Retired NFL player inspires crowd

James Washington, two-time Super Bowl champion defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys, presents “It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish,” a motivational speech about his life and career, Tuesday in the Campus Center Ballroom. The Housing and Residential Life office and Residence Hall Association sponsored the event for Black History Month. / Nadira Fatah
James Washington, two-time Super Bowl champion defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys, presents “It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish,” a motivational speech about his life and career, Tuesday in the Campus Center Ballroom. The Housing and Residential Life office and Residence Hall Association sponsored the event for Black History Month. / photo by Nadira Fatah

Flora Wong
Staff Writer

James Washington spoke about the effects of choices on achieving personal goals in his presentation “It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish” Tuesday in the Campus Center to an audience of more than 80.

“The choices that you make and the people you choose to surround yourself with is present proof of where you will go,” he said.

Washington, a former NFL defensive back and Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys, shared his personal journey from being a foster child to becoming a football star.

Washington’s father left when he was 2 years old. When he was 4, he was taken away from his mother. Washington grew up in foster care.

He attended five elementary schools, three middles schools and two high schools.

Washington talked about growing up in South Central Los Angeles without a mother or father figure and having life-changing experiences, framing them within a central theme of choices.

Because he lived on his own, he was careful of his affiliations with people who made the wrong choices and was determined to create good choices for himself.

Washington said that as his friends made bad decisions, he made the choice to change his life and get an education.

Washington started playing football as a junior in high school. His determination was rewarded with a scholarship to UCLA, and with it the opportunity to one day play in the NFL.

While Washington gained opportunities through networking, he was able to broaden his social network by talking with his professors and taking advantage of the opportunities being offered to him.

“It is about grabbing the opportunity by the throat and choking the air out of it,” Washington said. “The endgame is a process and it is about learning.”

He used the analogy to encourage people to tightly hold onto opportunities and take learning experience out of it to become a successful person.

Several members of the La Verne football team came to listen to Washington’s presentation.

“The La Verne football team is here to learn more about leadership and ways to improve ourselves for the upcoming season,” sophomore quarterback Joshua Evans said.

The goal of the presentation was to remind students to make the best out of opportunities and to make the right choices.

It was not specific to football and was centered on an individual’s self-motivation, determination and willingness to work hard.

“When I got here, I was instantly excited and I recognized who he was,” freshman behavioral science major Mikayla Elliot said. “Right off the bat, he said how the presentation wasn’t going to be about football and how it was going to be about the road to being a successful student and person in life.”

Washington said he hopes to use his passion to give back to the community and provide a “game plan” to young people for generations to come.

Flora Yuen Yuen Wong can be reached at yuenyuen.wong@laverne.edu.

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