Story by Jennifer Scales, Columbia VA Health Care System Public Affairs

The Columbia VA Health Care System’s Voluntary Service Office partnered with the Drill Sergeant Association of Fort Jackson to welcome a Dreher High School alum and now National Football League linebacker to the medical center, July 17.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL linebacker # 95, Farrington Huguenin, was greeted by a crowd of Veterans and staff at the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center.

“He is a large supporter of the Veterans and this is just one of his ways of showing care and giving back to the community from which he was born into,” Dean Durham, President, Drill Sergeant Association of Fort Jackson, said.

“I play the game of football in my life,” Huguenin said. “But the Veterans give of their own time and life for this country. This is the least I could do in gratitude for all their service to me and others. This is a humbling experience to be among them today.”

While visiting, Huguenin posed for photos, signed autographs, visited waiting areas and ended his talking with the Summer Student Volunteer program participants.

“Anything is possible for you. Ms. Finney (Chief of Community Relations and Engagement Services/Acting Voluntary Service Chief) watched me grow up, and people like her will help you get to where you want to go,” Huguenin said. “I’m 27-years-old, I’m always learning and my mom still teaches me life lessons. You must also respect people, because that respect goes a long way. Respect has taken me farther than football.”

Huguenin also related to the students that his studies came first; secondary was being an athlete. When he graduated from college, business management was his degree of choice.

When asked about his daily routine, Huguenin talked about his workout regimen and his diet.

“I train two times a day, beginning my meals with six eggs and two bowls of oatmeal. I drink tons of water and include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chocolate milk for protein.”

One special person present for his visit was his mother, Valerie Huguenin. As a nurse who works at Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School and former nurse of the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VAMC, Valerie took her son’s visit to the facility as an inspiring event.

“I take more joy in visits like this than sitting in the bleachers,” Valerie said. “Farrington comes from the essence of this community and from a family lineage of athletes. As his mother, I have an earthly assignment to him. During my pregnancy with him, I had a name placed in my heart already for my baby, who was going to be named Farrington whether it was a boy or girl. I knew that name would be one for some type of recognition.”

Valerie has never stopped parenting, even to this day, to either Farrington or to her daughter Lauren.

High school sophomores Gabriel Holmes and Lakin Green, summer student volunteers, found themselves enjoying the talk and the visit.

“This is nice because he came back to the community he grew up in to talk with us and we see that he is a normal person just like us,” said Holmes, who wants to pursue a degree in marine biology.

Green said, “We got a chance to talk to him to find out what it took for him to get where he is today.”

Staff members present also enjoyed the visit.

“It’s good to see that he is promoting education first, as a lot of these students admire him,” said Eulela Flemming, a kinesiotherapist at Dorn. “And I like that he is giving back in this manner, which shows his great character.”

Photo: Farrington Huguenin, NFL Linebacker from Tampa Bay, takes a moment to share the spotlight of his visit with mother Valerie (center) and Tammy Finney, both of whom have made positive impressions in his upbringing from childhood to the present, July 17 at the Columbia VAHCS. Photo by Jennifer Scales

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