Former University of Alabama lineman Bradley Bozeman is tired of talking about bullying. He’s determined to do something about it.
Bozeman played an important role in Alabama’s national championship a few months ago, and he’s now training during the off season in anticipation of the NFL draft, but he’s also taking some time to launch a new campaign to speak with students across Alabama about how their actions impact others.
The effort started when ESPN radio host Rachel Baribeau visited the university to speak with Bozeman and his teammates about character, and Baribeau asked Bozeman to make a video for a young girl who was bullied in her school. Instead, Bozeman made the hour trip from Birmingham to Pell City to speak at the girl’s school, an experience he “fell in love with,” he said.
“I don’t want to be just a ‘talk about it and not do anything about it,’” Bozeman told the news site. “That’s why I went ahead and started a campaign. I’ve been jumping on it, trying to go different places. I think a lot of our problem is people say, ‘Oh, that’s bad,’ but what are you actually doing about it?”
Bozeman isn’t as high-profile as other celebrities who have spoken out about bullying, but he’s well-known in Alabama, where he’s working to speak at three schools per week, with the goal of reaching 20-25 schools in April. The 6-5, 305-pound blocker doesn’t have a prepared speech, but rather speaks from his own experiences with bullying as a big clumsy kid growing up.
A chronic challenge in moral education is one of authority. In the State of Alabama few individuals have more moral authority and persuasive influence than a University of Alabama national champion 300-pound football player. In addition to the size of his person and statue of his fame, Bozeman is speaking from his own experience. James Hunter of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture observes, “Experience was always a precursor to the possession of character and practical wisdom, for it schools the individual in the range of circumstances within which the virtues would find expression.”
“No. 1 is trying to get them to understand that bullying is a huge problem,” Bozeman said. “Four thousand kids a year commit suicide because of depression, bullying and so on and so forth. The impact that you can have on somebody’s life just by being kind to them or the other way by being a bully … that’s my main point of it."
Ultimately, Bozeman said he’s hoping to make an impact that will help change the culture in schools, a mission he intends to continue once he reaches the NFL.
“It’s just something that’s really heavy on my heart. This is something that I really think is a big thing in our schools,” Bozeman said. “It starts with kids. Our future is our kids and the youth of America right now. What if we could change the mindset from being all about me? There’s no respect anymore. … I think if we can affect kids in a positive matter and give them the things that some kids don’t know. They just do it because they think it’s funny or it’ll impress their friends."
“But let’s give them the knowledge and the tools to be able to change the strain we have going.”
Teachers and principals wanting information and strategies for strengthening moral formation work in their school can go to the UK's The Jubilee Centre.