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John Stallworth: An MVP passes it on


Nov. 13, 2014 Fortune

John Stallworth is in one of his least favorite places, standing in the glow of a spotlight. It’s a late-October day, and he’s behind a lectern in a concert hall in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala., introducing the third annual John Stallworth Legends Round Table. “Regardless of what you think of us when you look at us in the light of our success, we want you to realize your journey is not terribly different from ours,” says Stallworth, who has enlisted a panel consisting of former teammate Franco Harris, ex-Seattle receiver (and ex-congressman) Steve Largent, and Huntsville’s Margaret Hoelzer, a three-time swimming medalist in the 2008 Olympics, to inspire the young athletes and students who fill the audience. Harris and Largent recall the struggles on their paths to Hall of Fame careers. Hoelzer shares her powerful story of being sexually abused as a child.

Stallworth, 62, faced serious challenges of his own. At 8, a viral infection left him temporarily paralyzed on one side. He was a clumsy, pigeon-toed kid who tripped over his own feet—not a person anybody would have pegged as a future NFL star. But this son of a plumber and a maid went on to become a Hall of Fame wide receiver, then developed a multimillion-dollar company in the defense industry, started his own charitable foundation, and became a part-owner of the very team for which he played 14 seasons.

 

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