Fort McCoy News June 14, 2013

Packers players motivate Challenge Academy cadets

Public Affairs Staff

Obstacles don't have to keep people from reaching their goals, present and past members of the Green Bay Packers football team told an audience of Challenge Academy cadets at Fort McCoy.

The football players took time off from their statewide tailgate bus tour in May to make a surprise visit to Fort McCoy. The cadets were brought to a meeting area without being told who they would meet or talk to. Cadets are high-school-age males and females who are not on track to graduate from high school because of truancy issues, insufficient academic credits, etc.

Photo 1 for Packers article
Former Packers player Aaron Taylor (center, standing) shares a story
of perseverance and overcoming life obstacles with Fort McCoy
Challenge Academy cadets while (from left) Packers CEO, president
Mark Murphy, Santana Dotson and Frank Winters listen.

As the time grew nearer, the anticipation about the mystery guests increased. Right on cue, Mark Murphy, Packers president/CEO, appeared to loud applause, and told the cadets that the Packers, who were on a pre-season tailgate tour, would share their experiences of overcoming adversity and how they used obstacles as an opportunity to accomplish their goals.

"How you respond to adversity, whether you give up or get up and fight back, defines what kind of person you are," Murphy said.
Peter Blum, Challenge Academy agency liaison, said the Packers players have talked to cadets on a regular basis since 2004.

When the Packers realized their bus tour would bring them to Tomah, which is near Fort McCoy, they called the Challenge Academy to see if they could speak to the cadets, he said.

"The players do a great job of reinforcing character," Blum said. "And not giving up when life becomes difficult."

The visit occurred right before the cadets went on leave to set up their post-Challenge Academy plans and helped remind them to avoid the bad habits/situations that caused them trouble in the first place, he said. The cadets graduated June 14.

Blum said the mix of current and past players also presented the youth with good perspective on a variety of life experiences.

Current players Randal Cobb, wide receiver/kick returner; Alex Green, running back; and Jarrett Bush, defensive back/special teams, represented the 2013 Green Bay Packers. Also on tour were players from the 1997 Super Bowl Championship team: Santana Dotson, defensive line; Aaron Taylor, right guard; and Frank Winters, center.

Each had a tale of adversity in their life to tell.

Cobb grew up with a father who was frequently arrested for drug/alcohol abuse and is a recovering addict.

Photo 2 for Packers article
Packers players (from left) Jarrett Bush, Randall Cobb and Alex Green
greet cadets after sharing their stories of perseverance and overcoming
life's obstacles.

Taylor ruptured his right tendon three days into his National Football League (NFL) career and had to watch from the sideline for the first time in his career.

Winters was a 10th round draft choice. He would have been a free agent in today's NFL, which only has a seven-round draft.
Bush was an undrafted free agent who played his way onto the team.

Dotson was injured before the draft and watched his expected draft position plummet.

"Although I wasn't drafted where I thought I should have been, the draft gave me an invitation to the party," Dotson said. "In training camp, you have to prove yourself on a daily basis."

"Nothing happens to us by accident," Taylor said. "It serves a purpose. I believed with faith I could get through it. Me against the world is pretty good odds. The injury went from being the worst thing in my life to becoming the best thing that ever happened to me. There are no circumstances we face that we can't overcome."

"Good things in life don't come easy," Winters said. "I was from a small school, and the guy in front of me was injured. That gave me an opportunity, and I worked hard to get where I wanted to be."

Murphy said the players found it of the utmost importance to maintain a positive attitude.

"You have to look at a difficult situation, not as a problem, but as an opportunity to get where you want to get in life," he said. "You can't let the negatives of a situation overwhelm you."

Cobb said his parents taught him how important honesty and integrity are and that he could do well by living and giving back to other people.

Winters, Taylor and Dotson are examples of how football is only a part of life and players have to be ready to pursue a post-football career when their playing days are over, Murphy said.

Winters, a member of the Packers Hall of Fame, is part owner of a popular Missouri bar and grill. Taylor is a CBS broadcaster for college football, and Dotson, who is heard on Milwaukee radio, is preparing to be an NFL broadcaster some day, he said.

Murphy also has had successful playing and post-football careers. He is believed to be the only person who won a Super Bowl as a player (with the Washington Redskins in 1983) and subsequently as the Packers president/CEO when they won the Super Bowl in 2011.

Cadets were impressed by the visit and to see famous people at the top of their profession often had to overcome adversity to achieve their goals.

Zoe Teletzke, a 17-year-old cadet from Fond du Lac, Wis., said it was very inspiring to see and be able to meet the Packers players at the event.

"It was amazing they came here and talked to us," Teletzke said. "For a lot of us, they gave us hope for our future life and that we still can do things."

The event also helped her realize that when she returned home after graduation she couldn't fall back into her old patterns and will need to follow through with the things she learned, Teletzke added.

Preston Weaver Jr., a 17-year-old cadet from Milwaukee, said he could empathize with Cobb's story as his Family had similar problems.

"That he was able to go through that and become an NFL player inspired me," Weaver said. "It helped us to realize we have to get our life together after the program."

Both Teletzke and Weaver plan to attend college.

Teletzke is looking to work in the mental health field to help teens with those concerns, while Weaver plans to study accounting.