In less than a week, Tavio Henson will be back in his orange and white football uniform for the University of Tennessee's appearance in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day in New Orleans.
He had more important matters to attend to Monday morning.
Wearing a suit and tie, the 1988 Meade graduate sat in the fourth-floor conference room at the Arundel Center in Annapolis as Huntley Cross, director of the county's Alcohol and Drug Advisory Council, unveiled an anti-drug poster bearing Henson's likeness.
Cross said 5,000 posters will be distributed throughout various communities in an effort to combat drug abuse in the county. Each is inscribed with the words, "Don't Let Alcohol and Other Drugs Destroy Your Dreams and Visions," and contains a picture of Henson sprinting into the end zone.
In the lower right-hand corner of the poster is a smaller, posed shot of Henson with the quote, "I've always had big dreams and big visions."
"We'll flood the area as much as we can to get these in the hands of the kids," Cross said. "Whatever's the easiest way to get them out. Some will be through schools and some will be through our community outreach."
"This is a marvelous young man, a credit to Anne Arundel countians everywhere, particularly young people," he said of Henson, who sat next to County Executive Robert R. Neall during the brief ceremony. "It angers me sometimes when we talk about this current generation of young people being lost in drugs. They're not all lost in drugs. This young man has made some very powerful decisions about what he wants to be."
Cross said his office had distributed similar posters of National Football League running back Herschel Walker last summer, but the response wasn't what he had hoped.
"We've done lots of things involving big-name people," Cross said last week, "but when we're talking role modeling, here's a kid right from the neighborhood who's living a drug-free life. That's the type of person you need to get in front of kids."
Henson said he does not feel pressured being looked upon as a role model.
"God has allowed me to give all my worries and burdens to him. I really don't have any problem being a role model," he said.
"Just being honored like this is amazing. I have to give all the glory and credit to God, where it belongs. I was raised basically by my mother and grandmother and they brought me up biblically. I think if you bring up a child from a biblical standpoint, the kid will never leave that way of life."
Henson captained the track and football teams while at Meade and was an All-County selection in both sports. He set school records in the long jump, 300-meter -- and 55-meter hurdles and finished third in the national pentathlon.
Henson made the Tennessee football team as a walk-on, and earlier this year rushed for over 100 yards after replacing injured halfback Chuck Webb.
Neall shared Cross's opinion that young people in the county are more likely to relate to a local athlete, and therefore pay greater attention to his anti-drug message.
"Youngsters need role models," he said, "and it's even more important when they're local role models who bring it all home."
"The fact that we have somebody who's achieved a high degree of proficiency in a sport and gained recognition and remains extremely unaffected and unchanged by it is remarkable in this day and time."