BRISTOL - Since self-quarantining laws have been enacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plenty of people have been adjusting to communicating over video calls. Whether it is for work or communicating with friends and family, group video calls have become an easy way for group of people to congregate virtually.
One field where this has become increasingly important is schools as students and teachers have been unable to meet in person since early March. While trying to take classes over a video chat might be less engaging than a true classroom experience, a group of freshmen at St. Paul was able to spend a class period learning from a special alumni.
One digital literacy class was joined by Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones over Zoom, a video conferencing app, to answer questions about his life. The students addressed topics such as his football career, his decision to attend St. Paul, his track and field career at the high school and the process to becoming an NFL player.
“He was extremely warm and welcoming to the students,” said Melissa Lindquist, a marketing and communications associate for the school. “When Ryan, a student in the class, said ‘I’m still in shock, I’m talking to an All-Pro defensive back right now,’ Byron said, ‘just an average person you’re talking to.’”
Jones also recorded a short video for the entire St. Paul student body in which he told them to remain resilient and do their best to learn from and learn during this experience.
“I’m hoping you guys are still in good spirits,” Jones said in the video. “Just attack this challenge and understand that it will get better in a couple of months. Continue to learn, educate yourself. Don’t stay stagnant. You have plenty of resources, so don’t be afraid to reach out if you need something.”
Jones also passed along advice he used during his St. Paul days to students that didn’t just pertain to the football field or athletics.
“My favorite quote from Byron was when Vanessa [another student in the class] asked him, ‘how did you get into football and how did you get to where you are today,’” Lindquist said. “Byron responded, ‘One thing I’ve been passionate about all along is being better today than I was yesterday. Small incremental improvements every day and if you do that over the course of the year, that’s 365 days a year. Do that over the course of a couple of years, you’re taking about thousands of days that I forced myself to be better today than I was the day before.’”
That philosophy has worked for Jones, who is also a New Britain native. He attended UConn after graduating from in St. Paul in 2010 and was then selected in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. He became the highest paid cornerback in the NFL on March 16 when he and the Dolphins agreed to a five-year $82.5 million contract.
“It’s great Byron visited us during distance learning and provided great motivation for our students,” said Cary Dupont, St. Paul’s President and Chief Administrator. “This isn’t the first time Byron has come back to visit St. Paul. He’s stopped by several times over the years during the football offseason to say hello to teachers or coaches and speak with students or attend a basketball game. Byron was an impressive student-athlete when he attended St. Paul. We are most grateful that he continues to find time to give back in many ways.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org