DANVERS — Sean Stellato, the former Salem High and Marist College great who spoke at last night's 50th Salem News Student-Athlete Award banquet, didn't just tell the 14 nominees how to succeed.
He showed them.
Speaking to the student-athletes, their parents and others in attendance at the CoCo Key Resort, Stellato opened a vibrant and poignant speech by holding up a photo of New England Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington, last year's NFL leader in interceptions and one of Stellato's clients.
"Who would like this photo?" Stellato asked.
One of the nominees, Melissa Moore of Manchester Essex, jumped up to grab the picture.
Then Stellato made the perfect point.
"This is what life's about," he said. "If you want something, you have to go out and get it. She just did."
A 1996 graduate of Salem High, Stellato led the Witches to the Super Bowl in 1994 and was a key piece of the school's 1995 state championship basketball team, Stellato went on to play both sports at Division 1 Marist College.
He spent a year in prep school at The Gunnery (Conn.) before moving on to Marist, where he led the team in receiving in 2000 and 2001, made nine consecutive Dean's list appearances and earned an MAAC All-Academic team nod in both football and basketball.
Throughout his journey as a student and athlete, Stellato was disciplined, focused and kept his eyes on his goals. That was the crux of his message to the student-athletes last night.
"Set clear goals and stick to them. Manage your time," he said. "Time is like money — you don't know its value until its gone."
After graduating cum laude, from Marist, Stellato played two seasons of professional ball in the Arena Football League. He then became an NFL Player Agent and now has six clients.
No matter how many times he faced adversity, Stellato always believed in himself and encouraged the high school seniors in the room to do the same.
"If someone says you can't go any further, tell them to look behind you and see how far you've come," said Stellato. "There will be setbacks, but always keep your values. Cross the decision bridge with your values."
Stellato is also a published author and cherishes his time with his wife and young three daughters. Every student-athlete knows what its like to juggle sports with studies and community service. Life is no different, and those time management skills prepare youngsters for success later on, he said.
Ten years after graduating from Salem High, Stellato received a letter from one of his former English teachers. One of his assignments back then was to write an essay with some life goals that the teacher intended to send to each student after a decade.
Stellato was moved by how much of his current life was in the essay and implored the nominees to be true to their own goals, whatever they may be.
"I'm grateful and honored to speak at this prestigious event," said Stellato. "Be true to yourself and be true to those goals.
"If you want it all, you can have it all. You just have to want it badly enough."