Over 13 years in elementary, middle and high school, in addition to another three years at Auburn, no one could convince star linebacker Derek Wilson that literacy served any purpose.
"I'm going pro," he always said. "Reading and writing is a waste of my fking time."
But then Twitter came along and the All-American sack machine heard on television how superstar athletes such as Shaquille O'Neal, Chad Ocho Cinco and Stephon Marbury use the micro-blogging tool to grow their fan base.
"I want to be a huge star, so I have to be on Twitter," says Wilson. "But that means I have to learn how to make those squiggle things everyone looks at in books."
And with that goal in mind, Wilson has set about utilizing many of the educational opportunities he never realized a school provided, such as education.
"I thought schools were nothing more than just places with good weight rooms. But they can teach you how to read up in this fking sh!t, too," he said. "That's tight. I told them I just wanted to learn how to Tweet, but they said they can do me up all the way. I might even be ordering off menus soon. I don't have to just say 'burger me' anymore. Although I probably still will. I love burgers. I could go for one now, actually."
Maria Tollefson, who serves as the chief academic tutor for the Tigers football team, says she is ecstatic that one of team's players its star player, no less has taken an interest in literacy.
"Usually my job is just to write their papers for them and get people to take their exams whatever it takes to keep them eligible and on the field," she said. "But actual teaching, helping someone learn things well, that's the reason I got into education in the first place. I'm probably a bit rusty after all these years of working with the football team, but I'm sure it will come back to me."
Tollefson says she has found Wilson to be a quick study.
"People think guys like Derek are dumb, but he just needed the right motivation," she said. "And for whatever reason, getting on Twitter was it for him. Now he's on his way to literacy. In fact, he even posted his first Tweet today."
"I posted: 'Where dem bitches at?'" Wilson beamed. "And I wrote it all by myself. I'm feeling smart and sh!t. No homo."