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Kansas City Chiefs safety Reshard Langford is prepared for the uphill battle that can lead him to NFL stardom.
While many players are enjoying their final days before training camp opens, Langford is working to get the edge on them.
Chiefs defensive back visits and talks with student-athletes in Pasadena high school. Shares life experiences and his struggle to become a professional football player.
By Michael BrownSentinel Contributing Writer
What Kansas City Chiefs reserve safety Reshard Langford lacks in name recognition and NFL accolades, he more than compensates for in mentoring youth across the nation by emphasizing the importance of education and work ethic.
Among the many professional athletes who flocked to Los Angeles last week for ESPN's ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theatre, chances are, other than his immediate family and current teammates, Langford was likely not recognized by many who clamored for the likes of comedian/host Seth Meyers, Reggie Bush and Derek Fisher.
However, for a native from Tanner, Alabama, the anonymity suited him just fine as Langford has become accustomed to being a blip on the proverbial radar screen.
"I'm used to being the underdog," Langford said. "Never giving up, hard work and perseverance are just some of the ethics I try to share with young people when I speak with them."
Langford's message was shared with a cross section of male and female student-athletes at Pasadena's Blair IB High School on July 15. After attending the ESPY's, Langford, through an arrangement by his management agency, Entertainment Sports Plus, visited the teens and spoke, while also listening to their feedback and ideas about some of the issues facing today's youth.
Langford also said that he thinks he brings a unique perspective to audiences comprised of young people. At 24 years old, he is not that far removed from where many of them sit, and is familiar with the host of challenges they face. Langford credits his high school coach with playing a similar role during his teenage years.
"When I speak with young people, I just get enjoyment out of it," Langford said. "I read a story afterward in a local paper showing some of the students' comments-and I was encouraged to see that my words were having an impact on lives. We discussed things back-and-forth, most of (which) was about education and the need for athletes to have a backup plan."
Langford doesn't just pay lip service when he talks about education. He obtained a degree in sociology while at Vanderbilt University. As a senior, Langford earned Vanderbilt's prestigious Scholar Athlete Award. Prior to college, Langford was the salutatorian of his high school class and lettered in several sports.
Langford's zeal for scholastic achievement was instilled in him from a young age by his parents. He indicated that his parents played a pivotal role in guiding him to wanting to always do better.
They also influenced him to strive to become a well-rounded person in all facets of life. In addition to being a four-year starter at Vanderbilt, Langford served as a mentor to underprivileged children at the Martha O' Bryan Center in Nashville, Tennessee and as a volunteer with the National Cares Mentoring Movement.
"My mother and father were very important in me becoming the person I am," Langford said. "Going to a school as academically tough as Vanderbilt was something I pursued after high school. Getting a degree was a goal that I set for myself since I was very young."
Aside from the charitable and civic causes Langford is involved in, nurturing a fledging professional football career is his goal. The road however, hasn't been easy for the second-year player as he prepares for Kansas City's training camp to open July 29.
After not being drafted out of Vanderbilt in 2009, Langford signed on with the Philadelphia Eagles and remained on its roster for the first 15 weeks of his rookie season. The Eagles toyed with the idea of moving him to linebacker, but the Chiefs, thin at safety, plucked him off of Philadelphia's practice squad and utilized Langford as a defensive back and on special teams.
Langford is confident about what the future portends and in his abilities. He said, "My goal is to come to camp and work hard kind of like how I do with everything else. I want to make an impact on this team in any role that they need me to play, and do everything in my power to excel."
He added, "Separate from my individual goals, I feel good about this team's prospects this year. We've got a young defense and we're collectively growing together. I'll compete with all of the other defensive backs in camp to make plays."
Projected as a likely reserve this season, Langford's skills may come in handy in a pass-happy AFC West Division where defensive backs are sure to be tested. Langford's humility was on full display when he talked about his willingness to do the grunt work on special teams, citing winning as the goal before notoriety.
If he wasn't earning a living on the gridiron, Langford said he doesn't know exactly what he would be doing, but he did indicate that working with children would factor in somewhere.
In an age of round-the-clock tweets, emails and breaking stories about professional athletes being popped for an array of bad judgment and indiscretions, perhaps a story of an "underdog" can be brought to the forefront and celebrated.