Former Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson is no stranger to adversity, and he imparted that message on the hundreds in attendance at Wednesday night's Prep Talk Awards at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Conference Center.
Jackson, a former Division III football player at Coe College who earned a shot as the Bills' starter in 2007, first played in the United Indoor Football League and NFL Europe before catching on in the NFL.
"I was third-string running back in high school," Jackson said. "My high school coach told me I wasn't good enough to play football.
"To be able to take part in something like this, enjoy it, but don't let it feel like the icing on the cake. One day maybe you'll end up back here doing the same thing I'm doing right now and you'll see how fun it is."
Jackson told a story of when he was a sixth-grader, he showed up 15 minutes late to football practice. He had been his team's starting running back for three years, but there was a new incoming teammate playing the same position who snatched the starter's role right from Jackson.
"I got smacked in the face for getting complacent like that," Jackson said.
Jackson repeatedly stressed to the high-schoolers in the audience to appreciate those who got them here and to never take anything for granted, as he once did.
"Enjoy this, but let it be something to motivate you," he said. "Never get complacent."