In his first public appearance since he was released from prison last Monday, receiver Plaxico Burress(notes) vowed to speak on behalf of the National Urban League and Brady Center to prevent gun violence. Burress was jailed for nearly two years after his unlicensed handgun went off in a New York City nightclub in September of 2008. Burress shot himself in the leg then, and is trying to make amends now by raising public awareness about gun safety.
He started by signing a pledge with the National Urban League Celebrity Empowerment Challenge, and spoke at the Urban League's headquarters on Wall Street this Monday morning.
"I was saying to myself over and over and over again, all those many days and nights, 'How could something like this happen to me? Why did it happen to me?'" Burress said at a press conference, talking of his incarceration. "And I got to a point to saying, 'You know what, I'm going to be positive, I'm going to learn from it. I'm going to try to make every day my masterpiece and just put it behind me.' I can't go back in time; I can't get those two years back. The only thing I can do now is learn from what happened to me, to grow from it and take it one day at a time. That's really the best way to handle this situation."
Burress also mentioned that he will be mentored by Tony Dungy and Magic Johnson going forward. Dungy, who was at the podium with Burress and had a similar influence on Michael Vick(notes) after Vick was released from prison, has said that handgun ownership among NFL players has reached epidemic proportions; when he would ask how many players owned guns at the start of training camps when he was the head coach in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, he'd see up to 90 percent of hands raised.
"That's the society we live in," Dungy said. "They feel they have to get a gun to protect themselves or because everyone else is doing it. That doesn't need to be the situation."
Burress, speaking from experience, agreed wholeheartedly.
"I no longer own a firearm in my home, and I don't carry one," Burress said. "With that, not owning one and not carrying one, I know I put myself in a better position in life and with safety and with the people in the community." [...]
"Look at my situation. Ever since I was 7 years old, I thought of playing football, back in 1984, and my goal was to be an NFL player and accomplish great things — win a Super Bowl and things like that," he said. "And I made a bad decision, and it can all be taken away from you so quick, literally in the blink of an eye. You have to be cognizant of every decision that you make and every decision you make poses a consequence. And with that being said, you have to make the right choice."
Burress also said that he looks forward to a comeback to the game he played for nine years with the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers after Pittsburgh selected him in the first round of the 2000 draft. "I'm eager and excited about the next step, not knowing where it will be," he said. "I'm dedicated to change and just being a better person."
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