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Dozens of Toledo area high school youths paid tribute to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by feeding and making blankets for the homeless today.
They also learned about the civil rights movement from legendary University of Toledo quarterback Chuck Ealey, who began his college career in 1968, the same year Mr. King was assassinated.
“It was a very traumatic time and I was thrown into the middle of it,” said Mr. Ealey, whose role as team leader required him to try and keep the peace between his black and white team-mates.
Mr. Ealey, 63, shared his experiences as a black male growing up during the civil rights era, with 53 students who participate in Youth Leadership Toledo. The program provides leadership opportunities for high school sophomores who, as part of their training, must complete various community improvement projects.
Allex Brown, a 15-year-old sophomore at Perrysburg High School, said the program has not only helped her develop better leadership skills, it’s introduced her to new people and environments.
“It’s shaped the way I see things now,” said Ms. Brown, who plays soccer and basketball. “It’s taken me out of my comfort zone."
The students, who meet at different locations each month, visited with Mr. Ealey at downtown Toledo’s Trinity Episcopal Church.
Mr. Ealey, who grew up in Portsmouth, Ohio, led Toledo to 35 consecutive wins from 1969-71 -- a National Collegiate Athletic Association record. Despite his gridiron accomplishments, he was not drafted by the NFL –- which at the time, didn’t believe African Americans were “smart enough” to play quarterback, he said.
Instead, Mr. Ealey signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, of the Canadian Football League, where he led the team to the 60th Grey Cup -– Canada’s equivalent to the Super Bowel.
It was Mr. King who inspired him to never give up on his dreams of being a collegiate and professional quarterback, he said.
“He gave all of us the confidence to believe that we can do anything that we want to, and don’t have to accept anything less,” Mr. Ealey said.
Contact Federico Martinez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.