Former NFL linebacker and vice president of business development with the Woodlands Development Company Gerald D. Irons, spoke at the Sam Houston State University President’s Speaker Series yesterday.
Present at the event, President Dana G. Hoyt emphasized the goal of the thirteen-year-old series to be establishing an environment where speakers with an impactful message can be invited to share their motivational accounts with students and the university.
Head SHSU football coach K.C Keeler introduced Irons by listing some of his accomplishments and presenting a video of Iron’s aspirations realized throughout the years.
As the youngest of seven siblings, Irons had a lot to look up to.
“Well first of all, at birth I was 14 pounds—that was pretty difficult.” Irons said. “I was always expected to wait for my siblings to come home from school. I would use this time to think about what I wanted to do when I grew up.”
However, Irons confessed that he had a few rough years when he was younger while in school. He was always in trouble and his grades were under par.
The turning point for Irons and his behavior came the final time he was expelled from school as there had been plenty of times before that. The principal told his mother that he would not be allowed to return anymore.
“My mother actually started crying in the principal’s office, begging him to please let me come back to school,” Irons said. “I told my mother ‘Listen I’m going to promise you and I’m going to promise myself, this is the last time you cry for me. If you cry for me again it will only be happy tears’ and from that point on, I made sure my mother only cried happy tears where I was concerned.”
One of the childhood memories he shared which he said motivated him to become an exceptional football player was a conversation he overhead between his parents one day while he was in high school which revealed that his father would have to work past retirement to send him to college.
“My heart, it felt heavy when I heard that,” Irons said. “I went up to my coach and asked him what a scholarship was, where I signed up and what I had to do.”
By the end of the summer after he graduated high school, Irons had attained a full football scholarship to the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Instead of embarking on the usual route that many athletes took, he pursued a business degree and obtained it. He was soon drafted by the Oakland Raiders and played for them for six years.
During every subsequent off-season, Irons attended the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business and earned his MBA.
Irons was later traded to the Cleveland Browns during which time he attended law school at John Marshall Law School at night.
“I was in seventh grade and my teacher went around the room and asked each of us what we wanted to be when we grew up,” Irons said. “When it got to my turn, I said I wanted to be a professional football player and the teacher interrupted me and tried moving on to the next person. But I told her ‘wait, I’m not done. I also want to be a businessman, a lawyer, get married and have kids.’ My teacher said that that wasn’t humanly impossible and that I wouldn’t be able to do all those things.”
Irons admitted that he was discouraged for some time after that but not for very long.
“I find that I always think back to that day and how everyone made fun of me,” Irons said. “I thought about what she said and it motivated me to work harder to prove them wrong.”
Irons has been married to his high school sweetheart for 45 years and attributes most of his success to his wife along with his parents.
He authored the book, “When Preparation Meets Opportunity” in order to give back and help others prepare for their goals.
“Sometimes you have to find something within yourself to make better,” Irons said. “It takes work. It takes time. It takes effort. It’s all about hard work and never ever giving up.”