Dent delivers lesson on life, anti-drug message to students

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 7, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / October 7, 2000

LAPLACE – Seventh-graders in Kathy Cambre’s science class at Glade School learned a lot about dreams, ambitions and the dangers of drugs from someone who knows what it is like to attain a goal.

The Rev. Burnell Dent of the New Foundation for Life Baptist Church inLaPlace lectured Cambre’s students on how important it is to work hard and strive for your dreams.

Dent is living proof that dreams and goals can come true. For eight years heplayed professional football with the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants before he got the calling to join the ministry.

“I am a living witness that you can attain your dreams,” Dent told the seventh-graders.

Sometimes jovial, sometimes stern, Dent gave a rousing speech to the students, telling them how his dream of playing pro ball kept him going from high school to college and finally, to the pros. Even during his hardest time,when he injured his knees while playing for Tulane University, he said his faith in himself, in God and in his dream kept him going.

“Finding a direction,” Dent said, “keeps you focused and off the street and off drugs. It gave me a chance to live life with hope.”Dent was very excited to be talking to these youngsters. He said this time ofa teen’s life is the most important.

“These years will either break you or make you,” Dent said. “Now is the timewhen you recognize your talents, your dreams and your drive. Here is whereyou find your direction.”Dent found his direction when he was in junior high growing up in St. Rose. Hediscovered he had a talent for sports, especially football, and he decided he was going to go pro.

“Football was a blessing to me. It helped me to find my true mission in life.Just having that dream kept me going,” Dent said. “I wasn’t going to letnothing mess up my chance.”While at Destrehan High School he became the school’s all-time tackler, a record he still holds today. Colleges noticed him, and he got a full scholarshipto Tulane, where he excelled as a defensive lineman.

“I was too scared to do anything bad,” said Dent. “I was too scared of jail, butI thank God for that fear. It kept me going.”He told the kids this generation doesn’t have enough fear of parents, teachers and authority figures in general, and he feels it has led a lot of kids in the wrong direction.

“If you aren’t motivated by a dream, it is easy to be motivated by other things like drugs and crime,” Dent told the class. “Life is a gift from God, andwhat you do with your life is your gift to God.”While at Tulane Dent had surgery on ligaments in his knees and his coaches were doubtful about his future in the game. But Dent kept telling himself hecould do it.

Then in the fourth round of the NFL draft he got a call from Forest Gregg of the Packers telling him the good news.

As No. 56 for the Packers, Dent said he had a good career. He didn’t win anySuper Bowl rings, but he said the career was good to him. When his kneesfinally gave up on him, he said he got the calling from God and he went into the ministry.

“Life is not about getting high,” Dent admonished the students. “Drugs willinfluence you to do crazy things and lead to behavior with no direction.”He also told the class to keep up their grades, because, even if you play football these days, colleges expect athletes to maintain at least a “C” average.

“Your GPA is very important in order to play ball in college,” Dent said.

He also told the young men that if they wanted to be recognized by colleges for their football prowess, they had better do it by their sophomore year.

“You have to work long and hard to realize a dream,” said Dent.

Dent said he really loves talking to young people about life and realizing one’s goals.

“The kids today need positive role models,” Dent said. “And if I can encouragejust one student to go down the right path, this is all worth it.”Dent will be giving lectures every Thursday at the Glade School for the next three weeks.

He said he is always open for lectures to young people and can be reached at 653-8040.

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