A trip to the east side of Cleveland had Browns outside linebacker Christian Kirksey thinking about his younger years and his path to professional football.
So Kirksey, who helped headline a field dedication ceremony at Cleveland Metropolitan School District's Bump Taylor Stadium on Friday afternoon, stressed the importance of academics to those gathered, including football players at Glenville and East Tech High Schools who faced off later that evening.
"I wasn't the smartest but I worked hard in the classroom because that's where it started at. I couldn't be on this beautiful field if it wasn't for the classroom and getting my grades right," said Kirksey, who played college football at Iowa.
"That's the first and that's the most important thing, that schoolwork. Because once you get to college, you have to uphold a certain GPA and if you don't, you won't see the field. As much as you're working hard on the field, you've got to work as hard in the classroom."
Bump Taylor Field is one of five CMSD sites that will have synthetic turf installed through a two-year project made possible by Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns Foundation.
The project, which was announced this past May, aims to support education, athletics and youth football and unify local communities that will use the stadiums for all sorts of purposes.
Roye Kidd Stadium, James F. Rhodes Stadium and Bump Taylor Stadium have been completed for the start of the 2016 high school football season, while John Adams Stadium and John Marshall Stadium will be renovated in 2017. The Browns have also provided new 25-foot scoreboards that will be installed as gifts at all five fields.
Kirksey was impressed by the club's efforts.
"Your field looks just as good as ours," he said, laughing. "One day we may come on the field and play."
The Cleveland Browns are committed to assisting the development, safety and growth of youth and high school football throughout Northeast Ohio with year-round programming for players, coaches, officials and parents. Through camps, clinics and other initiatives, the Browns' goal is to promote healthy, social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of youth by enhancing opportunities for youth football participation and education.
The Browns are dedicated to #give10 through the team's First and Ten initiative. Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign is the team's community program, established to inspire fans to volunteer in and help their communities throughout the world by volunteering for 10 hours each year.
Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual's city across the globe, as well as the franchise's local community. All Browns fans are encouraged to join the volunteering effort by signing the First and Ten pledge on the team's website and by sharing their stories with #give10.