posted on Dec, 14 2004 @ 03:52 PM
Former wrestler Ron Simmons leaned conspiratorially into the podium to make a not-so-shocking admission about his profession.
"This is a secret. Not even the teachers can tell," said the man who made his name pummeling opponents.
Say it isn't so.
Simmons, a Perry native and former football champ-turned-pro-wrestler, shared this revelation last Friday with students at Burghard Elementary School.
Urging students to work hard in school, Simmons told a gym filled with cross-legged, eager children that education is required for every walk of life.
Even a knock-'em, sock-'em sport like professional wrestling.
"I have to read what I'm going to do," said Simmons, who has often wrestled under the name Faarooq. "If I'm supposed to duck (and haven't read the
plan beforehand), I lose some teeth."
Simmons, who earned several world titles, was talking to students as part of World Wrestling Entertainment's Respect, Education, Achievement and
Leadership program. He said he retired from wrestling earlier this year, although he still works for WWE.
"I hear so many athletes all the time say that, 'I'm not a role model,'" Simmons said between assemblies. "Well, yes you are. When you're in the
public eye and you do something wrong, you can be devastating the way you come across."
The REAL program is designed to give children pro-education messages and help them set goals.
"If these kids can get anything out of me - whether it's not to be a bully or to stay in school - then that's a plus," Simmons said. "If I can get
that message across, then I'm doing my job. I love to do this, and I would hope more athletes would do this."
Simmons told students about his mother's death when he was 8 years old and how later he was almost put up for adoption.
"Throughout all of that I stayed in school," Simmons said. "I made myself go to school, and I'm very proud of that."
As students took turns standing next to Simmons, he asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up and what they needed to do to get there. He
urged them to share stories of bullying and why it was wrong.
And he fielded inquiries from children too curious not to ask how much money he makes, which drew a chuckle from Simmons.
Before signing autographs, he promised to come back in spring if the students read a lot of books or mailed him essays on their goals.
By Karen Shugart
Macon Telegraph Staff Writer