Levar Fisher didn't come to Tamaqua to tell students what to do with their lives.
Instead, the former National Football League linebacker wants them to freeze and think about that for themselves.
Fisher spoke to Tamaqua Elementary, middle and high school students Wednesday as part of an anti-bullying and healthy living program.
Wearing the black and gold jersey number 54 of the New Orleans Saints, his last NFL team, the 31 year-old Fisher told stories of his career and the decisions he made along the way, good and bad, as he fulfilled his dream of playing professional football.
"There are no winners or losers in this room. Everyone in this room is a chooser," Fisher told the Tamaqua Area High School audience assembled in the district auditorium.
Fisher attended East Carteret High School in Beaufort, North Carolina and earned a football scholarship to North Carolina State University. With the Wolfpack, Fisher emerged as one of the nation's top linebackers, leading the country in tackles per game with 15.1 in 2000.
Fisher's collegiate honors included Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year (2000), First Team All-ACC (2000-01), All American (2000-01) and Academic All American (2000). He was a Butkus Award semifinalist (for the nation's top collegiate linebacker) in 2000-01 and a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation's top defensive player in 2000.
After his career at N.C. State, where he registered 492 tackles in four years as a starter, Fisher was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft. He played with the Cardinals and later joined the Saints before a knee injury ended his NFL run.
Fisher has embarked on a career as a motivational speaker, and his main theme at Tamaqua centered on thinking before acting. He gave his student listeners the benefits of his hard-earned experience.
"Freeze and think about the consequences," Fisher repeated several times, becoming almost like a mantra. "That freeze can save your life. It can save you from hurt, harm and danger."
Instead of throwing a punch, think of the harm it could cause if a person is permanently injured, he warned. He cautioned girls about falling thoughtlessly for the advances of males, noting his own sister became pregnant at age 14 and made her life much more difficult by having to raise his niece while still a teenager.
His own football ambitions could have been derailed while still in high school. He recalled a bad decision to go along with a friend in taking possessions from another's apartment. When the owner showed up unexpectedly in the middle of the caper, Fisher fled and escaped, but the others involved were shot, one fatally.
On another occasion, a friend showed up in a new car after a football practice and wanted Fisher to party with him. "All I could hear in my mind was my mother saying not to get in that car," he recalled. Fisher declined and was spared when the friend got in trouble later that night, costing the friend his life in an accident.
"Every decision that we make, it has a consequence," stressed Fisher.
He recalled that as a kid, he was small and fat, but he had a dream of playing in the NFL, something no one from his small town had ever done.
"If your dream is big enough, the facts don't matter," he said. "It starts right now with your dream. Right now. Next year is too late. Your senior year is too late."
It isn't always easy to pursue one's dreams, however.
"It's not if you fail, but when you fail, and if you are going to get up," he remarked. "You are going to go through adversity. The difference between a winner and a loser is that the winner gets up one more time."
Fisher said there are dream-makers and dream-takers in life. He mentioned that his mother was a dream-maker, who always supported him and built him up.
As for dream-takers, he mentioned a bully who ridiculed him in front of others because of his NFL aspirations. Fisher thought about quitting, but his father told him, "if you quit, you'll never know what could have been."
Later, after he signed his pro contract, Fisher said he drove his new car to a Burger King, where the former bully was now taking his fast food order.
"I wish I could go back and thank that guy," related Fisher, expressing how the taunts of the bully served as motivation for him on his path to pro football.
Fisher also mentioned that cyber-bullying can also have fatal consequences and warned once again about freezing to consider the consequences.
"Everybody had done things in life that you wish you could take back, but you can't," he stated. "That freeze can alter your life and can change your future."
Fisher also presented the school with his "Freeze Campaign" T-shirt as a reminder to consider the results on one's actions.