Their professional playing careers span five different decades, and on the surface, it may not seem like they have much in common.
But on Thursday morning in Arlington Heights, Dave Corzine, Mike Myers, Brian McBride, Tom Zbikowski and Tom Nelson shared one thing: they were all recipients of the Pride of the Wolf Pack Award at Thomas Middle School.
Corzine, McBride, Zbikowski and Nelson all spoke to the student body about the importance of hard work and dedication, no matter your walk of life.
Although none of them attended Thomas at the same time, they all had a hand in influencing one another.
Zbikowski, the former All-American at Notre Dame and recent recipient of a three-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts, talked about the impact McBride had on him and other athletes in the area while growing up.
“He set the bar,” Zbikowski said. “What other competition do you need to look at when there is someone from your own backyard who has made it that far? For me, it’s just knowing that someone can reach those peaks, that those things can be accomplished. The next generation always has to top the previous one. He set the bar high so until I do the things that he’s done, you can’t feel satisfied.”
McBride, who just finished up a stellar playing career with the Chicago Fire and played in the English Premier League and for the U.S. National Team, said he had never gotten the chance to talk much to the other guys before the assembly but recognized his place as a role model in the community to young athletes.
“Once you start playing professionally, you look at it and have to be aware of it,” McBride said. “Hopefully, you don’t have to make many changes and you can be the person that you are. If not, you have to understand the pressures of what that is while still being yourself.”
The most special part of the morning was when McBride’s sixth-grade daughter, Ashley, introduced him to the rest of the students with the rest of the McBride family looking on.
“Seeing how poised and how confident she is, it was great,” McBride said. “I loved it. There’s a parental proudness there.”
Nelson, a safety who signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles in December, is the youngest of the group, having graduated in 2001. He had no problem putting himself in the other kids’ shoes.
“It’s great,” Nelson said. “The school looks a little different but it’s awesome being back seeing the kids and where you were at some point in your life and trying to remember the thoughts that went through your head.”
Corzine, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, including seven with the Bulls, works at DePaul as an Assistant to the Athletics Director for Community Outreach. As a player, he was the school’s all-time leading rebounder and third all-time leading scorer.
Despite living in the area and driving by the school occasionally, the 7-footer hadn’t been inside Thomas since he graduated 42 years ago. Corzine was appreciative of the opportunity to deliver a positive message.
“Every time that I get in with young kids, their energy and enthusiasm for life is great,” Corzine said. “Hopefully we were able to give them a little bit of guidance. The biggest thing is for them to keep that attitude, have fun and enjoy things.”
The final honoree was Myers, who pitched 13 seasons in the big leagues as a lefty specialist and finished his career in 2007 with the White Sox.
And though Myers was unable to attend as he lives in Colorado and coaches high school baseball, he will forever be a part of a strong tradition in athletics at Thomas.
Nelson summed up the history of the school’s athletics best, describing the feeling that opposing teams must get when they see supersized Fathead posters of five professional athletes lining the Thomas gymnasium.
“It’s pretty sweet,” Nelson said. “I’m proud to be part of it. (Thomas) is a powerhouse. This school just produces. I love it.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.