Buffalo Bills icon, Defensive End Shaq Lawson, took time to talk to kids at a Buffalo City School Tuesday. Many of the 40 students he spoke with at McKinley High School grew up in similar, tough situations as him. They’re apart of the ‘Gentlemen’s Institute Program,’ which helps empower young men with the necessary skills to build a strong foundation.

Lawson told News 4 he’s moving on from a brawl that captured headlines on Sunday, against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tuesday, his focus was on giving back to the community. 

“When times got hard, what’d you do?” asked one student, during the talk. 

“That’s a good question,” Lawson responded. “When times got hard… that’s when you have to look at yourself, look in the mirror. You either lay down, or stand up.”

For about an hour, Lawson was open, and raw with the students. 

“I thought it was phenomenal,” Principal Marck Abraham said. “The transparency was so refreshing.”

On the field, the defensive end is known to be an enforcer. But it took many years of pain, and struggles to get there. 

“Some things just happen for a reason,” he said. “Probably my story, and my past happened for a reason… for me to be here and be successful… to talk to these kids and play football. That’s how I take a look at it, and that’s why I just wake up every day with a smile on my face.”

Lawson told the teenagers about his brother, who’s been in prison for about 20 years. He told them about being forced to grow up, after his father was killed by a fellow classmate in high school, who was reportedly driving drunk. And he admitted, if he wasn’t playing football, he could be in prison, like many of his childhood friends.

“I got a lot of my homeboys right now in jail for murder,” he said to the group.

He said he saw himself in the kids. Less than a decade ago, the 24 year old was in their spot. And he said, if he got through to one young person, it was all worth it. 

“Hopefully I impact somebody in some type of way,” he said. “This is my job to do that… and continue to be around the youth.”