New York Jets cornerback Revis returns to Aliquippa to speak to students

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In Beaver County, deep in the middle of Steelers Nation, is a swath of land that might be called "Revis Island."

The proof Monday was a gymnasium full of Aliquippa Elementary students who whooped and cheered for Darrelle Revis, the New York Jets cornerback who returned to his hometown to do some cheering of his own.

Mr. Revis, a 2004 graduate of Aliquippa High School who has quickly built a reputation as one of the best defensive backs in the National Football League, urged elementary students at a pair of assemblies to stay upbeat, stay focused and resist the pull of the streets.

"As we get older, the streets start to pull guys certain ways. I didn't let the streets dictate who I was going to be," said Mr. Revis, who's so adept at covering receivers that his part of the field has been dubbed "Revis Island."

Mr. Revis, on one of his occasional visits home to visit family, said he couldn't pass up the opportunity to speak at his old school.

"I had to do it," he said. "I had to jump all over it."

The students -- some waving his football card and many wearing the Jets' colors, green and white -- were happy that he did.

Fourth-grader Ahmir Perry said he planned to follow Mr. Revis' admonitions to listen to his teachers and be well behaved "because one day I'm going to be like him."

Aliquippa is a well known breeding ground for college and pro football stars. While proud of that legacy, Aliquippa Elementary is pleased with its academic record, too, which has included making Adequate Yearly Progress, the federal performance benchmark, three years in a row.

Mr. Revis, drafted by the Jets in 2007 after three years at the University of Pittsburgh, slipped into the gym without fanfare or an entourage. With him were his mother, Diana Gilbert; sister, DeAudra Jeter; and grandmother, Aileen Gilbert.

He and his family have established Nerih Inc., an Aliquippa nonprofit to provide leadership development and dropout prevention services to city youths. Mr. Revis also spends a lot of time speaking to school children in Jets country.

"Now I'm getting comfortable with this, and I enjoy it," he said.

In 2007, the Jets traded up to snag Mr. Revis before the Steelers had a chance to take him. When students asked Monday who he'd most like to play for besides the Jets, he said the Aliquippa Quips.

Aliquippa school officials said Mr. Revis -- mild-mannered, down to earth, successful and loyal to his hometown -- was an ideal speaker for a school program promoting sense of purpose, accountability, responsibility and commitment. Counselor Lee Saunders said the school is proud not only of Mr. Revis' success on the field, "but how he carries himself, how he conducts himself."

Mr. Revis said preparation, hard work and a strong support system are key to success in any field.

"If you want to be successful in life, look to successful people. You don't want negativity in your life. The biggest thing with you guys is peer pressure," he said.

Mr. Revis, who had 54 tackles and six interceptions last season, said preparation and advice from veterans help to account for his meteoric rise in the league. He said he still follows the Pitt Panthers, praised the recruiting skills of head coach Dave Wannstedt and called colorful Jets head coach Rex Ryan a "player's coach."

"He gets crazy with the media a little bit, but that's him," he said.

It wasn't as bad as training camp, but students put Mr. Revis through his paces during a question-and-answer session. The students asked how he balanced his professional and personal lives and what it feels like to walk onto the field on Sunday afternoon.

"It's like you're parachuting," he said.

Joe Smydo: or 412-263-1548. First Published February 16, 2010 5:00 AM


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