PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — A group of National Football League (NFL) legends visited Petersburg on Monday to talk with middle and high school students about the importance of mental health.
The visit was part of a partnership between Virginia Total Care and Strong Youth Strong Communities, a nationwide initiative organized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Iman McFarland, a former North Carolina women’s basketball player, was joined by four NFL Hall of Famers; 20-year cornerback Darrell Green, 19-year defensive end Bruce Smith, 13-year offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz and 14-year defensive back Aeneas Williams.
The group visited Petersburg High School, Vernon Johns Middle School and Pittman Academy, listening to students talk about challenges in their lives and giving them advice, as well as stressing the importance of staying in school and being mindful of the influence of those they hang out with.
“They get to talk to these people that have actually come from environments just like themselves,” said Petersburg Chief of Police Travis Christian. “And, through success and through opportunities and through taking advantage of just the idea that we can do it, they become successful.”
For years, Petersburg has been plagued with gun violence as well as a lack of education and resources. Christians says brining in these role models is exactly what the community’s youth needs.
“They’ve been through these types of challenges that we see right here in our same city,” said Christian. “But they made it, and our students can do the same.”
Anthoney Monterville, an 11th grader at Pittman Academy, says mental health is a challenge him and his peers have to reckon with.
“That’s going to cause our grades to drop,” said Monterville about experiencing mental health issues. “Most of us don’t realize how important our mental health is. You know, that’s like one of our biggest issues.”
Monterville says he wants to be a chef and he grows up and meeting with the NFL legends inspired him to take action towards achieving that goal.
I already feel more motivated towards my goals,” said Monterville. “I feel like most people don’t believe in a lot of other people and, you know, it made us and me feel great that, you know, they believe in us and that they see us as just normal humans.”