This post was written by Bayside Middle School Library Media Specialist Frances Scott.
Two nationally ranked athletes who walked completely different paths to college football spoke to students after school at Bayside Middle School recently. Quin Blanding, currently a senior at Bayside High School, earned a scholarship to play football at the University of Virginia in the fall. He was a five-star recruit and nationally ranked safety who played in the All-American game.
Michael Wyche, a defensive tackle, is headed to the University of Miami. He changed the course of his life that included drugs and brushes with the law to achieve his dream of collegiate competition.
Melvin Francis, security assistant and sponsor of the Gentleman’s Club at Bayside Middle, invited the players to speak about making good choices to students in his club and in the 21st Century after-school program. Ironically, the two guests will compete against each other in the fall, but their messages of working hard as a student athlete conveyed the same encouragement.
“It was either dead or jail for me,” Wyche told the students. “I was lost. I was always in trouble; I didn’t want to listen to anyone.”
After attending an alternative school, he entered Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake and found mentors. “I just learned how to read my tenth grade year,” he said.
He credited football and his grandparents for changing his life, and learning to read. Even though he was able to play college football, he did not recommend his path to the students. He first played at East Los Angeles junior college without financial help, and he missed his home. His record of 63 tackles and 12 sacks brought the attention of other recruiters, so he will now play for the University of Miami.
Both athletes stressed doing well in school along with developing physical ability. “Seventh- and eighth-grade—that’s where it starts,” said Blanding who had attended Bayside Middle School when the school won three city championships. “Stay focused; stay humble, and always strive to do your best. Always be teachable; I want to see you all stand where I stand today.”
Wyche advised students to follow Blanding’s example rather than his in striving to be a student athlete.To students who might be “clowning around at school,” he warned. “When you have a chance, fix it right now. Every day should be about business in the classroom.”
Wyche said of the college recruiters, “The first thing they ask is how is he as a person, and then how is he in class. It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete.”
Blanding cautioned the football players to be very cautious of what they posted on social media, and he urged them to help each other strive to do their best.