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On February 7, one of Boys Town’s very own will be competing in Super Bowl 50.  Shaquil Barrett, a 2010 graduate, will be on the field as an outside linebacker for the Denver Broncos.

As Boys Town’s head football coach, I had the pleasure of coaching Shaquil during our 2008 and 2009 seasons.  Shaquil’s success in the NFL should be looked upon by youth across this country as an example of how one can be rewarded for “doing what is right.”

At Boys Town, our athletic programs follow a set of behavioral expectations and social skills that are rightfully referred to as “Competing with Character.”  We focus on teaching behaviors like accepting coaching and getting along with your teammates as well as on the fundamentals of the sport.  For many of our youth at Boys Town, mastering the skills necessary to succeed on an athletic team can be quite a challenge. This was not the case with Shaquil Barrett.

Former Boys Town wrestling coach and current Admissions Coordinator Aaron Groff describes Shaquil as a “process kid.” He recalled Shaquil’s senior wrestling season when he avenged an earlier loss by beating the same opponent in the state finals for the championship.

“Whatever he had to do to get from point A to point B, he mastered,” Coach Groff explained. “Shaquil never strayed from the process of getting better every day.  You just knew that in the end, he would come out on top.”

Coach Groff said he was always most impressed by Shaquil’s character.

“I remember him in a pre-season goal-setting session describing how he always wanted to leave the wrestling mat the same way.  He did not want anyone watching to be able to tell if he was the winner or the loser.  He truly took the skill of winning with class and losing with dignity to the next level.”

In 2010, I coached both Shaquil and his brother Kevin in Nebraska’s Shrine Bowl All-Star Game.  Shaquil was voted a team captain and was the defensive most valuable player of the game.  It was truly remarkable how quickly Shaquil became a leader among the best football players in the state.  He was never boisterous; he just went about his business and impressed teammates with his talent and “team first” attitude.

The Village of Boys Town is all about opening doors of opportunity for the young men and women who come to live here.  Shaquil is a testimony to what can be accomplished if you put your best foot forward and follow the positive lead of the adults around you. He would be the first to tell you that not every day at Boys Town was easy.  But he is the kind of individual who can bounce back from a bad day and make the most of the next one.

The entire Boys Town community will be pulling for Shaquil on Super Bowl Sunday.  It won’t matter if someone is a Carolina fan, a Denver fan, or a fan of another team in the league; they all have a soft spot in their heart for #48 in the orange and blue helmet.  His journey from a small school in Boys Town, Nebraska, to the biggest stage in the National Football League is truly remarkable.  And whether Shaquil is on the winning side or the losing side won’t really matter either.  Shaquil Barrett has shown us all that he has the character of a champion and is a winner in the game of life.