Jacob Henry waited in line Thursday night for an autograph just like everyone else, giving him time to think about his future.
“It really motivates me to work harder,” said Henry, a junior offensive lineman at Sterling Heights Stevenson High.
“I want to be the guy in 20 years coming back here and telling the next generation of players, ‘This is what I did. Now it’s your turn.’ ”
Henry and his teammates met former Stevenson players Pete Chryplewicz, Carl Davis, Jim Szymanski and Frank Zombo, all of whom played or currently play in the NFL, at a jersey ceremony at Stevenson.
Former Titans Chris Liwienski and Dan Jilek also were honored at the event, but could not attend. Jilek died in 2002.
“It’s so inspiring to see them live out their dreams,” Henry said. “It makes me want to work even harder at mine.”
The event, which featured a team dinner for the players, a meet-and-greet in the field house and a formal jersey ceremony at halftime of the boys basketball game against Grosse Pointe South, was put together by Stevenson athletic director Jason Battle and former football coach Rick Bye.
Each of the six players honored had a framed NFL jersey awarded to them or their family at halftime. The jerseys will eventually be hung up in the gym.
“This whole idea came about on the sideline of a football game in October,” Battle said. “We were talking about ways to highlight some of our former athletes. We have a really proud athletic tradition here, and this was something to honor them, as well as the coaches.”
Bye, who coached varsity football at Stevenson for 35 years and retired in 2009, helped bring the event together.
“This is a tremendous event for the whole school. It’s good for all the athletic programs,” Bye said. “It’s good for these young kids to see that these guys went through the same hallways and dressed in the same locker room. It takes work from the early years to get them ready.”
Zombo, won won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in 2011 and now plays for the Chiefs, jumped at the chance to return to Stevenson.
“I was all for it. I haven’t been back in a while,” Zombo said. “To have so many guys make the NFL shows the coaching we have here. Football is different in high school than college or pros. High school is just a lot of fun and you’re playing with the kids you played with in the backyard.”
Chryplewicz, a former Lions player, is proud to be a role model for the current Stevenson players.
“Everyone has a responsibility when you’re in the spotlight,” he said. “You have to pay attention to your surroundings and know that people are watching you. If you do the right thing, then everything else takes care of itself. Little kids need role models and need to aspire to be something better. It’s great to come back and see where your program is and where it’s going.”
Davis, a member of the Baltimore Ravens, also enjoyed the festivities.
“Stevenson has been great to me and helped me get to where I’m at right now,” Davis said. “It’s really a blessing and it hasn’t hit me yet. I’m blessed and honored to be remembered.”