Departing Maryland Football Star, Incoming NFL Lineman Writes Goodbye Column in Diamondback

An interesting guest column appeared in yesterday’s Diamondback at the University of Maryland, penned by a UMD graduate student and standout defensive end recently drafted by the Miami Dolphins.

A.J. Francis has led quite a life.  As he asks students in his write-up, posted officially as a letter to the editor, “[H]ow many NFL signees do you know who graduated college in three-and-a-half years and began working on their master’s degree while still under scholarship, who have always been a big supporter of the LBGT community, used to perform in musicals in high school and have released five mixtapes since age 14?”

Yet, beyond the self-congrats, the larger point that follows is refreshing for its candor. Francis reflects not on his personal greatness, but on how easy it can be for other students to achieve their own dreams.  In his words, “If so many great things can happen to a scumbag like me, imagine how great your life can be if you are just a genuinely great person.  Good things happen to good people.”

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In a similar sense, he writes, “We are all just as unique! I get more publicity than I ever should have because I am an athlete people perceive as ‘different’ because I live my life the way I want to. That’s not a quality that should be admired because it’s a quality we should all have.  My message is simple: Live your life to the fullest. Sixty years from now, when you’re on your deathbed surrounded by the people you love, will you be thinking about all the diets you cheated? All the shots you didn’t take (metaphorically and alcoholically)? All the nights you got eight hours of sleep? As most of you who own a computer and have seen the YouTube video from last week, my entire life changed in a three-minute span. That’s all it takes.”

According to The Washington Post, the column is “a farewell piece that doubles as a graduation speech, and a darn good one at that.”

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