Students at Baldwin High School were more excited than usual at this year’s homecoming pep rally when a surprise visitor stepped inside their gymnasium.
UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman, a 2002 Baldwin graduate, made an unexpected appearance Friday at his alma mater.
“We snuck him through the back door,” said Ed Ramirez, Baldwin’s athletic director.
When Weidman entered the pep rally, Ramirez said the 30-year-old undefeated mixed martial artist received a standing ovation from the roughly 1,300 students and school staff members who had packed the gym.
As each varsity athlete ran onto the basketball court to be recognized, Weidman, along with a few of his UFC friends, exchanged high-fives and handshakes with them. Then he spent an hour speaking with the students.
Weidman said he told them, “If you’re truly confident, you can do anything you want. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you have ... It just comes down to working as hard as you can."
Weidman’s visit came one day before Baldwin’s varsity football team took on its longtime rival Freeport.
Over the years, Ramirez said, Freeport has gotten the better of Baldwin. “We’ve had some big wins, but overall they have the edge.”
On Saturday, Baldwin notched another one of those “big wins,” though, defeating Freeport 41-13. Baldwin is now 6-0 for the season.
Although Weidman couldn’t attend the game, Ramirez said he asked to be kept updated via text messaging.
“I did text him the final score,” Ramirez said. “He was excited.”
Ramirez recalled Weidman’s days as a student at Baldwin High School, where he played football and lacrosse, and wrestled, winning a state wrestling championship in 2002. Ramirez said he hasn’t changed much.
“He’s a good young man who is always thinking about how he can help kids in his neighborhood and others, always looking to give back,” he said. “It’s a good example for our young athletes to have.”
Last Thursday, Weidman also was credited with saving the life of his 94-year-old neighbor in Dix HIlls. Read the full story here.