Roman Gabriel III: Kids need role models to make right choices

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2012

By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — Many things in Roman Gabriel III’s message are familiar.
Give kids role models. Give them something to do. Have parents buy into the efforts to keep them away from drugs and alcohol. Have school assemblies, with strong video messages. Keep up with them on Facebook and Twitter.
But the most refreshing, positive thing Gabriel says could easily be construed as a negative. But it has to be said, until it sinks in.
We’re raising quitters. Coddled, entitled quitters.
The first time kids run into adversity these days, they quit, Gabriel says, describing the entitlement society we have created where every kid expects a trophy no matter how he or she has performed.
When they confront failure or don’t have something to keep their attention, they give up too easily, and things such as alcohol and drugs eventually step in as a crutch.
Then they lose hope.
That’s too simplified, I know, but for too long we’ve allowed kids to go undisciplined, disrespectful, unaccountable and, worst of all, aimless and too willing to give up.
“It’s not OK to be average,” Gabriel told a room full of law enforcement, coaches, principals and community leaders Tuesday at Hendrix Barbecue on West Innes Street.
There’s nothing wrong with this generation of kids, Gabriel emphasized, but “there’s something wrong with this generation of parents.”
Terry Osborne, general manager for the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC Board, has been meeting in recent weeks with Gabriel, 51-year-old son of N.C. State University and National Football League legend Roman Gabriel, to flesh out a possible drug and alcohol education program for Rowan County students.
Gabriel’s non-profit Sold Out Youth Ministries has established the program in the High Country school systems of Watauga, Avery and Ashe counties and expects to expand it into Wilkes, Mitchell and Yancey counties.
Rowan County could be a candidate, too, but it would take $50,000 to $100,000 of community support to get it started, Gabriel said Tuesday.
“I plan to be here quite a bit,” he added.
Sold Out promotes alcohol and drug abstinence. The messages come from college and professional athletes, soldiers and entertainers from all kinds of backgrounds, with all kinds of stories.
Some of the themes in the messages: How should you be accountable? How should you resist peer pressure? How do you handle failure? Why should you respect teachers, parents and coaches?
Gabriel said kids should know that, yes, they are special, they have potential and they’re loved and cared for. They also should know they have talents and abilities. With that comes a responsibility to find out what they are, put them to work and realize failure is part of the process to success, Gabriel says.
Gabriel’s quarterback father, who starred with the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL, usually signed autographs with the phrase that a champion gives 110 percent, not 100 percent.
Appalachian State University football coach Jerry Moore tells kids to always give more than what people expect.
The “Sold Out” name of his youth ministry also speaks to a complete commitment, Gabriel said.
“Just telling a kid ‘no’ doesn’t work,” he added.
Sold Out has done pre-prom assemblies in high schools and rallies at middle schools. It stresses participation in extra-curricular activities, from sports to band and theater. It asks students to take a pledge of alcohol and drug abstinence and become followers of its Facebook page, which has numerous message videos from athletes and coaches.
Gabriel finds it disturbing that kids, on average, are spending 7.5 hours a day with television, on the Internet and with their cell phones. But he also realizes we have to use that technology to reach them.
Appalachian State and Watauga County Schools combined on a four-year study showing 15 percent of high school students considered suicide during a 12-month period.
The top answer on why teens were led to suicidal thoughts, or even attempted suicides, was “a lack of hope,” Gabriel said. Drugs and alcohol often were connected.
“That’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard,” Gabriel said.
Tuesday’s lunchtime crowd at Hendrix Barbecue included Sheriff Kevin Auten and Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins. The Sold Out program would be in addition to any DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), GREAT (Gang Resistance Education And Training) and PAL (Police Athletic Leagues) that law enforcement are now sponsoring.
Several coaches also were part of the crowd, including West Rowan High head football coach Scott Young and Catawba head football coach Chip Hester.
Gabriel lives in Boone with his wife, Marsha, who also attended Tuesday’s luncheon. He played college football at the University of New Mexico, was part of the 1982 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and was a professional quarterback for the Oakland Raiders in the NFL and the Boston Breakers in the USFL.
He also coached tight ends and receivers at Arizona Western.
A radio show host on American Family Radio, Gabriel has covered the last 17 Super Bowls. He describes himself as an evangelist, church and school motivational speaker.
“We have to give hope to our kids,” Gabriel said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@