Champion with a message

n South Panola’s Townsend, a two-time Super Bowl winner, visits Tupelo elementary school.
Daily Journal
TUPELO – Echoing what has become a popular slogan for today’s professional athletes, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Deshea Townsend told Tupelo’s Pierce Street Elementary School students on Friday that “anything is possible.”
And to further illustrate his belief, he uses himself as a prime example of that. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound defensive back grew up in the small town of Batesville (population 7,776) and has managed to play 11 seasons in the NFL.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not big enough to do anything,” the 33-year-old Townsend told the students, faculty members and parents gathered for the kindergarten through third-grade school’s Black History program. “Anything is possible.”
And for a two-time Super Bowl winner, the importance of receiving a solid education is second to none.
“My dad was a teacher,” said the former South Panola and University of Alabama standout. “He taught for 35 years. He taught seventh-grade science. So, I know what you people are kind of going through.
“In my house I had to do my homework before I could go outside to play. But I do thank my parents for that. That’s what got me to this point right here.”
Serving as an educator is also a common career for Townsend’s relatives. The NFL player’s aunt, Ada Pannell, and cousin, Shirlette Judon, are both faculty members at the Pierce Street school.
“We’re very proud to have him come back to the community where all of his family was born and raised,” said Judon, who is only a month apart in age from Townsend. “For him to just come back to the Pierce Street school and to just give back to the students, we are elated – very proud.”
South Panola pride
Townsend is also still very proud of his alma mater, South Panola High School, and said he has Batesville rapper Soulja Boy Tell’Em as a contact. He likes to check to see how his Tiger football program is doing each week during the fall.
“I always pay attention to what they’re doing,” said Townsend, who showed off his 2006 Super Bowl XL ring to the students. “I call back home. I get a lot of calls to Pittsburgh letting me know how they’re doing.”
With that being said, Townsend does indeed have strong ties to Tupelo. He runs a football camp in Tupelo and says “it’s pretty neat to see the rivalry” Tupelo High and South Panola have going on the gridiron.
“All of my family is from Tupelo, Pontotoc,” Townsend said. “It just so happens that my parents moved to Chicago and ended up in Batesville. That’s how I ended up there. I’m a Mississippi boy through and through.”
Living in Oxford during the offseason, Townsend said he expects to receive his Super Bowl XLIII ring at a June ceremony in Pittsburgh.

John Wilbert

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