Whether today's modern athlete wants to be or not he is a role model and he needs to understand why. Besides that athletes have no real choice in the matter because if any child or adult looks up to them, or wishes they could walk in their shoes, they have an obligation to make the right choices and do the right things in life so that those that look up to them can think their dreams are possible.
To play professional football is a precious gift. To be able to take care of the people that they love does come at a price. Nothing is free. So when I hear about guys like Cory Rodgers, wide receiver out of TCU the Packers fourth round draft pick, getting in trouble with the law, or Ahmad Carroll basically doing the same thing in Arkansas, it is troubling. Then there was the incident with Nick Barnett allegedly choking someone at a night club in Milwaukee. I want to walk up to them and ask them just what were they thinking? I want to shake them. Don't they realize there is some kid in maybe Sheboygan that might have been walking that fence between right and wrong and now they chose wrong because of what they saw their heroes do. It's hard to tell them to think and use their heads. Be smart and don't let peer pressure affect them when they aren't seeing that example being done by the people they look up to.
Once you put on a professional uniform things have to change and today's players must understand it. The modern athlete must understand that they are under a microscope and everyone is watching - some to see them fall on their face and some to see them succeed. Jealousy is a terrible thing, but unfortunately it's a way of the world. Today's athlete must understand that they don't represent themselves any more than they represent their family, their organization, the people in the world that come to the games and cheer their names and wear the jerseys of the Green and Gold. In the news reports last week it didn't read "Cory Rodgers." It was, "Cory Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers." It wasn't just Ahmad Carroll in trouble in a bar fight, but "Ahmad Carroll of the Green Bay Packers."
Once any player puts on that uniform things are magnified. There is no place to hide. This isn't 20 years ago when there weren't so many news outlets or sports networks. Now they fall over each other to get the scoop because no one wants to be the one left out. Trust me, I'm not saying that anyone should be perfect because that's not possible, and I know that but I wish they would at least use their heads and think about the consequences because everything they do will affect them in some way or another.
Regardless of where these athletes come from we watch them play, we hear their stories and we start to identify, especially the feel-good stories. Remember when Samkon Gado busted onto the scene? It was like a cult hero was born and he became the savior of the running game. Remember the words that were used to describe him and why he was liked so much? I do. I think the words humble, respectful, hard-working were used over and over. He didn't get caught up in the hype and he didn't think like most of the young players that he was the man. He was just happy for the opportunity. He didn't think he was entitled to anything for just doing his job, like so many of today's athletes.
This game is about more than just what happens between the white lines. The decisions that they make affect them in so many ways. Look at Ray Lewis, who might be one of the best linebackers to ever play the game. Won't his legacy be tarnished because of what happened surrounding the murder that was allegedly committed by some of his friends in his presence. He has done everything in his power to be the best middle linebacker in the game, but it's not enough because the game no longer is just about what happens on the field.
Whether they like it or not, professional athletes are living out the American dream, and that's to get paid and paid very well for doing something they love. Most men when they were young if they were into football dreamed about scoring or throwing that winning touchdown. If they are or were Green Bay Packer fans maybe running through the tunnel onto THE FROZEN TUNDRA, but life got into the way and reality set in and they might have fallen short. So for all that need something and may be searching for someone to believe in IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY BECAUSE YOU ARE A ROLE MODEL. Live with it and do the right things. We are watching!!!!!!!!!!!
Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. If you have a question for Harry, e-mail it to PackerReport.com managing editor Todd Korth at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will forward it to him.