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Boys Town Central Florida Youth Find Role Model in NFL Alum

Former NFL star Lonnie Johnson spoke recently to the youth of Boys Town Central Florida.

Recently, ​former Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs tight end, Lonnie Johnson, visited Boys Town Central Florida’s Intervention and Assessment (I&A) Center where he spoke passionately to the youth about overcoming obstacles and creating goals.

One of several children in the family, Johnson grew up poor.  He knew that when he turned 18 he had to leave home, and he didn't want to live on rice and chicken every day like he did as a child. His mother told him and his brother to find something to help them get a scholarship for college and to stay out of trouble. He discovered that he was good at football and made the high school team. He knew that if he was going to have a successful life, he needed to practice and stay with it. So football became his goal. He graduated from high school and received a scholarship to play at Florida State University. When Johnson graduated from college, he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills. 

Using the football field to symbolize his life, Johnson said the opposing players were the people trying to prevent him from reaching his goal. He asked the youth what their goals were to keep them from living a life of chicken and rice, crime, homelessness and drugs.

The youth response was extremely positive. They shared their own goals of becoming athletes, musicians, artists, writers, performers and doctors. “It was as if Lonnie gave them hope and ‘permission’ to have goals and dreams, regardless of their circumstances,” said Tammy Benjamin, I&A Program Teacher at Boys Town Central Florida. After he spoke to the youth, he played basketball and football with them in the recreation center.

Many of the youth vocalized their eagerness for Johnson to return to Boys Town Central Florida as they were motivated by his story.

“He is a very positive presence and you can see that the youth crave a positive influence that they can relate to,” added Benjamin.