His career was all about receiving. Now, Cedric James prefers giving.
Following a five-year stint playing professional football in the NFL and overseas, including tenures with the Dallas Cowboys and the 2005 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, James has replaced his love of the game with a passion for generosity.
The Kennedale product spent Wednesday visiting students at West Ward Elementary, sharing his story while stressing the importance of education and hard work.
For James, who drove from his Fort Worth home to make the appearance, it was simply an opportunity to give back.
“I get a lot out of making someone’s day in the least of ways,” he said. “If just one person gets some value out of me being here in Killeen, then the trip was worth it to me. I’ll come back for one person again.”
A high school standout at receiver, James went on to play for TCU in 1998, finishing his collegiate career with 40 catches for 580 yards, leading the team in receptions as a senior, while LaDanian Tomlinson was cementing his spot as the best running back in school history.
James was a fourth-round selection in the 2001 NFL Draft by Minnesota,and he played in five games for the Vikings as a rookie before spending a majority of the next two seasons on the Cowboys’ and Patriots’ practice squads.
Regardless of his designation, James accomplished something most players only dream of by receiving a championship ring after the Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, and he is quick to share his prized possession.
“What made the kids so happy was that he was not afraid to let them hold it,” West Ward principal Maureen Adams said. “He passed it around. He let them touch it. He let them put it on. … They got to see a piece of history, and it made the idea of hard work and success real for them.”
Following the Super Bowl victory, James was allocated by the Patriots to the now defunct NFL Europe in 2005, landing on the all-league team as a member of the Rhein Firebefore.
After completing his career, he returned to TCU where he works closely with the science department, specifically the TCU Idea Factory, using his marketing background to share developed learning tools with various entities.
A chance encounter with Adams at a science convention led to an open invitation to speak with the West Ward students.
It was an opportunity James could not pass up.
“I’m really involved in education now, so (I’m always happy) to share that side of story,” he said. “But also I want to inspire the kids from my athletic career and let them know anyone can do it.”
After driving 150 miles from Fort Worth, James arrived at West Ward early Wednesday morning, headlining an hour-long assembly with a group of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at 9:30 a.m.
James then visited Fort Hood, where members of his family served, before bouncing between classrooms for more personal interactions and ended the day autographing footballs for randomly selected students.
“That is something they will always remember,” Adams said. “The whole school was just so happy and thrilled to have him here.”
Before his visit was even complete, James eagerly committed to returning. He simply could not turn down another chance to give back.
“I just think if I would have had some people reach down early in my life, the difference they could have made,” he said. “So, I’m really taking ownership of that and just being the person that was never there for me, as far as someone who reached the professional level and reached out to me personally. I just think it is important for kids to get that personal touch from someone they may look up to.”