Former NFL’er talks pitfalls of fame

Former NFL’er talks pitfalls of fame
December 04
00:00 2014
(pictured above:  Bobby Kimbrough speaks as emcee Jeremy Gilyard (center) and Pastor Dr. Sir Walter Mack listen.)

Corey Thomas, a former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions and the Miami Dolphins, has learned from the school of hard knocks. He encouraged several dozen high school freshmen athletes to avoid that kind of education.

He told the young men to focus on the classroom, not just the court and field.

Corey Thomas gives his remarks.

Corey Thomas gives his remarks.

“After the fame, we’ve got to live. After the fame, we’ve got to become somebody else,” said Thomas, who gave the keynote address at Branded For Knowledge’s inaugural Basketball Classic Banquet on Monday, Nov. 16 at the downtown Marriott.

The classic, a basketball tournament featuring freshmen from several high schools, was held Saturday, Nov. 22 at Glenn High School. Branded For Knowledge Inc. (BFK) is a local clothing apparel company. A Wilson native, Thomas said his family’s poverty inspired him to achieve.

“I got tired of mama having to go next door to borrow some sugar. I got tired of having to borrow some weenies from the other house. I wanted to do more and I realized I needed to do more by education,” he said.

He earned a football scholarship to Duke, where he majored in history and minored in African-American studies. His mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis soon after and ended up having to be admitted to Duke University Hospital.

“I can remember going, after football practice and study hall, over to spend time with my mama. I would spend the night over there with her, wake up and do my morning workout,” he said.
When NFL success came, Thomas wasn’t quite ready to handle it.

“I can remember blowing $25,000 on the blackjack table,” he said. “After making all that money, I didn’t do right. Where is all the money I made? And now I have a family. When I was supposed to be working, I was going gambling to pay the bills.”

Bobby F. Kimbrough Jr. founded BFK on the principles of “knowledge, pride, power, strength and success.” He has built the company on the concept that every one is branded by someone else, be it in a positive way or a negative one.

“Every day of your life, somebody’s branding you. In my line of work, we call it profiling,” said Kimbrough, a U.S. Department of Justice special agent. “Somebody’s sizing you up. Every chance you get, create your own brand.”

The tournament was born of Kimbrough’s desire to give back. He says it is about more than playing basketball. The classic was designed to provide an arena where young men could positively interact, learn teamwork, confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills.

“You guys are just entering high school. You are finding your way in this maze,” Kimbrough told the young players. “I want this to be a moment where you decide ‘I’m going to brand myself for success. I’m going to do something great with my life, whether it be on the court or off the court.’”

Reynolds Coach Patrick McCarthy said the classic gave his players a chance before the season begins to become acclimated to high school sports.

“They have an opportunity to hear what a privilege it is to play sports and get a chance to intermingle with other schools, building a community from the freshmen level,” he said.

While the boys networked at the banquet, they also got the chance to size up one another before the tournament.

“It’s cool to see all of the other freshmen from across the city and to be introduced to the new concept this year,” said Zack Pascual, a Reagan power forward.

Larry Borland III, a 14-year-old Reynolds forward, said he would use the tournament for networking and practice.

“I am hoping to get to know some of my teammates and more about the freshmen league,” he said. “I’m hoping to get better for J.V. (junior varsity) next year and to build my skill.”

During the gala, the following community leaders received awards: Playwright/ Educator Garrett Davis, District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield, Union Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Sir Walter L. Mack Jr., legendary Parkland Coach Tom Muse, Russell’s Funeral Home’s Cedric Russell, Union Baptist Church Minister Kia R. Hood, attorney Michael Grace and storied North Forsyth Coach Olon Shuler.

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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