On Monday November 2nd, former Dallas Cowboys players Bradie James and Chad Hennings teamed up with United Way of Tarrant County and EverFi for a Character Playbook event focused on service to others. Since November is Salute to Service Month in the NFL, the conversation revolved around how students could best serve others around them.
Both James and Hennings opened the conversation with their past service to others. Hennings was no stranger to service before he reached the NFL, as he played his college football at the Airforce Academy. After a decorated career in college football, in 1988, Hennings went on to fulfill his service requirement in the first Gulf War. He flew 45 missions in Operation Provide Comfort, which delivered supplies and humanitarian aid to Kurdish refugees. After his career in the Air Force ended in 1992, he won four Superbowls in three years with the Cowboys before retiring in 2000.
Hennings talked about his experience of getting bullied as child, and how the isolation he felt during that time helped him to grow his character. Through growing his character, Hennings learned how to find the right friends to affiliate himself with, which helped him to find out who he was as a person.
Though James did not serve in the military, he still understands the importance of serving others in your community. James told the audience of students from across Texas that “There’s no greater reward than to lay down your life for others.”
James, the eighth-leading tackler in Cowboys franchise history, stressed the importance of communicating with others to figure out how to serve your community. James instilled in students that when you have honest conversations with people about what your community needs, the most effective service work is performed.
James learned this lesson firsthand as a young man. While volunteering in his town, James was shocked to see one of his best friends walk through the door to receive help. “One second I was playing Madden with him, and the next I was handing him a meal.” James said.
Communicating effectively and stepping in, both which James and Hennings spoke about, are crucial pillars that are discussed in the Character Playbook curriculum. Since 2016, Character Playbook has connected with nearly 800,000 students in 10,000 schools, providing students and teachers with real world lessons about healthy relationships and conflict resolution.
After answering student-submitted questions about their playing days and what it was like to be a Dallas Cowboy, Hennings wanted to impart on the students the importance of using character if you have it. “Character, like muscle, is kinetic,” Hennings said. “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
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