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FAU Football Players Hit the Classroom to Share Their Stories
June 8, 2017

BOCA RATON, Fla. - Being a collegiate student-athlete is an honor, but one that comes with duties. One such duty is giving back to the college’s community. What happens on the field of play is just a fragment of what goes on in their daily lives. It takes hard work, dedication and a commitment to doing things the right way that makes FAU student-athletes successful athletically, academically and in the real world. In essence, they become role models.

Four members of the FAU football team decided to share their stories with eighth through 12th grade students at Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton on June 2 with the hope of inspiring the students to dream big, never give up and to lead by example. Greg Joseph, “Buddy” Gregory Howell, Jr., Azeez Al-Shaair and De’Andre Johnson each took turns sharing their life’s journey with the students and what it takes to achieve your goals.

“The advice we shared with the students centered on information that has immensely helped us reach college and continue to thrive throughout our college years,” said kicker and graduate student Joseph. “A lot of it was focused on the importance of staying in school, respecting your peers, teachers and mentors. It was basically giving them strategies to effectively manage their time. I definitely think the stories that De’Andre, Azeez and Buddy shared will resonate with them for a long time, and hopefully it will play a role in the students’ future decision making processes.”

These Owls know firsthand the hard work and perseverance needed to achieve their goals and have demonstrated the ability to learn and grow from their hardships to be successful. For example, FAU linebacker Al-Shaair has dealt directly with struggles, which included losing his Tampa, Florida home to fire early in his high school career. Despite this tragedy, he decided, with the help of his mentor and little league coach that he wanted to do things the right way and come out even stronger.

“I had to grow up early. I have two little brothers, one is now 15 and one’s 16. I remember being 14 and being the man of the house,” said Al-Shaair. “(I) had to try to find a way to provide for my family. I had to try to make something out of nothing but try to do it the right way. I’ve seen so many people go down the wrong path. It’s easy to do the wrong things because you see quick money, but it’s not the right thing, and I wanted to be different than everyone else.”

Al-Shaair and his fellow teammates recognize the importance of having someone along your journey who can help guide you in the right direction. They have proven the importance of being an outlet for the students, imparting valuable life lessons with the goal of making a positive impact on their future choices.

“It was a pleasure having these four players come and speak with our students about the importance of a good education, strong work ethic and their lives as collegiate student-athletes,” said Illana Joseph, assistant principal and math department chair at Donna Klein. “These players were stand up young men who delivered a positive message to the youth of our community.”

FAU Athletics strives to enhance the experience of student-athletes and members of the community through their efforts on and off the field. This mission is echoed by those student-athletes who look to make a lasting mark on FAU and the surrounding community.

“I love getting out in the community and trying to use the platform I have as a student-athlete to make any type of positive change, even if it is small,” said Joseph. “I consider the players that came with me to be leaders, and they want to see change in the community as well. There is a sense of pride coming from the program, and we as players are excited to share and spread that pride throughout South Florida. We want to help fans feel that same sense of pride when they come out to watch and support us on the field or in anything we do.”

FAU football will kick off its 2017 season and home slate, under the direction of Head Coach Lane Kiffin, on Friday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. versus Navy, a game that will air on ESPNU and be carried on ESPN West Palm 106.3 FM. For season tickets, please call 1-866-FAU-OWLS or visit

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