Sports speakers are always a popular choice for high school and college commencement proceedings around the country. This graduation cycle has been no exception, with several of the world's top athletes taking the stage to impart wisdom on the Class of 2019.
With the commencement season winding down, there are several highlights to look over from these powerful speeches.
One of the most talked about speeches around the country was given by Houston Texans star J.J. Watt at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. Watt vouched that he would not prewrite his speech and he delivered with a memorable 23-minute presentation.
Watt touched on his humanitarian efforts in Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey as a way to inspire others to do good.
"Tomorrow when you wake up, probably around like 2 p.m., you're going to begin a journey toward new dreams," Watt said. "You're going to have new goals. You're going to have new things you want to accomplish. As you go along that journey toward your new dreams, remember to help a few people out along the way. Remember to try to change the world for the better as you go."
J.J. Watt's Commencement Speech at Wisconsin:
Another NFL star from a Big Ten school also joined in on the fun. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins headed back to campus in Lansing to speak at Michigan State.
Cousins received an honorary doctorate of humanities in addition to addressing the graduating Spartans. Much like Watt, his message centered on the importance of personal character.
"It's who – not what – that will count most for you," said Cousins. "Your joy in life moving forward will come far more from who you do life with, than from what you do."
Kirk Cousins Michigan State Commencement Speech:
In addition to active sports stars who spoke at commencements, several legendary coaches also took speaking engagements across the country. Baseball Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre gave a graduation talk at Skidmore College.
Torre was able to share a unique message due to a career spent dealing with some of the most talented players in baseball history. His speech prepared the graduates of Skidmore for a life of leadership.
“One thing I learned over the years, to be a leader, you have to listen a lot,” said Torre. “You can’t treat people all the same because they’re all different. You’ve got to put in the time. We wanted to get someplace, the postseason and World Series. Pretty much everybody committed to that. I just kept reminding them, ‘We all have to pull in the same direction.’”
College Football Hall of Famer Lou Holtz also garnered notoriety for his work as a coach. He has since become a popular motivational speaker and his presentation this year at King's College was the 14th commencement address he has given.
The former Notre Dame football coach spoke to the graduates of the Catholic school about the role faith has had in his life. He also shared some sage advice for overcoming obstacles.
“You’re never going to get to a point where you don’t have problems,” Holtz said. “Learn to handle them and cope with them.”
While all of these addresses were pre-planned, one group of graduating students got the shock of their lives. Recently retired Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade spoke at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School commencement.
Wade has visited Douglas since last year's shooting that claimed the lives of 17 students. He talked about what the school had gone through, what his trip to campus the day that it re-opened meant to him and left the students with some words to carry them into the future.
"Today, you will close a chapter in your lives and embark on new experiences and journeys and memories," said Wade. "And it's a time to celebrate and be proud of everything you've done to make it to this moment. As you know, I, too, recently closed a pretty significant chapter in my life. So in a way I feel like I can relate to what's going on in your minds right now."
Dwyane Wade's Commencement Address at Douglas High School:
Other Sports Speakers Who Gave 2019 Commencement Addresses:
Terry Bradshaw - Louisiana Tech
Eric Hipple - Utah State University
Magic Johnson - Attollo Prep
Kyle Korver - Creighton University
Devin and Jason McCourty - Rutgers University
Mike Sweeney - Benedictine College
Alejandro Villanueva - Saint Vincent College
Ed Werder - University of Northern Colorado
Dominique Wilkins - Morris Brown College
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