WORCESTER, Mass. -- An emotional Ron Brace made his first trip back to Burncoat High School in Worcester on Wednesday evening, speaking to student-athletes at a sports awards ceremony at the offices of Hanover Insurance Group, nearby to his alma mater.
The former Boston College and current New England Patriots defensive lineman accepted the invitation in part wanting to answer questions from local students who have contacted him via social media in recent years.
"I'm glad that I'm here to give them the answers that they're looking for, being that I'm a local kid and they're all local kids. I have some questions that I can answer for them, some big ones, as far as what they can do as far as getting ready for college life, and kind of what to expect," Brace said. "So it's a lot of information and I'm glad I'm able to relate to these children."
Brace was born in Springfield, Mass. -- he noted that he lost his high school sports trophies in last year's tornado -- but believes that moving to Worcester to live with his father and attending Burncoat set him on a path that led him to the NFL.
"So much of the person I became was developed through high school, middle school, when I moved out here," Brace said. "Without this school, I wouldn't be where I've been. At one point, they helped me -- we had to pass the (NCAA) clearinghouse. So they helped me. Helped me get the classes I needed, helped me find which ones were good."
At one point in his speech, Brace choked up as he recalled playing in an MIAA Super Bowl at Burncoat in 2003, and later attending Boston College, where he was determined to complete his degree.
Brace's message to the students was to take advantage of any opportunities given to them.
"Being a member of this organization, you don't take anything for granted. This organization, they really pride themselves on having players put their best foot forward and trying to improve every day. That's basically what I'm all about, when it comes to the game, and not just the game, but life," Brace said.
"There's a lot of stuff that I do that you guys have no clue that I do, but I still try to better myself, just because I do it. If I get the opportunity to do it, I take the opportunity to do it. That's what you should do. You can't let other people influence your life. You have to influence your own life," he continued.
"If I had went and did what some of my other classmates had did every time they invited me somewhere, you all wouldn't know my name. Just like how you don't know their name. That's what keeps me going," Brace said. "This life gives you so few opportunities, so few good opportunities, that you have to take each one and use it to its fullest advantage. Every opportunity you get, be greedy with it. You have get yourself better. That's what this world likes to see, is you making yourself better."