This article appeared in the Arizona Daily Star in 2000.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Ex-Cats Northcutt, Stewart reach out to Boy Scouts
By Ed Odeven
As youngsters, former University of Arizona athletes Jason Stewart and Dennis Northcutt escaped the deadly temptations of gangs and drugs by getting involved in athletics.
The two ex-Wildcats, who grew up in Los Angeles, are being called upon to help guide local kids in the right direction. During a news conference Wednesday morning at Reid Park, Stewart and Northcutt were introduced as Scoutreach Ambassadors by the Catalina Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Current UA athletes Loren Woods, Richard Jefferson, Ortege Jenkins and Lamont Frazier were selected as Scoutreach delegates.
The Scoutreach program began in Southern Arizona four years ago as a way to get more people involved in the community, according to Rafael Leon, senior Scoutreach executive of the Catalina Council.
“The Scoutreach program is a critical component in teaching kids values and self-esteem,” Leon said. “Unfortunately, many scouts in South Tucson and throughout the area are from single-parent homes. They do not have a positive male role model or someone who can mentor them. This is where the Scoutreach program fits in.”
For Northcutt, having the opportunity to be instrumental in the lives of young Tucsonans gives him a sense of pride.
“This is something I always wanted to do, giving back to the kids. I’m thrilled to do whatever I can,” said the wide receiver, a second-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns.
“Being a part of the Boy Scouts is one step in being very successful in your life.”
While addressing the crowd, Northcutt spoke about the importance of realizing there is always a choice to make: the right one or wrong one.
“We all have a hard road, but I believe everyone here can be very successful,” said Northcutt, who added that he plans to become an active participant in domestic violence prevention programs in Cleveland and other charities in Los Angeles.
Stewart, a licensed Christian minister, keeps busy working for Nova Home Loans, coaches basketball at Pusch Ridge Christian High School and serving on the Greater Tucson Economic Council task force committee. He said he considers working with the Boy Scouts an honor.
“It’s a great privilege,” said Stewart, a former walk-on basketball player and member of the UA’s 1997 national championship team.
“There were a few people in my life who steered me in the right direction. Kids need someone to guide them and steer them in the right direction.”
Unlike the remark uttered by Charles Barkley several years ago, that athletes shouldn’t be looked at as role models, Stewart considered being a role model no joking matter.
“Absolutely, as an athletes at a university, you have a profound affect on the lives of young people,” Stewart said. “People pay attention.”
Nicholas LaRue, an 11-year-old Boy Scout, said he enjoyed hearing the message conveyed by Stewart and Northcutt.
“It’s very important,” LaRue said. “It gives us some encouragement.”
Emmaline Hill, whose 9-year-old son, Christopher, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 339, said it’s always good for kids to hear a positive message from adults outside their household.
“It’s fun for them to hear it from someone else, especially not their mom,” said Hill, a committee chairman for Troop 339. “Any good, strong role model is good for boys. It’s really, really important.”
Currently, about 9,600 boys and 4,000 adults are involved in the Catalina Council, encompassing Pima, Santa Cruz, Cochise counties and part of Pinal County.