Marc Mero shared what he called a “death list” with students at Bald Eagle Area School District on Wednesday morning.
“I call it my death list because I should have been on there,” he said.
It included the names of 31 people Mero knew who died from substance abuse — a path he headed down twice.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The mission was to empower students to make healthy and positive choices by using examples of his past experiences.
“There are two types of people,” Mero said, “those who want to see things get done and those who take it into their own hands. I wanted to be the person who would do it.”
Mero made his WWE debut in 1990.
“At the high of my life, I hit a low,” he said, elaborating on his use of alcohol and drugs.
“I surrounded myself with people who were a bad influence, and I just as well could have been on that death list. I lost everything I had — my money, my family, my friends, everything I worked for.”
Mero said he had an epiphany to change his life after the deaths of his mother, brother and sister.
“I realized I’ll never have a chance to be with them again,” Mero said. “You don’t realize the importance of family and relationships until you don’t have it anymore.”
Mero addressed about 800 Bald Eagle Area middle and high school students before giving a second version of his presentation to about 500 elementary school students.
“We have anti-bullying procedures, and as teachers and administrators, we stress the importance of being kind and being uplifting, but I think it takes real-life situations to put things in perspective,” said Wingate Elementary School Principal Jim Orichosky, who helped arrange Mero’s visit.
And it left some students inspired.
“It impacted me, and I think it impacted everyone, because it was pretty emotional,” sophomore Margaret Cowan said. “He shared a lot about his life, and showed us how to be good examples and that we can accomplish our goals. I want to start writing things down and actually do it like he did.”
In 2008, Mero had a goal to write a book by 2010. He said if it weren’t for the reminder he had made to himself on a sticky note, it might never have been completed.
“Those to-do lists can give you that extra motivation to do it,” he said. “It will stare at you every day in the face unless you decide to can it or complete it.”
Orichosky said that during Mero’s first appearance, students were so focused on the speech, “you could hear a pin drop.”
“We were all pretty zoned in,” seventh-grader Asher Burkett said. “I think we just want to think before we do something from now on and see how it could affect ourselves and others.”
In 2008, Mero made his first presentation to a high school football team in Melbourne, Fla.
“I was more nervous about talking to them than wrestling in front of tens of thousands of people,” he said with a laugh. “Now it’s turned into my stress relief. … There’s no greater joy than helping someone.”
Mero has since made more than 1,100 presentations.
His next stops are in New York City and New Jersey.