 1988 and was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1993. He spent three years in the league before being cut by the Arizona Cardinals.
He said his career was cut short because of bad decisions he made and getting caught up in the money and fame that often comes with playing in the NFL.
The guy you see today is not the same guy who played in the NFL, he said.
McDonald is now an ordained minister living in Indianapolis with his wife and two daughters. He is a part of Sports World Ministries, an organization of speakers who talk to kids about life choices.
McDonalds visit was an opportunity for schools to celebrate student successes and to give students a break from the pressures of standardized tests, said Rachel Cirullo, regional director of Imagine Schools Inc.
We appreciate how hard you work every single day, said RaChelle Spearman, principal at Imagine on Broadway, to students before McDonalds talk.
Students and teachers at the school are even more motivated as the ISTEP+ standardized test date approaches. The school believes its students will show strong growth based on current test scores, Spearman has said.
The school is appealing a recent decision by Ball State not to renew the schools charter because of low academic progress. Imagine MASTer Academy is also appealing the decision of Ball State to revoke its charter. Both schools are waiting to hear from Ball State for an appeal date.
Cirullo said McDonald was a good choice as a speaker to remind students that there are always opportunities for them to improve.
Hes a good role model for our kids, she said.