It's been almost twenty years since Brandon Mebane graduated from Audubon Middle School.
Although his ceremony was held at USC, Audubon's Class of 2018's was held on the same Eagles field that he used to frequent.
On Thursday, Mebane took a trip and returned to his roots in Los Angeles as the school's eighth grade culmination keynote speaker.
"At first, I was really hesitant about it because I've never done anything in public speaking like this and never thought I would," Mebane said. "Finally, when I said yes, I realized sometimes in life you might do things that you're very uncomfortable doing. But at the end of the day, I think this is great and I think something special is going to come out of this."
"It means a great deal for Brandon to come back to Audubon Middle School," explained Dorlisa Shumate, Audubon Middle School PSA Counselor. "It's always important for our students to see former alumni come back to their community and be able to say, 'I went there. I attended the school, and against all odds, I can make it and you can, too.' For the students to hear that, that makes an impact on their lives and it's something they can reflect on. That Brandon did it and they can, too."
Mebane is used to playing football in front of a crowd, but as he attested, taking the helmet off and giving a speech is a complete 180 from what he's used to. He credits his wife, Amena, with helping him prepare for Thursday since this was his first time doing something like this.
"Being a lawyer, this is routine for her," Mebane expressed. "She's used to talking to a jury. She grew up in speech competitions. She coached me up on how to present a speech. At first, I was trying to just read it but she told me no, I need to look up, look at the audience and present it. She was giving me all kinds of techniques and pointers."
Brandon and Amena practiced the speech nightly, making sure all those techniques and pointers paid off come Thursday.
As for his speech's theme? Success and nothing less.
"I've got some definitions in there where I'll break them down, like what 'success' means. Also, your work ethic, being on time, preparation and things like that."
The theme is one that really hit home for the Chargers defensive tackle, who's put together a storied career. Embarking on his 12th season in the league, Mebane's come a long way from his days at Audubon.
"It's exciting to share my story with the eighth graders who are about to go into ninth grade. It's good to share the experience I had. It wasn't all gravy. It wasn't all fun. It was a process, and there were a lot of things I had to put into it to get to this point. I just can't wait to share my experience and tell them that you don't always have to be the most talented or be the smartest to have success. You can still have it (as long as you work hard)."