This morning, Kevin Reilly shared his story of perseverance and hope with Upper School students during assembly. A former special teams captain for the Philadelphia Eagles and a player for the New England Patriots, Reilly’s NFL career lasted less than four years. In 1976, a rare scar-tissue tumor sidelined him; three years later, it would claim his left arm, left shoulder and five ribs.
In the days following his surgery, Reilly went into a spiral of depression, wondering if the cancer would come back and if he would ever be able to work again. A conversation with a hospital volunteer only made the situation worse, as Reilly learned of the myriad activities—from tying his shoes to jogging—that he would never be able to do again. Fortunately, Reilly also spoke with another NFL player, Rocky Bleier, who had defied the medical experts by overcoming a leg injury sustained during the Vietnam War and eventually returning to the pros. Bleier told Reilly that he should decide for himself what is and is not impossible.
Reilly went on to enjoy a 30-year career as an executive with Xerox and is now a radio announcer for the Eagles and a highly sought-after motivational speaker. Among his other accomplishments, Reilly golfs, runs marathons, ties his own shoes and knots his own neckties. He also spends a lot of time volunteering, counseling and working with amputees.
At the end of his talk this morning, Reilly urged the students not to wait for a crisis in their lives to bring out the best in themselves, and to always find a way to help others who may not be as successful. "The best fulfilment you will have in life is helping another person," he offered.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a vigorous, meaningful and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.