Former San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Burt Grossman has been honored as the 2011 NFL Teacher of the Year, an award that recognizes former NFL players who have become educators.
Grossman, who is co-director of a program targeting at-risk youth at Hoover High School in San Diego, was chosen by a panel of educators and civic leaders that included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and will receive a $5,000 award. The NFL also will present a $5,000 grant to Hoover High School.
Grossman, 44, started at Hoover last September in the "Cardinals Connect" program designed to provide the neediest kids at the inner-city school with the wherewithal to succeed in school and in life. He doesn't teach classes but rather works as a sort of life-skills coach, said assistant principal Andreas Trakas, who also runs the program.
"He works with the kid on developing trust, communications skills, helping the kids get a little off their plate," Trakas told NFL.com. "We're talking about kids with a lot of issues."
The program is a partnership with San Diego nonprofit Able Disabled Advocacy, and Grossman has helped bring in about $200,000 in grant money for "Cardinals Connect."
"He's a key piece in a big puzzle about building communication, getting the kids connected and keeping them connected all the way through ...," Trakas said. "(The award) is the least we can do for someone who brings so much to our campus. For us to bring a guy of Burt's caliber here, to this program, it means a lot to us."
In his essay nominating Grossman for the award, Trakas wrote" "Mr. Grossman has helped change the culture of our high school. Students who have issues both at home and school know that they have a connection with someone who cares and who can make a difference for them. ... I have seen Mr. Grossman use his unique and effective skills of communicating to students about 'raising their collective bar' personally, socially, as well as academically.
"His ability to share his own personal experience in order to develop a connection with some of our most challenging students and building trust and support has been a benefit to our school and community. He has gone as far as taking one of our homeless football players into his home to live, and has helped him do a complete 180 degree turn; (the student) has now accepted a full athletic scholarship to the University of Arizona."
"We couldnât be more proud of Burt and his success with the students at Hoover High School," said A.G. Spanos, the Chargers' executive vice president and executive officer. "As an organization, itâs always exciting to see former players make an impact in academics and help our future leaders of tomorrow achieve success."
Said Goodell: "Former NFL players who transition to careers in education are able to use the values they learned on the football field -- integrity, preparation and persistence -- and carry them over into the classroom. We honor these former NFL players for their dedication to the profession of teaching."
The NFL Teacher of the Year Award has been presented since 1990 as an opportunity for players to honor teachers who made huge impacts in their lives, and the program now invites school administrators to nominate former NFL players who have become educators.
Grossman was in Washington this week for a panel discussion featuring U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the value of teaching.
The Chargers took Grossman, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound lineman who played at the University of Pittsburgh, with the No. 8 overall selection in the 1989 draft. (Among those taken before him: Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.) He registered 38 sacks in five seasons in San Diego -- 10 in both his first and second years -- and played for the Eagles in 1994 before retiring.
Among the 10 finalists for the award were former Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Troy Drayton (Forest Glen Middle School in Coral Springs, Fla.) and former Detroit Lions fullback Cory Schlesinger (Allen Park, Mich., High School).