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He has been an NFL player, a Realtor and mortgage broker, but what Michael Bankston has discovered is that working with children is his most rewarding career.

“I’ve been working with kids in some aspect the whole time but on a regular daily basis for the last seven years,” said the Mesa resident.

Bankston played defensive lineman for the Arizona Cardinals from 1992 to 1997. He was traded to the Cincinnati Bengals and played the same position for them 1998-2000.

A knee injury when he played for the Washington Redskins in 2001 forced him to leave football.

Now he is a case manager at Canyon State Academy in Queen Creek, working with underprivileged boys and those with special-education needs between the ages of 11-17.

He works in admissions and is a liaison Cheap Arizona Cardinals Jerseys between students, their families and the courts.

Founded in 1948, the school aims “to help at-risk children and adolescents to develop self-respect and self-confidence while providing vital social, educational and vocational skills which allowed youth to return to their communities as productive young adults,” according to its website.

Boasting a “strong athletic legacy,” Canyon State Academy drew the support of the late Arizona State University coach Frank Kush, a member of its advisory board.

In 2000, Canyon State Academy revised its residential program to offer academic, career and technical training, athletics and evidence-based treatment curricula to give at-risk youth opportunities to improve their lives.

Today, it holds numerous partnerships with Sun Valley Community Church, government agencies, stakeholders, businesses and universities.

The nonprofit academy operated by Rite of Passage, a national provider of therapeutic and educational programs for youth that has a wide assortment of programs in education, youth shelter, family and community aftercare and Cheap Michael Bankston Jersey intensive treatment for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

Born and raised in a small country town of Elm Grove, Texas, Bankston was one of six children.

His father died when Michael was 5, leaving his mother to raise the kids on her own.

Bankston earned an athletic full-ride scholarship to Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, where he played football all four years and was voted a distinguished alumnus and a member of its Hall of Honors for Athletics.

He uses his experiences on the football field to help guide and mentor the children.

He said he often tells the children at Canyon State Academy, “Take ‘I can’t’ and ‘I won’t’ out of your vocabulary and replace them with ‘I can’ and ‘I will.’”

Bankston also engages in a lot of charity and community service work.

He is on the board at Future for Kids, an after-school mentoring program for at-risk youth that provides education and physical activities for kids.

That program sponsors several events in different venues each year to raise funds used to mentor, feed and motivate kids at no cost to the families.

He’s also on the board of the National Football Foundation and the Sam Houston Black Alumni Association, donating his time as well to many charity events, golf tournaments, cancer awareness programs and children’s hospitals.

He’s a coach for football camps and YMCA programs.

As the Cardinals celebrate their 100th season, Bankston is listed as one of the team’s top 100 players

“It was an honor,” said Bankston, noting the team’s migration from Chicago to St. Louis Cardinals and then here where it was first called the Phoenix Cardinals.

That top 100 involves players from all those teams, “so it was an honor to be named 62 out of the top 100,” he said.

“It’s the best of both worlds because I still do some things with the Arizona Cardinals, I do a lot of youth camps, speaking to youth,” said Bankston. “It goes hand-in-hand.”

Married and the father of four children, Bankston said mentoring youth has its challenges.

”It’s more difficult to get the youth we deal with today to see they have a brighter future,” he said.

“We can’t make anybody change,” he added. “They have to change themselves in order to have a successful future. My encouragement to them is to get them to see they are valuable and need to start taking advantage of opportunities because they will pass you by.”