As a California high school senior at Menlo School in the winter of 1983, I had just been named the Offensive Football Player of the Year by a new national newspaper called USA Today. Shortly after this honor, I received an invitation in the mail to be honored as a student delegate at the Academy of Achievement Summit in San Diego. At first, I ignored the invitation because I thought it was just another promotion for a vanity publication. However, soon afterwards my high school athletic director found me on campus to say that he just got a call from the office of William Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, and he wanted to know why I had not accepted my invitation to the Banquet of the Golden Plate that they were helping sponsor with the Academy of Achievement. Immediately upon hearing of Mr. Hewlett’s involvement in the event, I signed up to attend the event and I have been thankful ever since.
At the Academy Summit at the Hotel Coronado in 1983, I was inspired to meet people like Dr. Robert K. Jarvik and Dr. William C. DeVries (who were responsible for the first artificial heart implantation), Burt Reynolds, Joe Theismann, and Donald Rumsfeld. However, it was meeting and developing a personal relationship with the founder of the Academy, Brian Reynolds, and his son, Wayne Reynolds, that was most inspiring for me. Their concept of encouraging and empowering young people to be “great” by exposing them to role models had a lasting impression on me. The Reynolds family invited me to their next two summits as their guest—in Minneapolis (1984) and Denver (1985)—and from that time on I wanted to be involved in similar programs.
While I have not seen or talked to the Reynolds family in the last 30 years, I used my success in sports (I am the only athlete in the world to play with and against Joe Montana, Michael Jordan and Barry Bonds) to be a role model and to produce my own events to inspire young people.
Even though I have earned a Super Bowl Ring with the San Francisco 49ers and have been inducted into the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame, the most rewarding aspect of my last 30 years has been following the lead of Brian and Wayne Reynolds, and developing programs that allow me to see the glow in young people’s faces when they are motivated and inspired.