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CLINE: Kids these days better than some may think

Dante Sawyer

Dante Sawyer

"Kids these days ..." It's a line a friend and I use in a joking manner to make light of a situation. But for many folks it's their overriding sentiment.

Like Dana Carvey's Grumpy Old Man character on the old "Saturday Night Live," there's a large segment out there that thinks that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and that kids, as a whole, aren't what they used to be.

That's why I think Dante Sawyer's story is an important one. Recently, the eighth-grader from Lanier Middle School was featured in the Daily Post sports section for not only his football skills, but his positive off-the-field behavior as well.

While at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl combine, Sawyer found a wallet that contained $360 and no ID. It would have been easy to keep the lost loot -- in fact, some kids urged him to do so -- but Sawyer didn't hesitate in doing the right thing. He turned the wallet in to his coach, who eventually found the owner, a younger kid at the combine.

"I didn't even want to open it," Sawyer said. "I already knew what would happen if I opened it. I took it to my coach as soon as I found it."

It's a decision you hope your son or daughter makes and one that deserves to be lauded again. Sawyer is a big kid -- a hair taller than 6-foot-2 -- who is fast, strong and talented. He'll likely be featured in the Daily Post many more times during his career, but I hope his Good Samaritan act continues to be told as well.

The media is often criticized for highlighting bad acts, but the truth in that accusation comes from the fact that there is so much bad news to be reported. Like most journalists who aren't overly jaded, I'm a sucker for a good story, and Sawyer's is one that deserves to be praised. I hope teachers and coaches who read about him use his story to encourage others to act in the same manner.

"This ought to be a national story," said Gwinnett Football League president Erik Richards, who as the national youth director of Football University was present at the combine. "I put it up on the GFL Web site and I'm getting e-mails left and right.

"We always say things like, 'Kids wouldn't have done that in my day,' and 'Kids are so disrespectful.' But in my years of coaching youth sports I've seen a lot more good kids than bad. The bad eggs are 1 or 2 (percent), and the good eggs are the other 98 (percent)."

Richards is a Duluth resident and longtime youth coach who has four kids of his own, ages 11 to 17. He's around kids on a daily basis, and while he admits not all are angels, Richards said the "kids these days" tag is not fair or accurate.

"As a society, we say kids these days aren't the same," Richards said. "Yeah, they aren't the same. They're faster. They're stronger. They're better.

"And after 22 years in the GFL, I actually think the young students I come in contact with are way more mature than the athletes I coached 20 years ago."

And as Sawyer's recent actions show, there are plenty of kids these days who deserve to be applauded.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.