I spoke with Jemalle shortly after his return from the nation's capital.
* * *
LV: Jemalle, what was the experience like to take part in a national forum like that?
JC: I was a great experience. I got the chance to go up to Washington D.C. which is the first time I've ever been in the area. I got to be around a lot of good-quality students and some good people involved with the NCAA. I sat on the opening panel and answered a lot of questions about violence and some of the things athletes go through in terms of the choices they have to make. I was a really good experience for me.
LV: What did you get out of it in terms of talking about student-athletes and violence and the issues as you see them?
JC: Basically it comes down to student-athletes handling the situations they're faced with and relying on the values that they have. I talked about Coach Meyer and how important that is to him that you have a set of core values that you live by and govern your choices. The more those student-athletes hear things like that and the more coaches emphasize it the more likely we'll see a decrease in violence by student-athletes.
LV: Do you feel you've seen a decrease in violence by Gator student-athletes in the last year or so?
JC: Oh yeah, if you look at our off-season compared to previous years it was great. We had an MVP program (Mentors in Violence Prevention) that I went to and they came and did a lot of scenarios of real-life situations. We had an opportunity to role play. It wasn't the single reason, but it probably was a springboard for us going into the off-season. Coach Meyer puts a great emphasis on that and tries to make it understood that we live our lives right not just on the field, but off the field. That was definitely a big change for us.
LV: Was there much conversation about the conflict in that you guys are taught to find physical solutions to problems on the field, but expected to find non-physical solutions to off the field issues?
JC: Definitely. I think it was Kareem McKenzie of the New York Giants who was there and speaking about how you train and work and pray to be tougher on the field. And it's tough for student-athletes to just turn that off. We train to be on the edge and, to be violent and in real life situations you can tend to revert back. We have to learn to practice a lot of self control and self discipline. That's definitely an issue as to why student-athletes react the way they do. It's a privilege to be a student-athlete but it's also a burden. When you go out and around sometimes guys get jealous because you're a student-athlete but you need to exercise self control in most situations.
LV: How do you go about sharing this experience with your teammates and other student-athletes?
JC: Well I talked to some of the guys and told them I bragged about how well we've been behaving off the field so don't you make me look bad. But I've talked to guys about being in the off-season and going out and having all this extra free time. We need to make sure nobody lets something sneak up on us and we have to handle our business in this area.
LV: I find it interesting that your panel involved violence and drugs. How much talk was there about how recreational and performance enhancing drugs can lead to violent behavior?
JC: There are similarities and connections with all of them. We had five people speak about their experiences and had questions and answers afterwards so everything we talked about was inter-related.
LV: What did it mean to you to be chosen for this panel?
JC: It meant a lot. When Dr.Carodine over at the Office of Student Life called and asked me to go I was really excited and there was no hesitation from me. It was a great honor and an experience I didn't want to pass up. I was amazed they asked me to go.
LV: Do you think people in the community view student-athletes a bit more positively as a result of what we've seen since Coach Meyer got here?
JC: I hope so with the way we carry ourselves. I know a lot of guys have been getting more involved in the community and things like that. I think last year when Coach Meyer went around and talked to the majority of the fraternities it changed the climate here at the University between student-athletes and the community that surrounds us. I think they are definitely looking at us in a more positive way right now.
* * *
I remember when Urban Meyer said at an early press conference that while he wasn't supposed to have favorites on the team, but Brandon Siler was already his favorite. As a media guy, I'm not supposed to have favorites either, but Jemalle Cornelius is one of mine.
Keep those emails coming!
Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org .