On Friday, one of the students in our BAGS after school program sent me a link to an article written in the summer of 1999 for The News-Gazette, an east central Illinois newspaper.  That was during my professional football days with the Indianapolis Colts. The student included a note along with the link to the article informing me that he knows I used to fight.  This young man has been in and out of the BAGS program as he’s moved between foster homes – his temper gets the best of him and he has a history of fighting. We’ve talked about him controlling his temper, and apparently after a little bit of googling, he was happy to throw it back in my face that he discovered I was a fighter as well. Here’s the portion of the article he was referring to: Bad blood. What would training camp be without a few fights? Rams running back Greg Hill and Colts defensive back Nakia Reddick obliged Thursday morning with a brief scuffle. The officials jumped in before anybody got hurt. “We’re here together working to get better,” Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning said. “But you’ve still got competitors all over the field. When you’re out here, even though it’s practice, you still treat it like a game.” I flashed back almost 15 years and remembered that scuffle.  I knew this was a great opportunity to connect and share some of my life experience with him.  I believe that life teaches you what you need to know… and Google… apparently you can learn anything from Google. I replied to the young man and told him that on that day, I was fighting for my team, my family and my livelihood and that’s the same passion I’m fighting for him with. At the BAGS Foundation we help teens gain skills in self-control, decision-making, problem solving, listening and communication.  Many of our students come from broken homes and the foster care system and have volatile backgrounds. The most important thing we can do for these kids is provide an environment where they’re comfortable to ask questions and have an open-dialogue about the things they’re dealing with in their lives. Although my student’s email caught me off guard, I felt proud he was comfortable enough to send it. Technology has made the world a much smaller place where privacy is non-existent.  We should all remember to demonstrate to the teens in our life – through our words and actions – that violence is never an acceptable form of behavior.  And, be mindful of the things you say, do and post on your social networks.  The young people in your life aren’t just looking up to you… they’re googling you, too.
-Nakia Reddick
BAGS Foundation CT, Executive Director