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A boy from Rose Park-turned NFL defensive lineman, Haloti Ngata, spends most of his time tackling quarterbacks for the Baltimore Ravens, but today he came back to Utah to motivate students at Escalante Elementary School.
For many of Escalante's students, having an NFL star standing in their gymnasium is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For Ngata, he says it's the least he can do to keep these kids focused and dreaming big.
At 6 foot 4 inches tall and 350 pounds, Ngata is a beast on the football field. And for students, he's larger than life, but in a more gentle kind of way.
"I'm here just to help them out and hopefully give them a dream that they know they can make it out of here," Ngata said.
Ngata says it's all about giving back. The Rose Park native spoke about his challenges, the importance of school, setting goals and avoiding the wrong crowd.
"I had no one to look up to really. My brothers were involved in gangs, and so I think that for me coming here, it will give the kids a lot of hope," he said.
Ngata was a football and rugby star at Highland High School. At the University of Oregon, he was one of the best in the country. Then he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2006.
Meeting Ngata was an experience students called special, awesome or cool. Some took home autographs, and some were speechless when asked about their feelings.
"I don't know. Um, I don't know," Emily said.
But Ngata's message was clear. "Dream. You could be whatever you want to be. Nothing can stop you," Bola explained.
The loss of a family member, distractions in school: nothing can defeat hard work and dedication. "It was awesome. It felt, like, so great that I met someone that he's gone through the same experiences as me," Edgar said.
Ngata will visit family and friends while he's in town. He's also finishing some college courses at the University of Utah.
For more information on Ngata, his career and his charities, CLICK HERE.