CORCORAN — Corcoran Unified School District students got the chance to interact with a former professional football player on Tuesday.

Lorenzo Neal, who retired in 2007 after five years as a fullback for the San Diego Chargers, spoke to students at four schools in the district about the need to work hard to be successful as well as the importance of personal responsibility and leadership.

“Anything you want to do is going to take hard work,” he told a group of fourth-graders. “You can be whatever you want to, but you have to be committed to it. It doesn’t matter what background you come from, so don’t let anyone tell you can’t be successful.”

Neal also encouraged the students to take advantage of teachers who are there, as they will help them on their journey. However, he said what’s most important is that you believe in yourself.

“If you want to be successful, it has to start with you,” he said. “There are a lot of choices and decisions you have to make about your future and how you want people to remember you.”

According to Neal, preparation is one of the most important factors in being successful. He believes that even if you have the will to win and to be successful, it’s not possible without first having the will to prepare for it through schooling or other endeavors.

“You can get more out of life starting in your classroom,” he said. “You have to challenge yourselves and be willing to work for the future you want. Greatness isn’t a given — it’s earned.”

While preparing for the future is important, Neal said the students still have time to figure out what they want to do. He said he’s confident they will go on to do great things.

“I see greatness in all of you,” he said. “You guys are the future of this town, the Valley, the state and the world. You guys are changing a generation.”

The idea for Neal’s visit all started earlier this year, when event coordinator and John Muir Middle School Teacher Judy Fierro thought Neal had hit her car when she was walking to it after work one day.

“He was standing right there by my car talking to someone that I knew from school, so I thought something had happened,” she said. “It had nothing to do with my car, though. He saw I was concerned, so he introduced himself and mentioned that he does motivational speaking.”

After that meeting, the two discussed the possibility of having Neal come to Corcoran. Although Neal usually charges up to $2,000 an hour for motivational speaking, Fierro said he heavily discounted the price to a flat $1,000 for the whole visit after Fierro told him the district wouldn’t be able to afford it.

“He really wanted to make it happen,” she said. “It’s so huge that he’s willing to do this for the students. I thought he would have a huge impact here.”

Fierro said Neal’s story of growing up in Kings County and all the success he’s had in football would be a good lesson for the kids.

“He’s a local kid who went on to do great things and now he wants to pay it forward,” she said. “That’s huge to me that he’s willing to go out to communities and make a difference for so many kids. I think when you have that level of success, you need to pay it forward and make a difference in someone else’s life because someone did it for you.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2429 and at jluiz@hanfordsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @JosephL_HS.

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