Photo: 2009 Gadsden City High School graduate Dre Kirkpatrick provided the GCHS football program with a $10,000 check on Wednesday (Feb. 27) in the school library. Pictured, from left: GCHS athletic director Todd Lamberth, Kirkpatrick mother ?, GCHS head football coach Bart Sessions, Kirkpatrick, GCHS principal Jeff Colgrove, Gadsden City Schools Superintendent Ed Miller. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
No one can accuse Dre Kirkpatrick of not having a soft spot for his alma mater and native city.
The 2009 Gadsden City High School graduate and current NFL player provided the GCHS football program with a $10,000 check on Wednesday (Feb. 27) in the school library.
“Gadsden City is near and dear to my heart, and I’m always welcomed back with open arms,” said Kirkpatrick, a starting cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals. “It means the world to me just to be in a position to give back.”
Kirkpatrick, however, isn’t just using his checkbook to help out his old school and community. He is the executive director of the 21 Foundation, a non-profit agency for Gadsden-area youth. According to the foundation’s website, its goals are to improve public health, promote educational opportunities, enhance community development efforts, create and sustain a healthy environment for the mental health community and assist youth in improving academically and athletically.
“I have a voice and I have a platform, and every chance I get, I always try to help kids from my hometown,” he said. “A lot of times, it’s not about money or finance; it’s just my presence and telling these kids what I’ve been through.”
Kirkpatrick, who was raised in Oakley Estates, spoke to an audience of current GCHS football players of the importance of seeking out positive role models.
“You have to have a support system, and the main one for me was my mama and daddy,” he said. “If your role models aren’t getting you to where you need to be, you need to reevaluate those role models. You need to know that it’s okay to separate yourself from certain people and certain situations.
“As student-athletes, you have to find somebody to talk to and to guide you. Instead of impressing your friends, you’ve got to impress yourself. Don’t put your future in anyone else’s hands. Your grades and how you conduct yourself in school is way more important that how you’re doing on the football field.”
A three-year starter at cornerback for the Titans, Kirkpatrick finished his high school career with 193 tackles, 17 interceptions (including three returned for a touchdown) and 36 pass breakups. He was a first-team All-State selection his junior and senior seasons and was named Class 6A Back of the Year following his senior year. He participated in the 2008 Alabama Mississippi All-Star Football Classic and the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
As a five-star college recruit, Kirkpatrick fielded scholarship offers from Alabama, Texas, Florida, LSU, Southern California, Miami (Fla.), Florida State, Auburn, Tennessee and Michigan before choosing the Crimson Tide. While at UA, Kirkpatrick was a part of BCS national championship teams in 2009 and 2011 and was a second-team All-SEC pick in 2010 and 2011. A first-round pick of the Bengals in the 2012 NFL draft, Kirkpatrick has started the past three years at cornerback.
“His financial support is amazing, but just Dre speaking to you guys in and of itself is enough,” said GCHS head football coach Bart Sessions. “You can tell he cares a lot about the school by the way he always comes back here and how he is embraced by the community. He walked the same halls that you walk and faced the same peer pressures that you face, and look where he’s at.”
GCHS defensive coordinator Ali Smith has a long history with Kirkpatrick going back to when Kirkpatrick was attending at Emma Sansom middle and high schools. Smith noted that although this is the first time that it’s been recognized, Kirkpatrick has been making similar donations to the school over the past several years.
“Dre wants to help every kid, just like people at the school helped him to make it to where he is today,” said Smith. “I help Dre out with the foundation, and he does a lot of little things that he doesn’t want people to know about. I gave Dre a lot of tough love when he was younger, but it’s been a great journey for both of us, and it’s still going on. He’s got several things in works to help the local kids and wants to get the city and surrounding areas behind him, because we need some different avenues to help these kids.”