Former NFL player talks to Heidelberg student-athletes
Derrick Mayes, former pro-football player, signs autographs for Heidelberg High School students after talking about how colleges recruit student athletes during a seminar Oct. 5, 2010.

HEIDELBERG, Germany - Former pro-football player and Super Bowl champ Derrick Mayes, has achieved a great deal in his 36 years and it's no surprise several of his accomplishments have been on a football field.

Mayes has lived amid the glitz, glamour and glory of professional sports and shared in many of its most hallowed hallmarks. Yet there was little mention of that in his message to Heidelberg High School parents and student athletes Oct. 5.

Instead, the former wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Sea Hawks and Kansas City Chiefs spoke about something far less fleeting.

"I'm standing here today as a Notre Dame alum, and that's what I'm proud about," Mayes said. "You don't see me wearing my Super Bowl rings. Brett Favre broke about four of my fingers, and I can't wear them any more but it doesn't matter because I can't take them to the grave with me. What I can take is knowing that I spent three-and-a-half of the best years of my life playing the sport I loved while getting a quality education. And each and every one of you can do that yourself. Each of you all has that opportunity."

Mayes works with the Chicago-based National Collegiate Scouting Association.

He toured several Department of Defense Dependents Schools here and discussed the college recruiting process and what student athletes can do now to increase their chances to receive scholarships and to attract the attention of top teams.

"It's very important for me to give back and sort of pay it forward as well. I was very fortunate to get a scholarship to play football and then be drafted into the NFL. The one thing that rings true, is it all starts right here at this high school level," Mayes said. "What I've been able to do is go around the United States, and now here, to provide this information and these tools because there is such a need for kids to be empowered and educated about the recruiting process."

Mayes received a division one football scholarship to Notre Dame University in 1993. He graduated in 1996 with a degree in film and communications.

That same year, the former fighting Irishman was drafted in the second round by the Green Bay Packers and earned his first Super Bowl championship his rookie year.

He spent six seasons in the league.

The Indiana native admitted the recruiting process had definitely changed since he was in school. He urged athletes and parents to use the Internet to market themselves, especially since they're overseas and do not have the same level of visibility as players in the states.

Mayes also said many colleges face a budget crunch, forcing coaches to find and evaluate fresh talent online.

Some potential players are being looked at as early as middle school.

He recommended athletes create an online academic and athletic resume and post it on college recruiting Web sites, versus sending out dozens of unsolicited DVDs or videos.

The NCSA Web site is one of several recruiting sites, which allows players to create a personal profile or resume for college coaches to access.

"Parents need to know that their sons and daughters are on the clock, especially if they're in high school. Kids are getting evaluated as early as seventh and eighth grade by these college institutions," Mayes said. Parents also need to know it's a collective pursuit. You can't do it with just the student athletes and you certainly can't blame your coach for not getting you a scholarship. Together parents and students have to take the tools they have and put them into use."

Sgt. 1st Class Dana Dillon, 18th Engineer Brigade, attended the event with his son, Carlos, a junior and a football player at the school.

"I think it's important for me to be here because it shows that I support him and I care about him pursuing higher education," Dillon said. "I'm already putting money away for him for college, and we're also looking for scholarships. This is just another step to getting him enrolled and on the right track."

Mayes also stressed academic excellence above all else and encouraged athletes and parents to place as much focus on their studies as their athletic abilities.

"The odds of going into the professional rank in any sport are very slim, so what we need to be doing is reconditioning our student athletes and asking them, 'what is your overall goal'' It should be to get a quality education," Mayes said. Now if you can do that while playing the sport you love, that's a win-win for everybody. That's the message I want parents and athletes to take away."

For Sterling Jones, Heidelberg High School senior, Mayes' visit was an eye-opener.
"I wanted to further my education on sport's scholarships and find out what I could do to better myself and make sure I get into a good school," he said.

Jones plays football and basketball and wants to attend either Louisiana State University or Hampton University in Virginia.

"I thought as a senior it might have been too late to try and apply for these things but I know now that I still have a chance."

Mayes retired from the NFL in 2001 and began working with the NCSA about two years ago.

For information on the college athletic recruiting process visit www.ncsasports.org and www.NCAA.com.

Page last updated Wed October 13th, 2010 at 09:11