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Golladay started path to success at St. Rita High School

Kenny Golladay chose to attend St. Rita High School for the combination of athletics and academics offered by the Catholic school that was within walking distance of his home on Chicago's south side.

Golladay got the athletics and academics he was expecting, and a lot more.

He got so much more, in fact, that Golladay credits the entire high school rather than a single teacher for starting him on the path to what he has accomplished in his four seasons as a wide receiver with the Detroit Lions and his personal development off the gridiron.

"For starters, it was just the brotherhood," Golladay said, speaking warmly of his four years at St. Rita. "I went there for academics, but also for athletics. It went hand in hand.

"That school really taught us a lot about core values. Being a young man, it taught us a lot about responsibility."

Retired Detroit Lions fullback Cory Schlesinger, a Lion from 1995-2006, is a prime example of an athlete who understands both sides of the student-teacher relationship.

He grew up in the small town of Duncan, Nebraska, and has strong memories of how his teachers helped inspire him to learn.

Schlesinger has tried to impart that to his students at Allen Park High School, where he has been teaching a variety of subjects such as design, architecture and board drafting.

Schlesinger felt that even though he was in a large classroom with other students, the teachers were speaking directly to him.

"They gave me encouragement to do my best. That was probably the most important thing to me -- the willingness to work with me.

"There were positive influences that really pushed me to do well in class."

As a teacher, Schlesinger has tried to push students to do more and to explore opportunities.

"I hope they learn a skill that they might want to do later on," Schlesinger said. "I actually have a few architects now. I have interior designers out there.

"They come back and say, 'Because of your class, this is what I'm doing now.'

"I want them to learn something new, something different. I encourage them to explore, to be creative. I want them to create something instead of me just feeding them."

Golladay obviously has a strong feeling about the lasting impact high school can have on young students.

Golladay is part of the Campbell's Chunky program partnered with the Lions honoring Michigan high school teachers at all regular-season home games for their dedicated service to their students and school. Champions of Chunky is about recognizing and celebrating everyday Champions in our lives and communities.

There will be a special ceremony for the weekly winners at the Lions' final regular-season home game against the Vikings on Jan. 3 at Ford Field.

Setting goals, achieving them and having a plan for life were personal qualities that were emphasized at St. Rita.

"They addressed those questions as soon as you got there," Golladay said. "It goes hand in hand with football. Make sure your priorities are right."

Golladay has climbed the pecking order of NFL receivers since the Lions took him in the third round of the 2017 draft out of Northern Illinois.

Golladay made an immediate impression as a big (6-4, 215 pounds) receiver who used his size and strong hands to be a productive target for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Golladay put those skills to use as a rookie on opening day of the 2017 season. He caught the go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and added another TD catch to help the Lions to a win over the Arizona Cardinals.

There was more to come as his learning curve trended steadily upward.

Golladay had 28 catches as a rookie while limited to 11 games because of injuries.

He had 70 catches for 1,063 yards and five TDs in 2018. He made the Pro Bowl in 2019 with 65 catches for 1,190 yards and a league-high 11 touchdowns.

The injury bug hit hard in 2020, but Golladay's future remains bright.

Golladay looks back fondly on his days at St. Rita, where he played football under head coach Todd Kusa. It all started when Golladay and some close friends from the neighborhood made a joint decision to attend St. Rita together.

"We all wanted to play sports," Golladay said. "That played a big role in it.

"I just liked the school itself. I wouldn't go back and change anything. I'm glad I picked that school. It taught me a lot.

"I wouldn't say there was one class I'd pick out. The teachers were great. It was a good environment."

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