As I was getting ready to board a plane in Indianapolis last Saturday on my way back to Dallas I got an alert on my iPhone; a bunch of people had left me Facebook messages. The topic: “You know you went to TSU if ….” That’s all it took for me to go down memory lane about my days at Tennessee State University. One former student spoke about his experience in Coach Joe Gilliam’s weight training class.
If you know anything about football, then you know that Coach Gilliam is the father of Jefferson Street Joe Gilliam Jr., who was the first Black quarterback in the NFL who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And he’s the same football coach who spoke on behalf of NFL Hall of Fame inductee Richard Dent Saturday night in Canton, Ohio. Dent is a graduate of Tennessee State University.
I’ve always said that had I been born a male I would have played football, because I like the sport that much. My fondness for the game might be hereditary: My father played a few seasons for the Baltimore Colts. Whatever the reason I was glad to see my former weight training coach in the national spotlight. Sometimes it’s a coach or a teacher who makes the difference in a child’s life. For others it’s a praying mother or grandmother who might not have the name recognition of a well-known coach or teacher but the impact she had on the lives she touched helped to turn ordinary men into NFL Hall of Famers.
What are you doing within your circle of influence to impact the lives of the people around you? Whether you have more money than time or more time than money, everyone should use at least one of their God-given talents to improve the world around them by volunteering at church, in the neighborhood or through some other means of service, even if it’s just spending more quality time with your own children. When you get the chance to impact the lives of children let them know that whether they want to be President of the United States, a Hall of Fame athlete or anything in between it starts with an attitude of excellence and an outstanding work ethic. A praying mother or grandmother doesn’t hurt either.
Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist.
Send your comments, questions and appearance inquiries to Steffanie at