A confident character
CLEVELAND -- The slogan is printed in black ink on white paper and taped to a long, red counter in Glenville High's main office.
It rests just beneath a cluttered countertop that proudly displays trophies, plaques, T-shirts and other championship memorabilia - all evidence that Ted Ginn Jr. not only once attended this school, but he blossomed here, too.
The two-line motivational message greets every visitor who enters the heart of a school located in one of the most dilapidated areas of town. Inside, there's an oasis of optimism.
Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
If only it were that easy. But those who know Ted Ginn Jr. insist nothing here personifies him more than those nine words. Not the awards stacked in the office. Not the t-shirts printed for his NFL draft party here two weeks ago. Not the brick soon to be inscribed and placed alongside those of other famous Glenville alumni, like comedian Steve Harvey.
This is where it began. This is where Ted Ginn Jr. celebrated the moment the Dolphins selected him with the ninth overall pick on April 28. This is where he cried after addressing 500 fans at his draft party. This is where he returned after a brief trip to Miami, with jersey in tow, to show the dreamers that it's all really real.
"Forget the other things he's done - the great things he's accomplished on that field," said Glenville chief administrator Jacqueline Bell, who has known Ted Ginn Jr. since he was 12. "He's overcome all of the odds against him and will continue to do so. There's just something about him. You just know the special ones from the moment you see them."
Bell has just about seen them all. In her 10 years at Glenville, thousands of students have graduated, and gone on to lead successful lives. Yet hundreds have dropped out, and dozens have ended up in jail. She's even seen a few die much too young.
And that's why the special ones stand out. The ones like Ted Ginn Jr., who just might be the most positive and enthusiastic person she knows.
NOT A FAVORITE - YET
Ted Ginn Jr.'s attitude might be his best trait next to his speed. And it could come in handy, considering many of the questions that still surround the wide receiver from Ohio State a week after he sat out of minicamp. Ted Ginn Jr. was an unpopular choice among fans who gathered at the Dolphins' practice facility on draft day and vehemently booed when the team chose him instead of Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.
Some believe the Dolphins are investing millions of dollars into a fragile phenom who has yet to heal from a foot injury he sustained Jan. 8, on the first play of the BCS championship game against Florida.
Others think that a franchise that has missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons had more pressing needs than a player whose impact might be limited to special teams.
But if character weighed as heavily in the Dolphins' decision as catches and toughness as much as touchdowns, those around Ted Ginn Jr. believe Miami landed the steal of the draft.
"One beautiful thing about Teddy is he's got a calmness and confidence about him that the doubters aren't going to affect him," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.
Few question the weapons Ted Ginn Jr. brings to a football field. He was regarded as one of the nation's best players while at Ohio State.
But beneath the speed, tucked below all of the talent and tenacity with which he played every snap, is a grounded 22-year-old who's been groomed for this moment - this pressure - since he was a toddler.
"When he was real young, we used to go out front and play catch with the football," said Ted Ginn Sr., Glenville's longtime football and track coach. "And I'd always tell him that if he dropped it, I'm going in the house and that would be it."
Those were the only times Ted Ginn Jr. had to worry about his father walking away from him. Ginn Sr. worked his way up from Glenville's security guard to a position as one of the city's most successful prep coaches.
"Everywhere Big Ted went, Little Ted went," Jeannette Ginn said of her husband and son. "And it was always about family, even through some of the tough times."
The Ginns said they never feared they would lose their son to the distractions that claimed some of his relatives and peers. Ginn Sr.'s constant presence at school helped keep Ted Ginn Jr. on the right path, but several other incidents ensured he never strayed.
Responding to pressure was nothing to Ted Ginn Jr. then, either. Bell, the Glenville administrator, said Ted Ginn Jr. was classified as learning-disabled in junior high school but left Glenville in the top 10 percent of his class.
"He was told, unfortunately by educators at an early age, what he was and wasn't able to do," Bell said. "He never bought into it."
Family and faith are just as important as football in the Ted Ginn Jr. household. And if Ted Ginn Jr. needed another lesson to keep it all in proper perspective, it came just before the draft.
Ginn Sr. had a recurring health problem that forced him into emergency surgery March 22, about a month before the draft. His father's second surgery in 14 months came at a time when Ted Ginn Jr. was concerned about how his foot would hold up in workouts for NFL scouts.
Suddenly, there were more important issues than workout numbers and draft status. Family trumped football, and the focus was on faith.
In the days leading up to the draft, Ted Sr. challenged his son again, just like he did when they used to toss the ball around in the front yard. Along the living- room floor, he spread out a collection of about 50 photos of Ted Jr. at various stages of his life. Ted Sr. pointed farthest to his left at the photo of Ted Ginn Jr. as a 1-year-old, wearing a Louisville Slugger cap and clutching a baseball in his tiny hand.
"I asked, 'What was I to you then?' " Ginn Sr. said. "Ted Ginn Jr.looked at me and said, 'You were my dad.' "
The father pointed to another picture taken later in his son's life and repeated the question. Ted Ginn Jr. replied with the same answer.
The routine continued until they got to a photo taken at the BCS title game in January. Same question from dad, same answer from son.
"Sometimes you have to challenge your kids," Ginn Sr. later said as he recounted the exchange, with the photos still lining the floor. "I tried to show Ted that I was the same person. I didn't change. I was the same person with the same values all of his life. Then I asked him, 'Now that you're at this point, what are you going to do? Will you change?' "
The folks back home insist he won't.
"I have no doubt," Glenville's Bell said. "And I pray he never gets to the point where his head is so large when he comes back here that he has to turn sideways to walk through that door." ?
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