CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A former National Football League player, author, astronaut, and University of Virginia graduate wants children to be the explorers of their future.

Leland Melvin addressed over 2,500 students at St. Anne’s Belfield School on Tuesday, March 20, as part of the Virginia Festival of the Book. He talked about the challenges he faced throughout life and how he eventually made it from the football field to outer space.

“I hope that no matter what zip code these kids are from that they believe that they can do anything - whether they're from an affluent zip code or a not so affluent zip code - but if they have the right people in their life, the community, the teachers, their parents, if they have parents,” says Melvin.

In honor of the book festival, Melvin is highlighting the importance of kids reading regularly in order to succeed and become better educated.

The festival is set to officially kick off Wednesday, March 21, and last throughout Sunday.