Book Profiles 34 Athletes Worthy of Being Called ‘Role Models’: Mario Lemieux, Ronda Rousey, Najee Harris, Todd Beamer, Jackie Joyner Kersee and others

Book Profiles 34 Athletes Worthy of Being Called ‘Role Models’

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Athletes who’ve made it to the top of their game are often viewed as role models, but bestselling author Dr. Joe Hoedel wants readers to look beyond the trophies and medals, and learn more about the real people behind the public personas.

“I want to change the reason why we look up to athletes — it’s their character both on and off the field,” Hoedel said during a recent interview.

In his latest book, Sports Role Models: Book 3, Hoedel profiles 34 inspirational athletes who exemplify positive traits such as character, leadership and sportsmanship — qualities that contributed to their success both on and off the playing field.

Hoedel tells the stories behind the stories, including:

· How Mario Lemieux rescued the Pittsburg Penguin franchise from bankruptcy as a player and later as the team owner;

· Erik Weihenmayer is one of 234 people to ever climb the seven highest peaks on all seven continents, only Erik is blind;

· Ronda Rousey was born with an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and suffered from apraxia before winning an Olympic medal in Judo;

· Billy Mills, a Native American who was raised in an orphanage, went on to become the only American to win the 10,000 meters for America at the Olympics;

· Najee Harris, who held his NFL draft party at a homeless shelter because he spent so many nights there as a child;

· Todd Beamer is one of four former athletes who heroically tried to take back control of United Flight 93 on 09/11/2001 before ultimately crashing in Shanksville, Pennsylvania;

· Jackie Joyner Kersee, who was born to teenage parents in the roughest neighborhood in East St. Louis, yet went on to win multiple gold medals for America;

· And much, much more.

Readers will recognize many of the heroes Hoedel profiles, including Mario Lemieux, Charles Barkley, Steph Curry and Najee Harris. Other chapters feature lesser-known yet equally remarkable examples of the power of the human spirit, like Nile Kinnick, who won the Heisman Trophy, but died serving his country in WWII; or Brandon Burlsworth, who walked on to the University of Arkansas and earned All-American status before being killed in a car accident 11 days after being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts.

Sports Role Models: Book 3 includes a mix of historical and contemporary sports figures; a healthy balance of men and women; and a diverse blend of race, ethnicity, backgrounds and perspectives. Sports Role Models: Book 3 is the final installment in Hoedel’s three-part series. Cumulatively, the books cover 26 distinct sports and many of the greatest sports moments of the last 100 years.

“There is something in these books for everyone,” Hoedel added. “People want and need to be inspired. We should be able to look up to positive role models who inspire us to greatness.”

About the Author

Joe Hoedel earned his Ph.D. from Michigan State University. For 20 years he has served as the CEO of Character Development and Leadership, an education-based curriculum company. He has created two educational programs that are used in more than 3,500 middle and high schools across the country. He is the author of three books that highlight 102 athletes and coaches who exemplify positive character traits. Hoedel has spoken at hundreds of conferences in the past two decades. He is also a high school coach in Traverse City. He is married and has four amazing daughters.

For more information, please visit, or follow the author on Facebook (, X (@CDandLeadership) and Instagram (characterandleadership).

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