Stephen Carlson knows how much dedication and time must be put on schoolwork in order to reach lofty life goals.
Carlson, a Princeton grad and tight end for the Browns, has used a strong work ethic all his life to graduate from an Ivy League school and reach his third season in the NFL.
He shared some of his advice with third and fourth grade students from Wade Park School in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, on Tuesday, which was Tackle Reading Across America Day, and read "Every Good Thing," a children's book about courage, perseverance and self-respect, by Derrick Barnes. Carlson's reading and conversation was a part of the Cleveland Browns Foundation's "Stay in the Game! Keep Learning, Every Day!", which is a statewide network to keep kids in school and engaged, every day, so they can succeed—in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education and Proving Ground housed at Harvard University. In the 2020-21 school year, the "Stay in the Game!" Network partners with 16 school districts, benefitting more than 110,000 students in Ohio.
"I'm happy to be here, and I'm excited for Read Across America Day," Carlson said to the class. "You can't learn if you're not logged on and doing your schoolwork every day, so I applaud you all for doing that."
After the reading, Carlson answered questions from the class about his life as a student and how he strived to become a professional football player. He answered questions about what his favorite subjects were (math and science), how he uses reading and writing in football and how much he enjoyed attending Princeton.
Carlson's last question and most important response came from one of the last questions he was asked: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to become a professional athlete?
"I think it would be to push through your doubts and focus on your dreams and your goals," he said. "When I was really young, I never thought I could be an NFL player just because not many people around me were. People would tell me all the time how hard it was to be an NFL player."
Carlson delivered one last piece of advice he hopes each student will carry with them throughout their academic careers that also drives home the point of staying in school and participating in class every day.
"If you love something, you just have to work toward it and put everything you can towards it and be consistent," he said. "My advice would be to not let other people tell you what you can and can't do. Anything you set your mind to, you can do."