More than playing line at Harding

When I came to Warren in 1998, one of the first things I remembered is a big gentle giant of a man named Korey Stringer.

The former Warren G. Harding, Ohio State and Minnesota Vikings lineman was the heart and soul of the Warren community until his death in 2001. His giving and community service knew no bounds.

Flash forward to this year with WGH seniors James Daniels and Ja’Von Provitt – both highly recruited lineman.

Thursday, Daniels made his verbal commitment to the University of Iowa, while Provitt is deciding between Cincinnati, Kentucky and a couple of other schools. Neither can officially sign until the first Wednesday in February.

“They both have some character to them,” WGH football coach Steve Arnold said. “They’re funny sometimes. They bring life around the football program. Both good kids and both good young men. You expect the most from the best. There’s a reason they’re going to be playing in a BCS conference. I’m going to treat them as that. I expect the most from the best.”

But this isn’t about football – it’s about what players like Daniels and Provitt do off the field.

Arnold, who has been more than a coach (more like Father Flanagan) during his tenure as the Raiders basketball and now football coach, has told his players to be community leaders. For players like Daniels and Provitt, you can bet they’ll be people that Warren will be proud to call their own.

“One of those things I’ve always tried to instill in players I’ve coached, who’ve gone on to play at the next level, is that you have to make yourself visible and be a positive role model for the other kids that are coming up because someone was that for you,” Arnold said.

There have been plenty of good role models from both WGH and the former Warren Western Reserve – people that put a beacon of light on this city, some more than others.

Daniels knows when he joins his older brother LeShun Jr., a former WGH standout, at Iowa, he’ll be glad to tell them about his alma mater.

“I have to represent the city of Warren in a really good way,” James said. “When I go to college, they’re going to ask me where I’m from. I’m going to say Warren, Ohio. They’re going to say where’s that at? I’m just going to tell them I’m representing my city.”

His mother, Alicia, encouraged her sons to take an active role in their community. It’s a part of cultivating a good culture in Warren – staving off the negative stereotypes.

“Ironically, we talked about there’s so many vacant lots, vacant buildings,” she said. “He’s always talked about, ‘Hey, when I come back after playing in the NFL, I could build a park or a community center, something and name it the James Daniels Center.’ There’s a lot of opportunities here, but there’s not a lot of places for those opportunities to happen.

“I know some of that he thinks about. We encourage that. Giving back is really important.”

His father, LeShun Sr., who played line for former OSU coach John Cooper in the 1990s, knows full well the importance of being active in your community.

“They see that need in the community to give back. They already started out at a young age,” he said. “If it’s not in your hometown, make sure it’s in your community. They’ve been doing it, following me or other family members, just making sure they do go help out. Especially show inner-city kids their other options instead of going down the wrong path. If you study, work hard, you can achieve a lot of goals. They’ve bought into that. I think they will continue to do that.”

In the footsteps of Stringer, both Provitt and Daniels have their opportunity to be good representatives and stewards of Warren.