BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College's student-athletes took in a powerful message Sunday afternoon on Johnston as they listened to an hour-long presentation from former NFL player Donte' Stallworth and Debbie Weir, the CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving on alcohol awareness and decision making.
Stallworth, who killed a man in 2009 while driving under the influence, and Weir spoke on different topics to a crowd of nearly all of the Greyhounds' student-athletes and members of the coaching staff. The presentation began at 2:00 p.m. and was to be repeated at Muhlenberg College Sunday evening. Click here for a photo gallery from the event in Johnston Hall.
"Problems related to the use and abuse of alcohol are common on college campuses across the country," commented Moravian Director of Athletics Scot Dapp. "The messages presented today by Debbie Weir and Donte' Stallworth had an impact on our student athletes and will hopefully help them in making the right decisions with regards to drinking in the future. I have to thank Megan Patruno, the Associate Athletics Director at Muhlenberg College, for asking us to partner with them in bringing this program to our campuses and for doing so much work for the logistics of the event."
The program began with junior men's soccer player Brian Boland, the current president of Moravian's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, introducing the speakers for the afternoon, leading off with Deana Garner from the Office of Player Engagement & Education for the NFL.
Weir then started her part of the presentation, giving an overview of the MADD organization and presenting statistics on the numbers of injuries and deaths that occur each year because of alcohol. Among the stats she included is the fact that a person in killed in a drunk driving accident every 51 minutes in the United States.
"It is so extremely important whether you are talking about drunk driving crashes, alcohol poisoning, sexual assaults, drowning, suicides, all of these things that underage drinking can lead to, they are 100 percent preventable," Weir said. "I think Donte's story is extremely important because number one, he is a drunk driving offender that is 100 percent remorseful for what happened. He owned it and he has been accountable for it. He wants to make sure that his unsafe and bad choice that he made that he prevents other people from doing that."
Stallworth went through his experience from college through the NFL before walking the crowd through that fateful night in Miami on March 13, 2009. Stallworth has full accepted his role in the events that led to the accident and everything that has come since. His goal was to stress to the student-athletes that every choice they make will have an effect on their lives.
"The decision that I made that night to get in my car and drive to a nightclub to go hang out with these guys is a decision that I can't take back," Stallworth explained. "It's a decision that will always be with me and will always haunt me for the rest of my life.
"It is very important because I have always felt that athletes should always take care of each other," he continued. "From one athlete to another regardless of the sport or the gender, I think that is important for guys, especially in my position being a professional athlete and going through what I've been through. It is very important for me to share my story to educate them and help them understand that when you make certain decisions that are not good that they cannot only alter your future but the future of others as well."
Moravian's student-athletes heard the message being passed along to them.
"Here is someone who had a $35 million dollar contract and with one decision it all just goes away," stated senior baseball student-athlete Ryan Luke. "You hear stories all the time of 17-year-olds getting behind the wheel, and they're still in high school when these things happen but for someone who had so much to lose everything it was definitely a different perspective. I had an idea of what had happened to Donte and the charges he faced, but I wasn't aware of everything that took place afterwards, and that was a real eye opener.
"You see all these instances happen and you thing that it won't happen to me but he showed that just the one decision you make could be the one that changes your life forever," Luke continued. "Having something like this with Debbie from MADD giving all of the statistics to raise awareness and Donte tell his story makes everything more real."
"I think it really means a lot to people especially drinking and driving being on a college campus," commented junior women's basketball player Alesha Marcks. "You know people always expect you to drink but I agree that you don't have to have fun. I can guarantee you that people have fun all the time just hanging out, watching movies. I think honestly that this presentation really touched some people here, and they really got their message out to the student-athletes.
"I think Donte Stallworth coming to do this really made people listen because you usually just have someone come talk with you but Donte telling his story really, made an impact because he is such a big football star, no one expected this to happen in his life so hearing his story really made everyone understand what can happen if you make the wrong decision," Marcks said.
Stallworth tried to get as personal with the crowd as possible.
"I've never really looked at myself and been sad or upset about what I was going through because a man lost his life and a daughter lost her father," stated Stallworth. That, to me, has always played more heavily on my heart and mind than me and my own personal issues.
"I just remember thinking to myself that Mr. Reyes will not be able to see his daughter graduate from high school," he continued. "Mr. Reyes will not be able to see his daughter graduate from college. Mr. Reyes will not be able to walk his daughter down the aisle. He will not be able to hold his grandchildren, if she decided to have kids.
"Every time an instance comes up in her life, she will think about the accident. She'll think about the situation. She'll think about me. She'll think about me, driving the car that hit her father and killed him. And that weighs on me so heavy," finished Stallworth.
When the presentation was over, Stallworth and Weir remained in Johnston Hall for over an hour talking with the Greyhounds' student-athletes.