Through sports, you’re able to learn a lot. All that which I learned in youth league and high school quickly amplified once I started playing in college. I had the experience of playing for two Universities. My time on both teams were not winning times, so there were even more lessons to learn than if we were winning all of the time, at least that’s the positive I like to tell myself. Let me preface this with I was a walk-on. I knew what I was getting into and essentially paid for the experience. The lessons I learned come from a place of knowing I needed to change which is why I chose to walk on, plus years of reflection. Though these lessons are available to all who have had the experience, it is not a given that everyone learned these same lessons. I had a very unique experience that helped me grasp each lesson. Over the next few weeks, I will share each lesson along with the story behind the aha moment.
When I say I know I needed to change, I needed to change. I am sure I would have still graduated but I was heading nowhere fast. I was living off campus in a lake house which inexcusably led to me skipping a lot of class. My grades were fine but I was doing the bare minimum. I was not sure what I was going to major in (5th semester undecided), and I knew I needed some direction. Some structure that had consequences for each decision I chose to make. Football was my “comfort” zone which has to be among the most uncomfortable comfort zones one can have. Unlike most comfort zones, this one still led to significant growth.
People ask me all the time would I play football again knowing the rampant occurrence of CTE and my answer is eh, maybe. The lessons I learned would have been difficult to obtain without football in my life. The skills I have honed are mainly thanks to having football as an outlet since I was 7 years old. Also, I never had a single concussion and never sustained any blows to my head…. that I can remember. Point is football has taught me a lot and that part I would never change.
Lesson 1: DONT BE LATE
Man am I a stickler for time. I owe it all to football. Since football has always been a huge part of my life I have always had something holding me accountable for being on time. If you showed up late to practice, you ran or had leg lifts and often times your teammates had to join you. You always hated the guy who showed up late and caused everyone else to have to join in on his punishment. Usually not only did you have to run but people would have it out for you during practice. That was enough incentive to figure out how to be on time. When I say on time, I mean be early, because even on time is late in the football realm.
Though being on time has generally always been important to me, there was one particular instance in college that really helped to engrain this habit. This is one of my favorite stories to tell though this will be the PG version.
It was my last season at UCONN and we were playing Syracuse in The Dome. This was a must win game if we wanted to be bowl eligible. Playing in a bowl game was one of my goals of joining the team, this was an experience that I wanted, but you don’t always get what you want. We got absolutely washed. Their running back ran all over us. I didn’t play a single second in that game and just had to watch mercilessly from the sideline as we took a fat L. Losing 45 to nothin. The season wasn’t quite over, but it was done. I wasn’t used to not getting what I wanted after feeling like I had worked for it. That night, I essentially drowned my sorrows. I went to Huskies and had a grand ole time. A couple of whiskey waters later and I woke up face down in my bed to a call from the president of football operations (don’t worry I didn’t drive) wondering where the F I was at. Uh oh. I scramble out the door to the football facility and try to slide into the defensive group meeting undetected. That door must have been the squeakiest door on earth from what I remember. As soon as I opened that bih, the defensive coordinator (this guy is literally amazing by the way) turned, made eye contact with me and yelled a few expletives my way essentially telling me to get out. I quickly walked out with my tail tucked between my legs. Not only was he the defensive coordinator but also my position coach so I would have to see him again once they finished the defensive meeting. I WAS OVER AN HOUR LATE MIND YOU. During the positional meeting, he proceeds to continue to go in on me. Luckily, I don’t remember most of what he said. However one thing he said really stuck out to me. He said to never disrespect this group again, you don’t just represent yourself, you represent all of us and I don’t think you want to be known as that guy and we as a group certainly don’t. What was ingrained into my psyche that day was that it is not my time, it is our time and what I had done was completely selfish. That selfish act made a lot of people look bad, and as if getting castrated in front of my boys wasn’t enough, I also had to wake up for 6am plate pushes for the next two weeks. The lesson was already learned but this was the icing on the cake.
Moral of the story, DON’T BE LATE. Time isn’t yours, it is shared by everyone.