When Joel Penton spoke to students at Niles Middle School last year, he brought a message to students that was drawn from his own experience.
''Last year, I told them how to stand their ground,'' Penton said, ''and this year I'm going to talk about how to keep commitments.''
Penton, who travels to more than 100 schools each year to deliver his message of commitment, along with friend and musician Ryan Holliday, was welcomed with a thunderous applause in the school gymnasium.
Joel Penton, right, a former Ohio State University football player turned motivational speaker, came back to Niles Middle School last week for the second year in a row to deliver his message of making good decisions. Pictured with seventh grader Shawn Simms, Penton uses his own personal stories of triumph to encourage students to make commitments that will help them reach their goals. See more photos on Page 2.
During his presentation, Penton told students how difficult it became when his own friends turned against him after he decided he didn't want to go out partying and drinking with them.
''My friends ditched me,'' Penton said. ''At homecoming, even though I was won Homecoming King, I was actually booed by the whole student body at my own high school.''
Penton described the nightmare of having his friends turn against him, but he continued to stand his ground and found new friends who shared his ideals, he told students. He went on to explain the three concepts he relies on to reach his goals by making those commitments, standing his ground and reaching his goals.
''You have to have faith,'' Penton said. ''Faith in yourself and in your ability to reach your goals.
In his presentation, Penton also told students they had to be ready to fight for their commitments and to surround themselves with the right friends.
By following his own advice, Penton attended The Ohio State University, where he played five years of football for the Buckeyes from 2001 to 2006. He was a member of three Big Ten championship teams, a member of the National Championship team and was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection.
In his senior year, Penton received the Wuerffel Trophy, also known as the Humanitarian Heisman. The national award recognizes one player in the country who best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.
Following his graduation from college, Penton turned down a career with the National Football League to become a motivational speaker and bring his message of making good decisions instead of suffering negative consequences to students all over the country.