JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's no secret that bullying is a huge problem and can drive a student to depression or worse.
So on Friday, former Jacksonville Jaguar and motivational speaker Tom McManus took that message to students at Mandarin Middle School, hoping to inspire students to change.
McManus spoke about a variety of subjects to the crowd of hundreds of eighth graders, but he said the one thing that brought him to the school was a conversation all about bullying.
"You bullies out there, you know what I think? Bullies are wimps," McManus said. "Bullying in school is not cool."
McManus, who also has a radio talk show, said it was the story of a local mother that drove him to talk to students about the subject.
"I got a Facebook message from a Facebook friend talking about her son being bullied in school," he said. "So I got on the radio show the next day and said no kid should have to fear going to school."
McManus said he then extended an invitation on the air to schools to invite him to speak to students about bullying. Mandarin Middle took him up on the offer.
He told students it was important to encourage students to report bullying to someone they know and trust and to also encourage parents and teachers to get involved.
Student Maggie Prescott, who sat in on the assembly, said she knows what it's like to get picked on. She's glad McManus spoke directly to her peers.
"Most of them struggle with it or they are the bullies, so I think it's really good he expresses his feelings toward it," Prescott said.
It was clear many students embraced the message. Some of their eyes never left McManus as he not only spoke about bullying, but also about making good decisions for themselves and for their peers.
"If you're being bullied, tell the principal," student Daniel Thompson said. "Because bullying is bad, and we don't want that to happen."