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I recently had a chance to hear Colt McCoy speak at an FCA fundraiser in Bowling Green, KY. One of the funnier moments was during the Q&A session when a local high school athlete asked Colt, “What advice would you have for an aspiring high school quarterback?” Colt’s response—“Throw to your best receiver.”
You probably know his story: Colt’s dream was to not just play in the NFL, but to win a BCS National Championship. In 2010, his dream was almost realized as he faced off against Alabama in the Rose Bowl. Five plays into the game he gets hurt and was forced to watch the second half from the sidelines where he humbly cheered on his teammates.
After his team was defeated that night, Colt was asked by a reporter, “What are you feeling right now?” The Texas quarterback boldly looks into the camera on National TV and says, “I’ll never question what happened; the Lord is my rock.” Before the banquet I attended in Kentucky, I shook Colt McCoy’s hand and thanked him for his testimony–I told him that I will look forward to the day where I get to share his story with my son. You know it’s pretty common for athletes and coaches to thank the Lord after they hoist the trophy—while the confetti drops at their feet. Many times, I have thought that I would never see the day where an athlete acknowledged his relationship with the Lord in the midst of defeat and trial. After all, isn’t God still good even when we lose?
Thankfully, in maybe one of the lowest moments of his life, Colt McCoy suggested to millions of television viewers that our best moments and even our worst moments remind us that there is something more. At the end of the Q&A session I mentioned earlier, someone asked, “Do you ever feel like people or the media try to get you to keep your Faith separate from your football career?” Colt’s response: “That’s impossible—you can’t separate it–it all goes together. Football is just what I do—it’s not who I am. I can’t possibly change who I am from one moment to the next.”
I’m not big on autographs but I asked Colt to sign my ticket from the event. Below his name, he carefully inscribed his favorite Bible verse—Colossians 3:23—a good one for any young athlete to think about…or old one.
April 21st, hundreds of lives changed in Ringgold, Georgia. The devastation that occurred cannot be captured any better than in the photo below: one man spends time in reflection next to church pews enclosed by nothing.
Last August, the baseball coach from Heritage High School wrote me a touching letter to let me know that each year his team was required to read a book together and this coming year it would be “Teammates Matter”. Coach Eric Beagles recognized the importance of fighting an individualistic culture and in a later conversation, he asked if I would speak at his annual baseball banquet in the Spring.
Little did I know, the timing of my visit would be only three short weeks after the major destruction had taken place in this community. Heritage High School was untouched by the storm, but nearby rival Ringgold High School was destroyed.
During my time there, I learned that Heritage High School rose to the occasion and invited Ringgold High School into their halls to share their building until Ringgold’s could be restored in the Fall. When I drove up to the front of the school, one sign read, “Welcome Tigers, our house is your house.” And as you walked into the front doors, you couldn’t help but notice the large carpet that had a Ringgold “R” on one side and the Heritage “H” on the other. Apparently, a local carpet maker asked the school if he could create a giant welcome mat to make the Ringgold students feel at home.
Coach Beagles told me that his team had even redecorated their baseball field so that Ringgold would feel like they were playing their games at home. He told me, “If we really believe that teammates do matter and life goes beyond ourselves, then we better not just serve our own teammates.”
My team in Nashville was so inspired, we made a video to share the story with others. Thank you Ringgold for showing us what a team looks like in the wake of tragedy.
Billy Graham once said that a coach can have more influence in one day than a pastor can in a year. For the past five years, I traveled the country meeting coaches. I’ve heard countless tales of State championship runs, come from behind victories, and about that special group of seniors that really bought in.
I’ve also listened to disappointment: “We were supposed to win it all.” “Injuries just killed us.”"The kids just didn’t understand what it meant to bring it everyday.” “If only I could fire this one group of parents from our program.” Our budget is just too tight to get certain things done.”
Along the way, I’ve met coaches that are worn down. Some of you are tired of feeling like you are only as good as your last game. Fatigued by too much time away from the kids. Weary of looking across the dinner table and seeing the scouting report instead of your spouse-or a referee’s missed call instead of the one person whose unconditional love you know you can’t do without.
But for some reason, hope never seems too far away. Hope for that strong up and coming freshman class. Hope for being good again–hope for being good for the first time. Hope for one day landing your dream job and finally getting the respect you think you deserve. All of these emotions – all of these ups and downs – all to win the title of “coach”. Is it worth it?
It must be.
There are many things we forget in life, but not coaches. I remember the name of all of my coaches since 3rd grade. The way you affirmed me when I had the game of my life–the way you affirmed me when I couldn’t hit a shot. How you made me feel valued as a captain–how you made me feel valued on the bench.
I know you think you stopped coaching me when I graduated, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When I applied for my first job I remembered what you said about the importance of looking people in the eye. You said that in every phase of life, you have to have a sense of urgency. Pay attention to detail. Never delay gratitude. Always ask yourself the question, “What’s Important Now? (WIN). And you were right, all of that talk about being committed to the team is relevant everyday-I’m always having to work together with people and there is always a teammate in life that needs to be picked up.
If there is a big decision to make, you are usually one of the first people I call. Some of the things you taught us went way beyond the court or the field. How you have to keep each other accountable. Understanding that the most important ingredient in being a teammate is humility.
It seems like everyone is always looking for ways to make a difference. “Where can we go to serve others?” But you have reminded us that impact is not about where we will go, but often times about right where we are-with the people whose paths we cross in our work, in our neighborhood, or in our huddle that you lead everyday.
I know you are busy-that you don’t always have time to sit back and reflect on measuring your impact in players’ lives. So, this is why I am writing you-to say that we need you and thank you. Thank you for driving the 16 passenger van. Thank you for being in the business of pointing youmg people towards the things in life that endure. Thank you for coaching even when you didn’t know you were coaching.
Your Former Player