NFL star demonstrates heroics… in an elementary school classroom

January 28, 2016 by Guest Contributor
Joe Cockrell and his dog Chiquita rooting for Green Bay in the NFL playoffs

Joe Cockrell and his dog Chiquita rooting for Green Bay in the NFL playoffs

When a serious injury sidelined Green Bay Packer’s Jordy Nelson for the season he did the unthinkable: he became a third-grade substitute teacher.

I have been a devoted fan of the Green Bay Packers all of my life, largely influenced by the many Packer fans in my Midwestern family. In full disclosure, I’m also a proud owner of a share of the team, along with some of my siblings and other extended family members. If you didn’t know, Green Bay is the only nonprofit professional sports team in the U.S. owned by the fans and the community since the 1920’s.

One of my favorite NFL players is Packer wide receiver Jordy Nelson. After this season, he has solidified his spot as my absolute favorite player but not because of heroics on the field. When an injury knocked him down, Nelson stepped up for his community.

The 2015 season was off to a rough start for Nelson, who tore an ACL in his knee in Green Bay’s second preseason game. That injury would sideline him for the entire season but he did anything but sit on the sidelines recovering. A teacher at his 5-year-old son’s school was facing a cancer diagnosis and the NFL star decided he wanted to be the class’ substitute teacher.

For his time devoted to the classroom while recovering, Nelson is featured in new video produced by Dove Men+Care released earlier this month. “One of the teachers at the school my son goes to had to go in for some cancer treatment,” he said in the video. “They needed someone to step in, and I said I would do it.”

Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers image)

Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers image)

Nelson was moved to get involved because of his own experiences in school as a kid. “I had incredible teachers growing up and they gave me so much that I just wanted to give it back,” he said in the video. “You know, teaching can be a lot like football. There’s a lot coming at you at once, and honestly, sometimes teaching is more difficult. That’s the truth.”

Nelson’s story highlights a vital community issue, especially for school districts in California: a critical shortage of substitute teachers. Just like Jordy Nelson, you have the opportunity to make an impact in your community. Want to learn more about becoming a substitute? There are events happening across the state this Saturday.

“What I didn’t realize was the effect the kids would have on me,” Nelson said. “Honestly, it’s made me a stronger person.”

In football, strength has to do with muscle and hustle, but Nelson said what he’s experienced this year has helped him realize that “real strength to me is caring for other people. That has had a huge impact on my life.”


About the author
Joe Cockrell is the vice chancellor of Communications and Chief Communications Officer at Brandman University.

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