Watched the Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony last night… never thought it would be an emotional experience for me. I love football. The competition, the teamwork, the skill level of the players… there’s so much that makes NFL football – in my opinion – the greatest professional team sport in the world today. Tonight was the first time I’d watched the ceremony in its entirety in quite some time.
[SIDEBAR: For all of my friends in the South, I just want you to know that you really subscribe to a “lesser” form of football, as you cling to your cultural loyalty to ball in the college ranks. Just sayin. 🙂 ]
But this year’s HOF induction in particular meant alot to me. As a lot of you know, I’ve seen some tough times over these last few years. Call it what you want, say what you want, but for the first time in my life I’ve found myself “at the bottom”, trying to get back to the top. It’s been tough… and there have been times (yes, plural) that I’ve wanted to give up. But the common thread that stuck out tonight as I watched some of these great men being inducted… Warren Sapp, Chris Carter, Larry Allen (and there’s a reason why I only mentioned these three and not all seven)… it made me realize, once again, that great success rarely comes without failure, withought sacrifice, and without a willingness to DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to get over every obstacle and make it. NO EXCUSES.
Warren Sapp came out of a low-income neighborhood and upbringing in Plumouth, FL. “The dirt”, as he calls it. No cable, “pizza man didn’t deliver”… no father present… but he overcame the struggle.
Larry Allen says that, on one occasion, the late, great Hall of Famer Reggie White “took his lunch” and totally dominated him when he was a young player just coming into the NFL, and he was determined to never again let that happen to him. He went on to become the strongest player in the NFL, once bench-pressing over 700 pounds and squat-lifting over 900 pounds. He started his college career at a junior college, and he was drafted to the pros from a small, Division-2 school (Sonoma State), but he wound up becoming the best offensive lineman in Dallas Cowboys history… he overcame the struggle.
Chris Carter had a serious drinking problem early in his football career, and ended up getting kicked off of the Philadelphia Eagles’ team. But through hard work, a never-quit mentality, counseling, and friendships with people like Reggie White (yes, him again), he went on to become one of the most prolific pass catchers in the history of the league. Yet, once he was eligible to be inducted into the Hall, year after year he was overlooked. Finally… this year… he made it. He overcame the struggle.
We all know how easy it is to fold up when things get tough. We all know it’s easy to give up when everything seems hopeless. But one thing tonight’s ceremony reminded me of is that champions are forged by fire. They DO NOT GIVE UP when the going gets tough. They do whatever is necessary to overcome the obstacles before them.
It’s not easy.
It takes sacrifice.
It doesn’t happen overnight…
… but. through consistency, hard work, and a willingness to never give up. it WILL happen. And I’d be HUGELY REMISSED if I made it seem like it can happen through only human effort… because without the grace and mercy of God – even with all the hard work in the world – the obstacles will kick our butts,,, and keep us down.
This ceremony wrecked me tonight. It was emotional, I couldn’t stop crying as I listened to the stories of how these champions overcame both personal and professional struggles to get to where they knew they wanted to be. And it messed me up, because I know sometimes how easy it is for me to fold, to want to give up, to mope about how things “aren’t fair”, how I’ve gotten a raw deal, or how situations and circumstances have not allowed me to get to where I know I want to be. But THESE guys said, “Nothing… absolutely NOTHING… will keep me from achieving what I know I can achieve.”
That’s how I want to live my life. That’s what I want, when all is said and done, for people to say about me: “He’s one of the best I’ve ever been around. He wasn’t perfect… and he’s got some bumps and bruises to show for it… but he never gave up.” And maybe one day… some young preacher, some young lover of Jesus’ Church will say, “D Plum inspired me, to be better than I am… and to know that I can bounce back from whatever life deals me.”
And let him be wrecked…