In town for the Super Bowl, motivational speaker Eric Thomas visited two local high schools, South Gwinnett and Shiloh, to give early-morning speeches this week.
Most known for a speech that the Miami Heat used in a video while LeBron James played in South Beach, Thomas is very popular in sports circles across the country.
He spoke to students at both schools for an hour each Wednesday while in Atlanta during Super Bowl week for the NFL Experience’s youth division.
Students received some big promises from Thomas — if South Gwinnett students in attendance go to school for every day the rest of the semester and turn in every assignment in each class, he will give them each $1,000 to put towards college tuition.
“I decided instead of only doing the one-day event I do for the NFL Experience, that I would come few days early and give multiple schools in the Atlanta metro area an opportunity to get the same message that I was going to give to the NFL Experience,” Thomas said.
His goal during speeches are to either help children go to college, pick a trade, go to the military or be productive with their lives.
He has spoken to countless sports teams. Some teams to hear speeches from Thomas are the Alabama football team before their 2018 season, Auburn football in 2010 when it won the national title and Loyola-Chicago during its 2018 NCAA Final Four run.
Thomas, however, pushes harder for high school students. That’s because he thinks they’re more likely to not have not have a vision or goals developed.
“You can tell in the beginning, some kids are like, ‘I don’t necessarily want to be in an auditorium listening to a motivational speaker,’” Thomas said. “But once I get going and they realize that I’m there for them, and you see that spark in their eyes (they’re) like, ‘yeah, I need to put forth more effort,’ and when you see that and that fire in their eyes, when you see that spark, you just get excited.”
The key message was for students to form good habits because good habits placed him in the position he’s in to succeed in life, regardless of his talent level, he said.
Thomas grew up without his father and a large access to resources. He needed support from others to get a college education, so he offered his help.
“I got through college by middle class people and my circle of influence blessing me,” Thomas said. “I didn’t have the money to go to school. So throughout my entire academic career, philanthropists who have taken an interest in me, then blessed me financially. And I want to do for others what was done for me.”
Students talked to and took pictures with Thomas for more than 10 minutes after he finished, exchanging social media accounts. As long as his speeches are in demand and people respond to them, Thomas says he will continue to give them.