BEDFORD, Va. -

If you want to get a room full of teenage boys to sit up and pay attention, bring in a former pro athlete.

Jarrett Ferguson played football for the Buffalo Bills and Virginia Tech, but his message at Bedford Middle School Monday wasn't all about sports.

"You have to show respect," Ferguson said.  "You have to carry yourself well, because you never know who is watching you."

Ferguson was brought in to speak as part of a new program called "Building Men of Substance."  Every eighth grade boy is invited to participate.

"We developed the program to equip young men with the tools they need to effect positive change in the school and the community," said Brian Wilson, Bedford Middle School's assistant principal and coordinator for "Men of Substance."

The program uses positive role models like Ferguson, who grew up in Bedford County and now holds a leadership position with Virginia Tech's football program.

Every guest speaker stresses important topics like self-respect, good communication, and planning for the future.

"Inspiring them to go in a positive direction really sets them up for success in high school and beyond high school," Wilson said.

Since the effort started in January, administrators say they've already seen a change in student behavior.

"I've learned a lot about respect, success, and how to be a better person than what I am right now," said Logan Ball, an eighth grade student who takes part in the program.

By teaching good values now at ages 13 and 14, administrators hope the young men of BMS will make better choices throughout high school.

"It teaches you how to work hard and never forget the right things to do," said student participant, Taylor Carson.  "It just makes you a better person overall."

Administrators would like to eventually make the program a year-round effort, which would incorporate community service projects and other initiatives to teach students the value of hard work.