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First-round draft pick strives for happiness

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Jun 6, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    First-round draft pick Larry English strives for happiness


    First-round draft pick Larry English strives for happiness

    June 6, 2010

    By RICK ARMSTRONG rarmstrong@stmedianetwork.com

    He's drawn mixed reviews on his rookie season but Larry English is looking forward to his second year.
    The former Marmion Academy and Northern Illinois University standout was taken with the 16th pick in the first round of last year's NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers. A defensive end in college, he's moved to outside linebacker with rush and coverage responsibilities.
    The rookie had 36 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble last season.
    "There's more responsibility, especially from a coverage standpoint," English said in a brief interview before being whisked to the airport for his flight back to San Diego after speaking at a youth clinic Saturday at his alma mater.
    "The game is a little bit different but I'm having fun. I'm still learning every day. I'm not to that point where I'm 100 percent all the way comfortable like I was at (defensive end in college) but that point is coming.
    "By the kickoff for the first game of the season, I hope to be at that point."
    He has no trouble dealing with the criticism NFL players get.
    "The worst criticism is gonna come from me," he said. "And I've gotta work day in and day out to get to the point where I'm happy, because I'm not all the way there yet. But I will be. I'll get it together."
    English has established a foundation (LEAD), Leading Education Athletes for their Dream, with which he hopes to establish mentoring programs for at-risk youth.

  2. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    English preaches to future choir

    June 6, 2010

    Saul Tonielli remembers the first time he saw Larry English.
    "It was his senior year (at Marmion Academy) and my first year as an assistant (under Paul Murphy)," said Tonielli, remembering the hot summer afternoon in 2003, a few days before preseason practices started.

    "I looked out on the football field and saw somebody working out by himself, running sprints. I said, 'Who's that guy?' and another coach told me."
    It wasn't the last time Tonielli, who assisted with the program for three years, would see the driven young man flying solo.
    "You'd see him in the weight room (alone) a lot," Tonielli said.
    English returned to Marmion on Saturday, but he had company.
    Several hundred people, including many youngsters who aspire to play high school football, were on hand for the San Diego Chargers linebacker's appearance at the inaugural Cadets Youth Football Clinic in the school gym.
    English's 45 football jersey from his days at the school hung from one basket, his current Chargers 52 from the other. Northern Illinois football coach Jerry Kill also spoke -- "Larry will never forget where he came from" -- at the event, hosted by Marmion associate head coach Kurt Becker, a former NFL player from Aurora.
    "It's a little bit overwhelming," English told the crowd. "All the memories come flooding back when you walk in here.
    "I'm happy to say I'm part of this family. This is where a lot of my success began, not only as a football player and athlete, but as a person. It helped shape me."
    English, of course, went on to play for Joe Novak and his successor (Kill) at NIU. He became the school's first, first-round draft choice when he was the 16th player selected by the Chargers in 2009. The upcoming season will be his second.
    "He's a good role model. He handles business," said Tonielli, who now coaches his 10-year-old son Miles in youth football and brought him with him.
    "Larry deserves what he gets. He works his butt off."
    English, who didn't speak long, told the youngsters his message "wouldn't be complicated."
    He encouraged them to "do the right thing," and not be afraid to stand alone, away from the crowd, if that's what it required. He urged them to set goals and pursue them and find positive role models, be it parents or teachers.
    "Find positive people in your life to learn from and concentrate on following them," he said. "And, especially the younger kids, have fun."
    He acknowledged friends and family in attendance, including his grade school principal at St. Rita in Aurora, Mrs. Elizabeth Faxon.
    "I was a little bit of a knucklehead," he said.
    Not really, she would say later.
    "He was a very good student who had to work hard," she said. "He would take a vacation from homework now and then but by the time he got to eighth grade, he was on the honor roll all four quarters.
    "Education was a high priority with his mom. I always tell the kids their parents pay the bills for them to go to school, but they have to pay the price by doing the work to (be able to) get in sports."
    She remains a big English fan.
    "I love watching him play football," she said. "And he always includes us. He really is an inspiring young man. He's very quiet and shy, so to see him come in here and speak to these kids and handle himself so well, that's what I take away from this day."
    To that, I can only add: Amen.


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