Sam Houston Elementary School fifth-graders got a treat Friday when former Tennessee Titan Mike Jones spoke about setting goals and achieving them.
Jones, a Lebanon resident, said he has been speaking to young people to motivate them for "years and years."
"I've been doing this since college," he said. "My wife and I have been asked to share with young people. It was also big with the Titans' organization."
To the children, Jones encouraged them to do their best academically. Many of the students were wearing "Mission Possible" T-shirts to represent their goal to graduate and make something of their lives.
"You take your Mission Possible seriously," Jones said.
Learning Leader Julie Whitefield said Sam Houston administrators came up with the Mission Possible theme at the beginning of the school year when teachers realized this year's fifth-graders would be graduating in 2020.
"We started 2020 Mission Possible for all the fifth-graders to encourage them to set academic goals for themselves like learning their multiplication tables," she said. "One of our goals we set was to have guest speakers come in to influence students to be goal oriented."
Jones began his talk by telling the students, "eyes up" and getting their complete attention. He was soft spoken and positive, and, as a former lineman, so big he appeared to have each child's undivided attention.
"I used to be known as a Tennessee Titan," he told the students. "Now I'm known as Coco Jones' dad."
Coco Jones is a rising star on the Disney Channel, and the kids appeared to know her better than her dad.
"When I speak to kids, it's not just me telling you things," he said. "I think of it as taking you on a trip to the future."
He talked about when he was 15, and he "wanted to show my parents I was a responsible adult" so he could drive.
Jones said the future was up to them if they set goals and strived to reach them. He said the first step is succeeding in school.
"Someday one of your classmates could be the mayor, and they could say 'put snack machines back in the schools,'" Jones said. "You can have a bright future, but there are conditions to that future. No matter what you decide to do - fireman, chef or mayor, you've got to want to challenge yourself in academics."
He said he recalled his own classmates who didn't understand the importance of academics and now are less than successful as a result.
"It's important that you do the right thing right now to be in position for the future," Jones said. "Your parents will need you like you need them right now."
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.