By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - If you walk into Pedro Cherry's office at Georgia Power, the first thing you'll see is the Auburn Creed.
"I read that every day," Cherry told Auburn's football team this week. "It's powerful."
Cherry, an Auburn receiver from 1989-91, recently received a promotion to executive vice president, leading Georgia Power's Customer Service & Operations organization.
At Gus Malzahn's invitation, Cherry spoke to the Tigers for 20 minutes about leadership, emphasizing the importance of partnerships, perseverance and purpose.
"If you exhibit influence, you're a leader," he said.
Cherry shared how injuries to his ankle and knee derailed his professional football aspirations, but he was ready with Plan B.
"You can sulk, or you can get better," he told the Tigers. "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. You are going to have tough times. Are you going to give up? Or are you going to fight and be a man about it? Because that's part of your legacy."
An excellent student in high school in North Carolina, Cherry continued to thrive academically at Auburn, earning a bachelor's in industrial engineering and an MBA in operations management and finance.
"I grew up in a humble background," Cherry said. "My mom had a high school degree, my dad had an eighth-grade education, but they worked hard every day. And they instilled in me to get an education.
"I'd always been an athlete, but I knew I couldn't do athletics -- they wouldn't let me play - without doing well in school. I wanted to be the best in athletics. I wanted to be the best in the classroom as well."
Cherry, who serves on many boards in Atlanta as well as Auburn's Alumni Engineering Council, challenged Auburn's football team members to use their influence for good.
"How can you find a way to give back and make life better, not just for yourself, but your community?" he said. "Leave a significant imprint on your community and use all of the strengths, passions and platforms that you have to do that."
Lessons learned at Auburn have benefitted Cherry in the corporate world, he says.
"All of those things were transferable from the field, from the track, to real life," Cherry said. "It just takes awhile to realize, `I learned that here.' Little sayings like Coach Dye's, `Come early, stay late.'
"It's been instilled in me to treat everybody right, but this is where I first started being a mentor, learning how to use my platform to help others. This gave me a platform."
Cherry told the student-athletes that leaders are always grateful, show respect, courage, accountability and integrity while helping others develop.
"From being a well-rounded person, on the field, off the field, socially, mentally, I can't think of a better place than Auburn," Cherry said after his talk to the team. "I'm so proud to be an alumnus. Everybody you meet, everybody who's from here, there's a kinship unlike any other. I'm so grateful for the time spent here. I couldn't have made a better choice."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer