Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
In the mid-to-late 1990s, Harry Douglas was just a pre-teenager practicing for his AAU basketball team at the Pointe South Elementary School gymnasium, under the tutelage of the team's coach, Marcus Jackson.
On Thursday, a now-grown-up Douglas, who has become a wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons, was back in the elementary school's gymnasium with Jackson, who is now the school's principal.
Douglas was back in the gymnasium to preach the importance of education, good behavior and working hard to achieve goals, to Pointe South Elementary School students.
Douglas, who was drafted by the Falcons in 2008, used an ACL injury he suffered before the team's 2009 season as a reminder of how fragile a career in sports can be, and why people need to be prepared to do something else in life. He said his injury kept him from playing for an entire football season.
"A year and a half ago, I tore my ACL, and even though many people come back from an injury, just as many people don't," he told Pointe South Elementary School students. "That's why you need an education, so you can do something else. I earned a 3.9 grade-point average in college [at the University of Louisville] ... I studied political science [at Louisville], and my goal outside of football was to become a lawyer."
Douglas' appearance at Pointe South Elementary School was part of the school's wrap-up of the recent administration of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs). He gave the school one of his Falcons jerseys, a pair of shoes and several photographs of himself -- all signed by him -- to give out to students who are among Pointe South's highest performers on the CRCTs.
Scores from the test are not yet available, and are typically not available until mid-to-late May.
Douglas' family has Clayton County roots, and he is not the only famous Douglas to come out of his family's household. His younger brother, Toney Douglas, is a guard with the National Basketball Association's (NBA) New York Knicks.
The brothers grew up in Clayton County, and graduated from Jonesboro High School. Toney Douglas' NBA profile shows his college sports career played out at Florida State University. They are the sixth pair of brothers in which one sibling plays in the NBA and the other plays in the National Football League, according to Toney Douglas' NBA profile.
During Harry Douglas' appearance at Pointe South Elementary, on Thursday, he took a question about why he decided to play football as a chance to take a dig at his brother. "I chose football because it is a contact sport, and basketball is too soft," he joked.
Now, as professional athletes, the Douglas brothers are about to become heavily involved in Pointe South Elementary School as mentors and role models for the school's students, according to Jackson. "Harry, and his brother, have adopted Pointe South Elementary School, and so you're going to be seeing a lot more of them in the future," the principal told the pupils at the end of Harry Douglas' presentation.
The professional football player said he and his brother want to get involved in the school, not just because Jackson is their former coach, but also because they want to help the students be successful.
"When I was their coach, I tried to instill three things in my players: Listen, always try your best, and never give up," Jackson said. "They've [Harry and Toney Douglas] lived by that, and have been extremely successful as a result."
After his presentation, Harry Douglas stressed the importance of having a positive attitude, and putting others before oneself, to a Pointe South student who Jackson introduced to the professional football player as an athletically talented, but not always well-behaved, youngster.
"We didn't have many people coming back to talk to us, and give us advice, when we were in school," said the Falcons wide receiver, after his talk with the student. "I'm just the type of person who wants to give back to the community."