Any WMU football player will get a middle school student’s eyes to open wide. They just made it to the Cotton Bowl and for the last four years, West Michigan has learned how to “row the boat.” Today, middle school students in the Teen Leadership class got to hear what’s behind row the boat and how these MAC championship players are leaders on and off the field.
Jamauri Bogan is a red-shirt junior and a starting running back for the WMU Bronco football team. He knows a lot about leadership. He learned from leaders around him, like his coaches and his grandfather, but he is also a leader himself. He told the kids that leadership, put simply, “is your influence on others.” From watching his coaches, especially former Bronco Head Coach PJ Fleck, he learned several things that he shared with the kids.
- Consistency – he said you have to stay consistent in your message and your actions.
- Mission over money – he shared that in a couple years, he’ll have to go out and look for a job and all of us will have to make decisions about where to go next. He told the kids to keep their decisions about the mission, what they value, over the money.
- Be a great listener – know what others are going through so you can understand those who look up to you as a leader.
- Be a doer – doers find solutions.
- Be a servant leader – lead by example by helping others.
“We changed Kalamazoo forever,” he said when talking about that servant leadership. They made it a mission of theirs to give back to the community. They would visit kids in the hospital, serve meals at the Gospel Mission, help out families where they could.
As timing would have it, these students will travel to Mel Trotter Ministries on Monday, a homeless shelter in Grand Rapids. He offered these words of advice for the kids as they look ahead to that opportunity, “expect nothing, but give everything. Go in with an open mind.” He told them that it will be an eye-opener to see that what they think are big issues, really aren’t.
He also reflected on his years in middle school as a bit of a class clown and immature. He said if he could go back he would change that and mature now. His middle school teachers tell him how proud they are of how he turned out, “I wish they would have (been able to) say that when I was there (in MS).” He’s grown up to be a very faithful, loving young man. His biggest values, he said, were his experience and his love for people. If he could do middle school over he would also “listen more. Not joke in class as much. I would use my influence on friends so they would also do the right thing.
I have a big heart for people and people will follow that.”
Students asked him about who he looked up to, what he thinks of Coach Fleck leaving (he wishes him well and will always have plenty of great advice to pull from, but the knows he’ll learn from his new coach as well) and what it’s like to score a touchdown, “It’s a pretty amazing feeling.” They also asked him what regrets he has. But he says he doesn’t have regrets, “I learn from those situations. You fail, you grow.”
He explained, too, what row the boat stood for. The boat is the sacrifice. The oars are the energy and the compass is the direction. That direction also encompasses who you surround yourself with. If you surround yourself with good, you’ll do good things, he says.