The game of football has taught me to be a leader, a teammate, a critical thinker, a problem solver and most of all to be accountable for my actions. It has also given me the confidence to know that I can do anything I set my mind to. I played the game of football competitively for sixteen years (Starting at age nine and retiring from the NFL at age 24). In all those years of playing this game, I have adopted a few themes as part of my life’s DNA which I believe define me as a man as well as an entrepreneur and member of society. Characteristics such as integrity, character, commitment, work ethic, leadership, and being a community ambassador have become the essence of what the game of football has taught me to replicate as I create my legacy.
I learned a long time ago, on a football field, that your team was the most important ingredient in the formula for success. Without others, one’s individual success is impossible; and so people should be every organization’s number one resource. On the football field, it’s imperative to have a talented quarterback, because that is generally the most important position on every team. However, without the entire team working for the same goal and respecting the quarterback, the likelihood of failure is high. The same holds true in business. Constructing a solid team is vital to an organization’s success. It’s essential to find a solid leader, someone the rest of the team will respect and follow to that end. The supporting team may be a variety of personalities and plethora of different skills and individual characteristics, but ultimately, a team needs a captain to lead that team to success.
Vince Lombardi, a legendary NFL coach said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” When building a business, it’s foolish to think one can do it alone. Employing the right people is essential to your team’s success. Also, the reward is much greater when a goal is accomplished as a group rather than alone. Having someone beside you to celebrate with is certainly more enjoyable than solitude. Togetherness is crucial when accomplishing, as well as celebrating. A football team requires eleven players on every play to be together to have success. If one player does not do their job, the play usually fails. Too many failures ultimately equal defeat. It’s really that simple at the end of the fourth quarter. A coach can evaluate a game by simply pointing out the times a team did not work together as one unit and find reason for a loss. The same holds true for success. A coach can evaluate a team’s win by pointing out the consistency of togetherness and number of times a team carried out what they had planned to do throughout its preparation period. Business is much like winning a football game. You prepare for a test by doing research, scouting the competition, preparing a strategy, implementing that strategy and measuring your success so that you can replicate it and understand through statistics where your team is inefficient, and where to focus your strengths and resources to capitalize on future opportunities.
It’s in this preparation time that I believe the sport of football teaches and prepares those that play the sport to be leaders and future successful entrepreneurs. The first reason is due to the amount of time required to be successful. Work ethic is of optimal necessity for an athlete wishing to play in the NFL. The competition is ruthless and the process to make a NFL team is at times, dare I say barbaric. The process is so incredibly demanding that many fail due to the lack of mental toughness. This defining element however, prepares players for future success by engraining a sense of work ethic that is incomparable to most industries. Training camp in the NFL is six weeks of fifteen-hour-days; and completion of that is just to earn consideration for a final position with their organization. Making it to the end of camp doesn’t mean you made the team, it means you made it through another round of interviews.
The executive staff and coaches will make the final decision for your future employment with their organization. Often times your salary requirements will not be in line with what the organization is proposing, or your experience may not be exactly what they are looking for. It may have absolutely nothing to do with your ability or potential; the timing may just not be right.
Football has prepared me for life in business though a multitude of successes as well as defeats. As an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to risk failure to attain your dreams and accomplish your goals. That’s what makes the reward so great!
I was told countless times upon college graduation I was wasting my time working out and preparing to play another football game. – And, after signing a contract but being cut before even having the opportunity to go to training camp my first year in the NFL, I thought maybe they were right… For about day.
I flew back to my hometown, woke up the next morning, and went to my high school practice field and ran gassers and sprints until all my frustrations of being fired were expelled… and that day I started to prepare for my next opportunity.
The game of football teaches resiliency and fortitude in a way no other sport can teach. The game of football takes so incredibly much physical strength and ability, but it also takes a unique mental composition to be the best of the best. Due to some very special people and an internal desire to succeed, I was more than ready for my next NFL opportunity, which came six months later in the form of a workout with the New York Giants… And later in the form of standing on the 50 yard line in Foxboro, Massachusetts while the National Anthem played over the loud speakers. A nationally televised game on ESPN and F-16 fighter jets buzzed the stadium as goose bumps and a tear formed on my skin; I overcame the odds of playing professional football and proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to.