Businesses that make an impact is the theme. I’ll be sharing accounts of my journey from pro athlete to non-profit professional at the University of Notre Dame Net Impact Symposium, this Friday 2/14/2014.
I’m not sure if anyone in their right mind would choose Findlay, Ohio as a vacation destination this time of year; or any time of year for that matter. But here I am. Day two of six in Findlay enjoying my time on my Alma Matter campus speaking to college students, coaches, staff and administrators about their futures, career paths, the future of the University’s sports programs, the benefit of internships, sports marketing and management, offensive and defensive line play, digital marketing and communications, NFL scouts, new buildings and sports facilities, campus writing publications and of course, the weather.
It’s been almost twelve years since I graduated from the University of Findlay and I’m still proud of the fact that I graduated from here. When I was an eighteen year old kid I didn’t know what I didn’t know; and at 34, I still don’t. But I do know there are certain events in one’s life that whether one realizes it or not at the time, happen for a reason. I think coming to the University of Findlay after high school while at the time, I wasn’t sure was right for me, turned out to be a great decision. I’m still great friends with my teammates from the days of the collegiate gridiron. It was here and with them that I learned to be perseverant and to work my ass off for the greater good. That greater good was Findlay Football and a better opportunity and life than otherwise would have been possible for a kid from Glandorf, Ohio. While it all started as a kid in back yard football games and with my coaches from the Ottawa-Glandorf communities, Findlay was the next step.
It was here that I met and quickly loved a football coach that knew how to motivate and inspire in a way that words cannot give justice. Coach Dick Strahm is one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met and possibly to ever walk the Earth. If you haven’t had the chance to play for Coach or know his story, it may be hard to believe that the greatest of the great resides in Findlay, Ohio, but that is the case. He leads by example and has taught so many of us over the years how to do the same. The tradition he began and instilled in me, is much in part why I am on campus this week sharing what I am able to share. Whether it be my time, my experiences or my humble expertise in areas of my profession, I am here to continue an Oiler tradition that many before me have been passionate about and contributed to.
When addressing young people about any topic, it brings with it a responsibility to be relavent as well as insightful to the issues that face them; or you might as well count on them to tune you out. I chose the topics for the keynote specifically because of the relevance I found between my friends whom I mentioned, and my Business Ethics professor, John Annarino, Esq.
In my speech I mentioned my friends Mike and Zack and shared what I learned from them, but not mentioned in the keynote is Professor Annarino. It was in his class that I learned the most about being a leader and what it takes to be my best. It was from John that I learnd to find a balance between my heart and my mind when making decisions. He taught me to be contemplative and aware of who I am and what my utility is as a man, a leader, and legacy. — We learn many valuable lessons in books, but often times the most important lessons we learn, are learned through experience.
We know that every entity has some form of leadership and there are many adjectives we use to describe those leaders. Coincidentally, we can also compare the body of work which that entity produces to reflect to some extent the leadership that guides. Presidents of countries, CEO’s of corporations, principals of elementary schools, and coaches of sports teams all have a unifying quality that conjoin them. – They lead people by defining a mission and entrusting in their own personal vision for the greater good of their entity and its stakeholders.
Leaders who preserve a humble desire to learn from others are demonstrating more than learning and leadership qualities; they are setting the greatest example possible for their pupils. A leader who leads by example will always have the respect and approbation of their team. Too often leaders find themselves in a position to influence others and forget that they too are students and have something to learn. Malcom Gladwell said, “We learn by example and direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.” This is very true in sports as well as business. As a back-up to Jeremy Shockey in New York, I had plenty of opportunity to learn by example. On film, on the field, in the weight room; It was like having another coach. In many ways, we all learned from each other. There are so many nuances to the game of football, especially in the trenches. The smallest tip to blocking a defensive end sometimes is the difference between scoring a touch-down or settling for a field goal attempt. For example, If I am watching Jeremy block a quick defensive end and see exactly how he takes his first step off the ball, I do not need to hear a word from a coach… I can see how to do it and will mirror his actions when I am in the same situation.
The same mirroring techniques can be used by managers in business, however they have to see the value of teaching their staff in a “do as I do, not do as I say” style. It’s easier for some managers to tell others what to do because they do not have the ability themselves to actually do the task. However, to optimally build your brand and your business; its imperative to have leaders on your team who care to show others how it’s done, as well as be able to explain to them why.
A team that has never been to the big one is finally getting it’s chance to show the rest of the NFL what Who Dat is all about. This video exemplifies my theory of sport producing a greater good in a community. The fanatical comradery that has engulfed the New Orleans Saints Who Dat Nation is an excellent example of what can be overcome by a community that has something to believe in. Those in sports know the story of the New Orleans Saints following Hurricane Katrina and have seen the images captured of shelter-seeking New Orleaners flocking to the Superdome for help. But time changes, and time heals – and now those same once displaced New Orleaners are feeling the love from a city that may just have the next SuperBowl Champions.
There’s no doubt the unique vibe that makes Bourbon Street in New Orleans a must-experience city was in the air last night following the overtime thriller. What was also in the air though was euphoria. Look closely at the emotion of the faces of the Saints fans as Bourbon Street explodes with cheers. Fans are absolutely taken over with elation when they realize the kick was good and the Saints are going to the SuperBowl. (Just got goosebumps)
This is what professional sports should be about. A community and a team who support each other in bad times and good times, working together to elevate a community to be greater than the individuals that make it up. As a player, I would have loved to experience the euphoria and elation the Saints players, especially Garrett Hartley felt as the overtime field goal split the uprights to send them to the SuperBowl; but put me in the middle of Bourbon Street surrounded by the sights, smells, and electricity portrayed in this video and I think I would have been equally as happy.