Leading by example can mean something as simple as going to class every day, former Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. told a group of high school students Monday at Boys Town.
“You have to hold yourself responsible before you can hold anyone else responsible,” Armstrong told about 160 students at the first of two lunchtime assemblies. “Going to class, going to study hall, going to the weight room and working hard each and every day. If you want to demand respect from your teammates and coaches, you have do everything right.”
Armstrong partnered with First National Bank to speak with local students about the importance of leadership and overcoming adversity. After speaking at Boys Town he addressed the north Omaha branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands.
This past season Armstrong completed one of the most prolific careers for a Nebraska quarterback. He started 44 career games, the most ever by a Nebraska quarterback, and set school records for total offense, touchdowns, passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Armstrong said he is working out as a wide receiver with the hope of catching on in professional football. Nebraska receivers coach Keith Williams is his tutor.
“I’m training as hard as I can and trying to get in shape,” said Armstrong, who is 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds.
The Boys Town students listened attentively as Armstrong spoke for about 15 minutes and then answered questions. Cordell Cade, mayor of Boys Town, gave Armstrong a “10 out of 10” for his remarks.
Justina Smith, a senior, asked Armstrong about what it takes to be a leader. She and Cade and a few other student leaders lingered after lunch to talk with Armstrong and listen to him as he fielded questions from reporters.
“It means a lot to have him come here,” Smith said. “It lets you know that you can push through a lot of hard circumstances.”
Mentors and role models were crucial in Armstrong’s development. He cited his mother’s influence and his athletic coaches with helping him to stay focused on his goal of playing major college football.
Armstrong lived with his mother in Gulfport, Mississippi, until moving in with his father in Cibolo, Texas, to play high school football. Watching his mother work two jobs and steer the family through Hurricane Katrina, he said, will stick with him forever.
“She taught me to overcome adversity,” Armstrong said. “My (coaching) mentors encouraged me to stick with sports ... tune out distractions. It was not just football, but school in general. They helped me become the person that I am today and helped me become the leader that I am today.”