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Will Crain, Connor Shaw tell students how to succeed in life
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Will Crain paddles as fast as he can across the water at the Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club in Gainesville.

An assembly of students Friday at Spout Springs Elementary School heard a common theme, according to physical education teacher Tom Adam — hard work.

The school heard from two alumni who gained fame on different stages – Will Crain, who won three medals in the Special Olympics, and Flowery Branch High graduate Connor Shaw, a backup quarterback for the Cleveland Browns who played in college at the University of South Carolina.

Adam also noted it is the school’s 25th anniversary of “caring for kids.” He congratulated the students on their work toward good health. The students raised more than $19,000 for the American Heart Association through its jump rope campaign, and Spout Springs is the “only school in Georgia” to receive two gold designations from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

The Special Olympics “has been a great experience,” Crain told the students, but quickly added, “If you don’t work hard, you won’t get anywhere in life.”

The two men “sat out where you are,” Adam said. “They worked hard and then they dreamed – and then they worked some more.”

Shaw said, “I’ve never been the tallest, the biggest, the fastest,” but perseverance paid off.

The NFL quarterback called Friday’s visit a “unique opportunity” because it was his former school. He said it was his first visit to the school since he was a student there. Spout Springs is “very dear to me,” Shaw said. “In this gym, I shot a lot of baskets here. It all started here.”

He added that his father, Lee Shaw, who is the former Flowery Branch High football coach, told him, “It’s the ‘hard’ that makes it good.”

Denise Grogan, a special education teacher at the school, called Crain, “my hero.” She was his teacher when he attended the school. Adam introduced her, calling her “part of the heart of Spout Springs” because she has taught there since the school opened.

Crain had a “genetic disorder,” Adam said, and overcome a number of obstacles, including a liver transplant.

Part of a slide show presentation was state Rep. Emory Dunahoo presented a proclamation to Crain. Adam noted that the proclamation included “a lot of words that mean you’re awesome.”

Crain won three medals in the Special Olympics, including gold in the 500-meter race, in the summer of 2015. He was a senior at Johnson High when he won the medals.

Shaw, who is on the roster of the Browns, won more games as the University of South Carolina quarterback than anyone in school history.

He urged the students to “chase every goal you have.” He said at their age, he “wanted to be so many different things.”

Among them were a football coach, movie producer and soldier, Shaw said.

The students are “at a cool age,” he said, because they can set many different goals. He wished the success “in the near future and the far future.”

Reaching those goals, Shaw said, just “takes hard work.”