Shaq Is Inspiration for Kids

As I have mentioned before, Charles Barkley said: "I am not your kid's role model." Unfortunately, too many athletes have proven him to be right.

But there is one mama's boy who stands literally head and shoulders above all others and does what he can to conduct himself with professional, ethical and kind behavior. The mama's boy I speak of is none other than Shaquille O'Neal.

You see, Shaq left LSU early to go into the NBA. But in 2000 he went back and completed his degree to keep his promise to his mother that he would graduate. At his graduation ceremony, he told the crowd: "Now I can go and get a real job." He has gone on to get his MBA online in 2005, and his intentions are to work on a PhD in psychology or criminology.

Shaq is also a reserve police officer for the Miami police force, being sworn in at a private ceremony to not take attention off of other officers. In 2005 he was made an honorary U.S. deputy marshal and named spokesman for the Safe Surfin' Foundation, whose purpose is to track down sexual predators who target children on the Internet. His law enforcement efforts are also directed towards the safety of children.

In some ways it is hard to pinpoint why I appreciate this gentle giant. He is certainly not perfect. Maybe it's because he can shoot free throws better than my 6-year-old daughters, or maybe because he can take a hard knock to the floor and come up with a smile on his face. When I look at him, I see a rugged and tough but gentle bear of a man who exemplifies the kind of giving back that can inspire our children to get it right in sports and in life.

And that's it from the Heartland.

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