I had the great pleasure of photographing a great American a few months ago for People Magazine. Former NFL Player banked $2 million dollars which gave him the financial freedom to sign up for Teach of America when he was let go from his NFL team. For me the story is great on so many levels: turning adversity into opportunity (being cut from your NFL team), saving money to have financial freedom instead of embracing an opulent lifestyle; giving back to a community where one can lead by example; and lastly at Southeast DC’s Ballou High School! Go Silva and Go Ballou!
In his three years in the NFL – first with the Detroit Lions and then, briefly, the Carolina Panthers – safety Ricardo Silva banked $2 million, along with bragging rights to having intercepted two Super Bowl quarterbacks. But besting Tom Brady and Russell Wilson is a “closed chapter,” says Silva. It’s a 10th-grade geometry book he’s opening now, finding new rewards as a Teach for America recruit at Washington, D.C.’s Ballou High School. It’s not easy, the Baltimore, Maryland, native, 26, tells PEOPLE: “Football, all you got to do is wake up and work out and do what you’re told. With teaching, a student might come in and just say, ‘I don’t want to do it,’ and you have to find a way to teach this kid, get him motivated.” So far, so good. In just his first month at the head of the classroom – for which Teach for America provides training and Silva is paid a $51,000 salary in exchange for a two-year commitment to a disadvantaged school like Ballou – Silva has broken through with at least one of his 10th-graders, Alexus Wilson.
As for Silva, who was cut last year by the Panthers, he has turned down a lucrative college coaching offer and rejected his agent’s plea to play in Canada. He was drawn to teaching, he says, because “I would love to see kids go to college. And I feel like I can show them the way.”