Doing the Next Right Thing
“Life is about doing the next right thing.” As a player on two national title teams at the University of Alabama, Dre Kirkpatrick heard this statement more than once from his football coach, Nick Saban. “You don’t focus on winning the game or the title, you focus on winning the moment. You do the next right thing. Success will take care of itself,” remembers Kirkpatrick.
For D’Andre LaJuan “Dre” Kirkpatrick, doing the right thing extends far beyond the football field. A Gadsden, Ala. native, Kirkpatrick recently treated a group of local children to a back to school shopping spree. Giving back is so important to Kirkpatrick, he made underprivileged children the focus of his charity, Dre Kirkpatrick’s 21 Kids Foundation.
Before the start of football season, Kirkpatrick came home to Gadsden and personally took the group of children shopping for school clothes and shoes. He gave each child a $250 allowance. For Kirkpatrick, who grew up in the Oakleigh neighborhood, giving back is a message of hope. “I always wanted to give back because that’s what my dad always preached to me. My Foundation’s purpose is giving kids another outlook on life. Letting them know school is cool. Getting an education is the thing to do. I want to be the face of the youth and let them know there’s a way out,” says Kirkpatrick.
The Oakleigh neighborhood, which he calls “The Oak,” plays a role in his tale of childhood adversity. On a tour with visiting reporters from Cincinnati, where he now plays football for the Cincinnati Bengals, he pointed out numerous drug houses on his street and the house next to his where children were gunned down in a drive by shooting. “The Oak” inspired him to work harder and it inspires him to bring a positive message to children in similar situations.
Dre Kirkpatrick’s childhood had some positives too. His father is a local pastor who instilled a sense of faith in him from a young age and his mother gave him a strong work ethic as well. Today, his father serves as an advisor for his charity and still preaches every Sunday. “At a very young age I was taught the importance of having faith and that became very important to me,” says Kirkpatrick. “I understand that man gives the award, but God gives the reward.”
Kirkpatrick has earned a lot of awards. Coming out of high school, he was ranked a five-star recruit and The Sporting News recently placed him on a list of best high school players of all time. In college, he played for two BCS championships and was named an All American in three different ranking services. He left Alabama after his junior season and was drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2012 NFL draft.
Success is more than football, however. Kirkpatrick has arranged charity basketball games in Cincinnati and speaks at schools when he can but, he says, he rarely talks to students about football. “Education is just as important as the game. I can’t stress that enough,” he says. “There’s a quote out there that says, ‘Where the mind goes, the body will follow.’ You also have to be willing to listen and remain teachable. There is something to be learned every day.” Kirkpatrick says the lesson applies to himself as well. As a father, he has a 12-year-old son and a daughter due later this year, he stresses the importance of a willingness to learn. “Personally, I’m learning new things every day, so I’m constantly working on myself, to be better at all things,” he says. “Being a better father, a better son, a better athlete, a better person, just a better human being.”
— Terry Schrimscher
Photos Courtesy Dre Kirkpatrick’s 21 Kids Foundation, Associated Press