‘Big George’ motivates UH student-athletes
To begin the start of the semester with a bang, UH Athletics Director Mack Rhoades enlisted the help of George Foreman to give athletes a pep talk Sunday for Shasta Blast at the Athletics/Alumni Center. The former heavyweight champion shared his tales of hard times and how he overcame them to inspire Cougar athletes.
First, Rhoades took the podium. He urged the athletes to do the best they can on and off the field, and highlighted the importance of attending classes.
Rhoades asked the crowd several questions, equating classes to practice.
“How many of you do not go to practice and still play in a game? How many of you don’t go to class and still play in a game?” Rhoades asked.
No athlete raised their hand.
“You can’t go to class, you can’t play in a game,” he said.
Rhoades asked a table of seven athletes of the 350 to stand. He did this to stress how few of the athletes in the room will advance to the professional level, and that they will need to rely on their education. Rhoades then said how frequently former professional athletes have financial trouble after their playing days.
“After they play, 50 percent of them are broke. They have no money. So your education is your insurance,” Rhoades said.
Foreman admitted to past turmoil like truancy and mugging people, but he eventually used his ability to fight to become an Olympic gold medalist at the 1968 Summer Olympics, propelling him to the status of an elite boxer.
Foreman grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward where he said his own family and friends would tell him he wouldn’t amount to anything. When he was young he said he would wake up early to scavenge trash from a local garbage dump and put it to use.
“If you went early enough you would get the best trash in the world. I was always out there early. Occasionally I would get a table or a chair and carry it home,” Foreman said.
After the speech Rhoades awarded Foreman a medal and plaque making him an honorary Cougar for life.
Foreman is now an ordained minister. He preaches at The Church of Lord Jesus Christ in north Houston. Foreman said that he speaks to students to make them aware of the chances they have.
“It’s important to me because I believe there are so many student-athletes who get a great opportunity to go to school. Three, four years go by and a lot of them leave without even a degree. If I can say something to help them get that degree and make an impact in the community, I will.”
“The most important thing for them to understand that this opportunity they’re given, you never know when the door is going to be closed,“ Foreman said.
These days Foreman is the manager and trainer for his son George Foreman III, who has nine fights under his belt and has yet to lose. Although he still is involved with the sport, do not expect Foreman to step back into the ring.
“My wife told me if I even think about boxing again she was going to beat me up. When you’re more afraid of your wife than another boxer it’s time to leave the sport alone,” he said.