NFL, NASCAR guests inspire students at local high schools

LANDIS, NC (WBTV) - One thing that will get, and keep, the attention of high school students during an early morning assembly is a short video of a man driving a car.

The car is a classic Chevy, but that's not what is so impressive.  The fact that the driver was born with no arms is what had students captivated.

That driver is Richie Parker, and since 2005 he's been Vehicle Design Engineer with Hendrick Motorsports.

"You have to make sure that you set goals for yourself," Parker told students at South Rowan High School on Tuesday morning.  "You have to have a plan, and the plan isn't always the easy part."

Parker emphasized the importance of making good decisions.

"There's a big difference between an accident and a poor decision." Parker added.

It wasn't always easy for Perry Tuttle either.  Tuttle was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when Clemson beat Nebraska and won a national championship in football, but when he was in third grade his report card was so poor that the teacher was talking about putting him in a special education class.

Tuttle, who played in the NFL and is now the chaplain for the Charlotte Bobcats, says that moment so long ago, and the inspiration of a coach, made him aspire to greater things.

"You have the opportunity to make changes today," Tuttle told the students.

Tuttle gave a dramatic display using, naturally, a football.  He told students how he took a football in hand and showed it to his six children.  He said to them "what is this football for?"

His kids answered that it was for throwing, kicking, and catching.

Tuttle then put the football on the floor and put his foot on it.  He pointed out that the football was not made to stand on, and that life had to have a more stable foundation.  For Tuttle, it is his faith.

He also stressed the importance of education, telling the students that his wife had encouraged him to read, telling him that "people who don't read books are no better than people who can't read."

Tuttle has written four books and is now on his fifth.

Former Washington Redskin Reynaldo Wynn also spoke, and introduced Parker and Tuttle.

Wynn spoke of his tough childhood in south Chicago and the positive role models that helped him through difficult times.

Wynn now works with Joe Gibbs, his former head coach and the head of a successful NASCAR team presenting the "Game Plan for Life" programs in local schools.

Students at South Rowan seemed impressed, and many stayed after the program to ask more questions or maybe pose for a picture or get an autograph from one of the speakers.

Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten, Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins, and Rowan County ABC Director Terry Osborne were instrumental in bringing the program to high schools in Rowan County.