"The most important thing for you to have is your mind, and your mind is something that no one can take away from you," said Atlanta Falcons linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee.
Ellerbee's nonprofit, Bee's Believers, aims to bridge the gap between student-athletes and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM.
"Our mission is to provide students with opportunities through athletics and STE(A)M, so that they may have the chance to discover new passions, on and off the field," the nonprofit says on its website. "No child should be limited in what they seek to achieve in this lifetime, and we have made it our mission to help elevate them."
TONIGHT ON @abc13houston. Houston product & ATL Falcons’ @LB_ellerbee42 shares how his nonprofit aims to bridge the gap between student-athletes & STEM. “Your mind is something no one can take away from you.” He wants teens to know they’re more than athletes. @BeesBelievers pic.twitter.com/aikke0o9tZ— Carolina Olivares (@_carolinao_) December 5, 2021
Ellerbee, a product of Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, said it was his geometry teacher who told him that at the end of the day, he had to have something else besides playing football.
"Bee's Believers was an idea that really got bred when I was at Strake Jesuit," Ellerbee said. "Everyone at this school made sure that what I did on the football field wasn't a total summation of who I was. They always made sure that I had it in the classroom as well."
So, that's exactly what he did. Ellerbee had two dreams: Play in the NFL and pursue a degree in civil engineering.
"When I was coming out of school and during the recruitment process, a lot of people told me 'Oh you're going to have to choose one or the other. You're either going to have to be a great engineering student or a be a great athlete.' I was like 'Why can't I do both?'''
Ellerbee received his degree in civil engineering from Rice University and is still living his NFL dream.
"I don't think anybody's dreams or what they want in life is ever going to be easy. You always have to go through the trials and tribulations, the hills and the valleys, to be able to make sure that it comes true. You kind of have to be stubborn with the way you approach your dream," said Ellerbee.
He said he hopes his experiences encourages all athletes, especially Black and Latinos, to consider STEM as an option.
"There is a lesser number of African Americans within the STEM career field, along with Hispanic Americans, too," Ellerbee said. "For us, it was all about going for inner city schools, and just giving them the opportunity to be able to have that exposure that they typically wouldn't get."
In March of 2022, ninth graders are invited to a seminar the nonprofit is holding in which students will be introduced to other like minded student-athletes from other Houston-area high schools. In addition to meeting other students, they will also get to meet and talk to former and current professional athletes who now have careers in the STEM field. Students will get to experience and learn firsthand the many layers that STEM has to offer.
"We believe that when we get people from different creeds, backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses, you'd be able to provide for a better world because everybody understands the pikes that each other is going through," said Ellerbee.