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Former NFL lineman shares 'inspiring, relatable' message with St. Paul students

By MATT FAIR • May 20, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Former NFL lineman Shawn Harper visited St. Paul High School and Norwalk Catholic School junior-high students Tuesday.

Harper’s presentation, sponsored by the school’s Teen Leadership Corps, focused on facing the obstacles put before you in life.

“The one thing that stuck with me was that he said pressure makes diamonds,” senior Joe Swope said. “I know that can be cliché, but the context that he put it in made sense. It is alright to be stressed about some things because that means your being tested.”

Harper shared his life story with the students and reflected upon the many times that he had the opportunity to quit, but he didn’t. He had a dream of playing professional football and there were many people who doubted him.

Now the CEO of American Services and Protection, Harper played seven seasons with the Rams, Oilers, Colts and NFL Europe.

Harper shared with the students how he disproved those doubters time and time again. His recurring message throughout was simple, things are going to get in the way of your dreams. He told students you don’t have to accept those obstacles and that positive thinking and hard work can help you achieve your dreams.

“He was inspiring and relatable. By sharing his challenges in high school, I found a connection with him with the things that we face in high school,” sophomore Jarret Schaffer said.

Harper used many different visuals to show the obstacles that we face. He demonstrated with chains or carrying someone on your back to represent what is holding you down. Harper showed the students that nothing is insurmountable.

In the end, he asked all the students in attendance to put their problems in a ball and throw them into a phonebook he was holding. Harper then ripped the book to symbolize the destruction of the obstacles we place in our life.

St. Paul guidance counselor Libby French summed up the day.

“It is great to have this message for our students at the end of the year. Some see this time as a moment of closing when you should be thinking to the future. Mr. Harper’s message of perseverance and hard work is great for our students to hear before the summer break,” she said.

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