TROY – The last time Oklahoma State University cornerback Martel VanZant visited Troy University, it was last Sept. 14, playing before one of the largest crowds in Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium history.
Tuesday, VanZant returned to TROY not to play football, but to address a smaller but intense crowd gathered in Claudia Crosby Theatre for the 13th annual Helen Keller Lecture. His message: teamwork, attitude and leadership are cornerstones to overcoming adversity.
“The three lessons in life I feel are important are teamwork, a good attitude, and leadership,” VanZant said.
On and off the field, VanZant, who is deaf and speaks with the aid of a sign language interpreter, said it was important to continually stress those points – especially displaying a good attitude.
“A good attitude reflects yourself on others,” VanZant said. “If you have a good attitude toward someone, they will continue with that attitude toward others.”
He also told attendees that many disabled athletes don’t get the recognition they deserve and a main focus for him was “tying together the disabled” with mainstream habits in athletics and society.
“Whatever challenges you face, look to those who have inspired you because you may inspire someone else,” VanZant said.
The program also included the musical talents of Josh McInnish, an eighth grader at Ashford High School who plays percussion for the marching band.
McInnish was born legally blind and has undergone approximately 20 surgeries. He has appeared on the ABC program Miracle Workers and has participated in his first Sonatina Festival, sponsored by the Wiregrass Music Teachers Forum.
The Helen Keller lecture is designed to promote awareness of people who excel in their chosen fields despite physical and/or mental limitations.
The lecture series is sponsored by Troy University, and co-sponsored by the Alabama Department of Education, the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, the Janice Capilouto Center for the Deaf/Easter Seals and the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.