"You have to play this game like someone just hit your mother with a two-by-four." --Dan Birdwell
This was an interesting weekend.
Between watching updates on Hurricane Dorian and the start of the football season, it's been a bit quite a mix of emotions.
Football season is my favorite part of the year. Though I played many sports, nothing quite captured my heart like the gridiron game.
I post this every year on the first week of football because I believe so much in what this game gave me and taught me in the six years I got to play.
I grew up in a small town in a graduating class of 26--the total school population was a whopping 120.
I played eight man football my first three years in high school because we only had about 16 kids on the roster. We were very competitive in our class most years, and I played quarterback, running back, receiver, punt and kick returner, and my favorite; corner back.
From the ages of 12-18, I was lucky enough to put pads on. And just as millions of others who've played this great game, football taught me a lot about myself and life in general.
Here are six lessons the game of football taught me. Some are serious; and some are humorous. I hope some of you will be able to relate with me to bring back some old memories of your own in playing this great game.
-1- The Absolute Pleasure of Playing the Game
I've played every sport. Nothing compares to being out on the field playing football. There was not a more fun sport to play.
The lights, the smell of the grass, the feeling when your team makes a great play, the feel of making a big hit or getting up after a big hit, crossing the goal line with the football in your hand, and of course the pure adrenaline of just playing the game.
Nothing pleasures the senses and is more enjoyable than playing the game of football.
This taught me to seek what I loved to do in life and never settle for anything else.
-2- Mental toughness
My sophomore year, I played in my first high school playoff game. We traveled to a small town to play a team who came out in all black looking like a bunch of big a$% grim reapers.
On the first play from scrimmage our toughest, strongest, craziest player got trucked on a college sweep shattering his rib guard and leaving him lying lifeless on the field.
He was a tough kid so eventually (to my surprise) got up. We, however, ended up getting blown out.
This one blow taught me a lot about how mental toughness can be cracked with one big hit.
This can happen in life. You have to be prepared for that day when you get hit so hard you think you have to give up. You can't give up.
My junior year, we were one of the top-ranked teams in the state.
But after our first game, tragedy struck. Our center, a 16-year-old junior named Phil, was killed in a car accident.
In a difficult week to follow, we had to face our rival the following Friday. This team had beaten us for years. But this year was different. I've never experienced a group come together like we did that Friday night.
When won 7-6, I remember dropping to my knees with my teammates and bursting into tears.
We came together and won a tough game both physically and emotionally for Phil and his family.
This taught me about the importance of not just building a great team around you, but the strength of a brotherhood.
Football taught me a lot about assertiveness and aggressiveness. It taught me to be the one who delivers the blow, not to be the one who takes it.
I specifically learned this lesson my junior year in the playoffs when standing in the hole and waiting for a gigantic fullback to plow me over instead of being the first to initiate contact.
I'll never forget that hit. I got absolutely blasted. I took this philosophy into my basketball career and decided I would drive to the basket with such aggression, if I was fouled, they were going to pay for it.
I also take this as a philosophy in life. You have to be assertive. You have to be the one who hits first. "Attack is the best form of defense."
-5- Perseverance :
Football is a game of inches, and those inches are difficult ones.
It taught me to get back up after getting plowed into the turf. It taught me to recover after making a mistake. It taught me to play with pain. It taught me to regroup and it taught me that success is perseverance.
Practice sucks, training sucks, two-a-days suck, but a victory makes it all worth it.
There is no greater lesson then the lesson of perseverance. To be successful in anything you do, you have to keep pressing forward. You have to keep getting up when you get knocked down. You have to stay committed to achieving your goals.
-6- Controlling Emotions and Fear :
I wasn't a big kid. As a freshman, I was 5'3" 110 lbs and my senior year I was only 5'10" 150lbs.
As a smaller dude in a game of bigger dudes trying to kill you, it was easy to let fear creep into my mind.
I specifically remember the bus rides to the field as a time when I really had to begin to control the emotion of adrenaline and fear.
Football taught me a lot about "getting it together," positive self-talk, and courage. What a game.
Take some time to reflect on some of the lessons you've learned from the sports or activities that have helped make you who you are today. And if you in Florida, stay safe!!