“Any road looks good to you,” McElroy told South Central high schoolers and middle-school students during an assembly as he equated choices with driving.
It’s possible to get lost while you’re on the road and as a motorist, you can make a U-turn, he said, but in life, “sometimes you can’t turn around” from the bad choices you make.
McElroy is one of many former professional athletes connected with SportsWorld. Its mission is having those athletes “share personal life experiences with students, helping them to recognize the consequences of their choices while challenging them with the message of hope.” During Thursday’s assembly, McElroy shared the grim realities of underage drinking and being sexually active plus how “the choices we make affect other people.”
“This is not a hobby for me; I talk to kids across the nation,” said McElroy, who was at Shelby High School about two hours before coming to South Central. “This is my 10th talk in three days.”
During his six-year NFL career, McElroy played cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. Raised in Chicago and drafted by the Colts, he joined the Eastern Illinois University Athletic Department Hall of Fame in 2002.
When he was 7 years old, he saw his first NFL game. McElroy said that was he decided he wanted to “go pro” and devoted his life to making choices so that could happen.
One of his goals was to be a virgin until he was married. He said he lost his virginity with a young woman when he was a freshman at Eastern Illinois and despite not using a condom, he said he was lucky the girl didn’t get pregnant.
“This girl gave me a sexually-transmitted disease (STD),” he told the South Central students. “By the grace of God, I am no longer infected with that sexually-transmitted disease.”
McElroy stressed that condoms aren’t “a 100-percent sure thing” to prevent pregnancies, much less STDs. He said it’s been found that STDs caught from “your private parts” also can be transmitted orally and “some of it is incurable.”
The former NFL player had the students guess where he learned the idea that the most efficient way to prevent getting an STD is abstinence from sex until marriage and in a monogamous relationship within a marriage. The guesses ranged from church to McElroy’s parents, an assembly, personal experience, advertisements and more.
“I learned it from a condom company,” McElroy said.
“Everything in society is telling you to have sex,” he said earlier, noting that message comes from music videos, commercials, video games, television, music, movies and the fashion industry.
Similarly, McElroy said there’s a message that being “the life of the party” is equated with drinking and is glamorized in commercials, television and movies. While beer companies tell people to “drink responsibly,” he said the grim reality isn’t being delivered. McElroy shared a story he learned while in Texas about a young man who was in a speeding vehicle and crashed into a vehicle, killing four young, female passengers — yet he survived.
“One of them was his girlfriend; the other was his sister,” he said.
“It’s just a poor choice,” McElroy added, referring to underage drinking. “It will kill you eventually.”
Near the end of the assembly, he said once he gave his life to God, he was inspired to speak to as many schools as possible. McElroy told the students “every moment you’re alive” is an opportunity to make good choices and often, that means stepping away from situations. When he was in college, he said he did many dumb things and did “what I thought everybody else was doing.”
“I didn’t come here to be popular. I came here to tell you the truth,” McElroy said.