TUSCUMBIA — Tommy Tuberville spoke to teachers Friday about motivation, but he wasn't only referring to the teachers being motivated.
Instead, his focus was on motivating students.
Tuberville, a candidate for the U.S. Senate and former Auburn head football coach, thanked the teachers during an in-service at Tuscumbia City Schools for what they do to inspire students.
He said teaching and coaching are the same, in that it is important to motivate young people to achieve their best.
"You've got to know the heart of a kid," Tuberville said. "It's our job to push them and get to that point. Sometimes you fail. I've failed before.
"You have some who have all kinds of talent but they don't use it. They live off their laurels. They have the ability to do anything they want to do, but they never reach that goal because they aren't hungry enough."
He said coaches and teachers have the opportunity to instill a work ethic into those players and students that enables them to reach their goals.
Tuberville mentioned two players he coached as a defensive coordinator at the University of Miami.
He said one player, linebacker Ray Lewis, was determined to succeed in college and the National Football League.
"He worked hard every day," Tuberville said. "He worked before and after practice. I've never seen a kid work like him. He didn't have the best talent, but he made himself a football player, and he ended up being one of the best linebackers to ever play football, college or pro."
Tuberville then pointed to his head and heart.
"Here and here," he said. "Through the brain and through the heart."
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson also played for Tuberville at Miami, but even in college Johnson had a different goal — to be a professional wrestler — and he worked hard to achieve it.
"Every day, he worked out after practice," Tuberville said. "He made himself, body-wise, to look like a pro wrestler. A few years later I turned on the TV and saw him jumping off the ropes of a wrestling ring."
Today, Johnson has a successful acting career, Tuberville said.
"You don't have to be the best at what you do, other than give your best," he said. "That's our job as teachers, is to give these guys enthusiasm. It's exciting being here and seeing you enthusiastic about the start of the school year. This country was made on God, family and education. We've got to get that back.
"If we can make those three things stronger every day, this country is going to continue to thrive."
Following his speech, Tuberville spoke to reporters about the need to train students in high school, and not just to prepare them for college. He said there are plenty of good careers that don't require a collegiate path.
"We need to train them in technology," Tuberville said. "We've got to start them in high school. I spent 30 years in the college system. I've seen a lot of people go to college just because they think it's the thing they're supposed to do. Then they leave with a $150,000 to $200,000 debt."