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Pro football player comes home with message of encouragement

Thomson has produced another football celebrity -- Jasper Brinkley, who now plays with the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League.

Brinkley, a former star linebacker at Thomson High School, Georgia Military College and the University of South Carolina, was a starter in several games last season, including in the playoffs. He got his big break as a rookie player when a fellow teammate was injured.

He returned to Thomson with a special message of encouragement to members of the Thomson Boys & Girls Club last Saturday. Brinkley brought with him to the gathering on the football practice field at Thomson High School several friends -- many of whom were former football stars for the Bulldogs, just like him.

Several of them shared messages like Brinkley did.

"It's really great giving back to this community, because this community has given me so much," remarked a humble Brinkley, as he addressed about 50 members of the local Boys & Girls Club.

He left them with the following thought: "If there's a will, there's a way. Hard work really pays off."

Other notable former players speaking to the students, some of them athletes, too, included Jerry Mays, now a banking executive, who played at THS and later went on to become a big star at Georgia Tech. He played two games with the Seattle Mariners before his career was cut way short by an injury.

Mays encouraged the group to surround themselves with good people.

"Set your selves up, educationally-wise," said Mays, noting that learning is a continual process. "Grab it. Learn."

He also told them to take advantage of opportunities that come their way.

"Your dreams are possible," said Mays. "I hope you reach them."

Jesse Hatcher, who also was star defensive player for the Thomson Bulldogs, spoke to the Boys & Girls group.

Hatcher said though he enjoyed playing prep and college football at Thomson, a college in California and later Clemson University, "football was just a vehicle" to get him where he really wanted to be someday -- having an education, a good job and money.

"I knew college was money and I like money," said Hatcher with a big laugh.

He cautioned the youngsters to be careful about the people they hang around.

"Try to do the right thing always," said Hatcher, who is now a business consultant and volunteer youth football and basketball coach living in Florence, S.C.

He pointed out that in trying to do the right things, "You're probably going to find yourselves lonely a lot. But that's ok. You'll be all right."

Group members later were taken onto the field where they had lots of fun working out with Jasper Brinkley, his twin brother, Casper, Mays, Hatcher and several other former football stars from Thomson High School.

Web posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010

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