Fred Baxter, former New York Jets player, visited Redwood Elementary School in West Orange on Jan. 11 to encourage students to pursue their dreams and realize that nothing is impossible.
Baxter, originally from Alabama, was a tight end from Auburn University who was recruited by the New York Jets in 1993. He played with the Jets until 2000 and then spent two seasons with both the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots. Following his NFL career, Baxter took on coaching and is currently the Head Golf Coach at Widener University.
In 2000, he started the Fred Baxter Foundation, to “work with young men and young women, talking about empowerment and informing them of all the opportunities that are out there for them, trying to get them on career pathways.”
Fourth Grade teacher Paul Stefanelli invited Baxter to Redwood to share with students about his life and career. Baxter, who also excelled academically, attended Auburn University in Alabama and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Education. “Being unselfish means coming prepared to class,” he told them.
Of his storied NFL career, Baxter noted, “It’s about character. It’s about the way you carry yourself.”
Students were impressed with Baxter’s message. “He’s an amazing person,” enthused students. “He told us to work hard and put education first.”
Baxter also advised the students to avoid drugs and alcohol and to keep away from people who are bad influences. “If you surround yourself with good people, good things will come to you,” he explained.
Baxter said his coaches, family members and his church were strong positive influences in his life.
“Mr. Baxter took the time out of his busy schedule to come to Redwood and impart great thoughts into our student’s minds,” said Stefanelli. “He was very inspirational.”
Redwood Principal Bruce Arcurio agreed. “Mr. Baxter’s visit was motivational and provided the children of Redwood with a real life example of what you can achieve with hard work, integrity, perseverance, and a good education. Our staff and students enjoyed asking him questions and hearing his perspective.”