"Life is a competition between you and yourself" – Mark Twain.
That's the quote former Chargers defensive end Marcellus Wiley repeated to two different high school football teams on Tuesday afternoon as he spoke about the importance of character and education in sports.
Inglewood High School and Morningside High School football players were surprised with a visit by Wiley and Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, but the surprises didn't end there.
Wiley and Dickerson greeted the young athletes outside their respective gyms and led them inside to find new jerseys, thanks to a partnership donation by the Chargers and Rams. The lucky youngsters couldn't believe the gift they received.
"I'm so excited right now," said Morningside player Noah Hollins. "This is a blessing. It's going to feel good having a new jersey coming into my senior year."
It's been a struggle for both high school teams to find the money for uniforms each year. Inglewood Coach Michael Grimble, who helped coordinate the donation, remarked how much this means to the team.
"Inglewood is a solid city, but we need a little help here and there," he said. "So when you have people come in and help you out, it's always a great thing. When they walk in here, they're going to go bananas."
Inglewood Principal Debra Tate echoed Grimble's sentiments.
"It's so important that we provide our community with as much support as possible from one another," she said. "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the Inglewood Unified School District to the Chargers and the Rams, for establishing this partnership and giving our students the support and the encouragement that they need at this time."
After the jersey surprise, Wiley, Dickerson and Inglewood Mayor James Butts talked to the high schoolers about how football can help them succeed on and off the field. They also stressed that education should always come first.
Morningside Principal Traci Gholar was glad to have both players talk about the importance of academics.
"It means a lot to have them here, especially noting that (Wiley) went to Columbia," Gholar said. "That's not typically a college that you would imagine an NFL player to have attended, so it means the world to have them as shining examples (and) role models for our young men to look toward."
While participating in community events like this are always special for Wiley, this one was especially notable as he grew up playing Pop Warner and high school football in Inglewood.
"Whether it's on or off the field, football really gave me a strong identity and foundation," Wiley said. "So, it's amazing to come back now as one of the elder statesmen of the game to tell these kids that they can make their dreams a reality."
Wiley was also overjoyed to be at the event with Dickerson, who has been his role model since he was a young player.
"My inspiration is here with me and now I'm sitting here talking to these kids where it started for me," Wiley remarked. "That's the beauty of a moment like this and an event like this because some kid hopefully can use Eric or myself or just a Charger or Ram, whatever it may be, as a part of their ingredients that they're going to use to cook up a great life so I'm just excited to be a part of that. Even if I'm just a little sprinkle of salt, I don't care. Whatever it may be, I just want these kids to be inspired by what our presence is bringing today."
On Tuesday afternoon, the Chargers and Rams teamed up to surprise two Inglewood high schools with new jerseys.