life lessons from football

Great Life Lessons from Football History

When I was a teen, my friends and I absorbed the epic life lessons from football on many afternoons. Our field of choice was an open lot beside my best friend’s house. We would gather together not really knowing we were learning how to be men…we were just having lots of fun. One day, I was playing QB and my team was getting routed. I had one dude on my team that was kind of the oddball of the neighborhood. He was huge and very athletic, but he was always unpredictable. This kid trusted me though I was half his size because he knew I was passionate to succeed in these moments. I didn’t like losing and I saw opportunity in the abilities of this man-child if they were honed correctly. Pulling him aside, I convinced him that nobody on the field had any chance of stopping him if he just believed in himself. It was true. By the time that game was over, our competition was in tatters trying to figure out what happened. It was beautiful. That’s football.

The great life lessons of football saturate our culture, and here are a few of the most famous for us to draw from:

Never Give Up Hope

In 2013, Alabama came into the storied Iron Bowl ranked No. 1 and Auburn was ranked No. 4. All the hopes and dreams of a national championship rode on this game for both teams. A little known Auburn senior named Chris Davis would soon become a legend for the ages. Chris never had a relationship with his dad, but he added “Jr.” to his jersey that season to acknowledge him anyway. Earlier in the day, he was honored as a senior, and his 3-year-old son, Chris Davis III, was by his side. He said, “I never got a chance to see my dad growing up, so I take that every day and try to be a better dad myself.” With the game tied and the clock drained, Alabama set up for a 57-yard field goal to win. Thinking miracle, Auburn’s coach placed Davis at the back of the end zone in case of a miss. The ball ended up right in his hands at the very back of the end zone, and Chris Davis took off for a 109-yard long return for a game-winning touchdown. Never give up hope. Chris Davis didn’t on fatherhood, and he didn’t on victory. We never know what might happen if we just keep trying.

Perseverance and Character

Jim Plunkett won the 1970 Heisman Trophy, the 1970 Rose Bowl with Stanford, two Super Bowls in the NFL (XV, XVIII), Super Bowl MVP (XV), AFC Rookie of the Year in 1971, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990. His story getting to all those achievements uncovers a man of great character and perseverance. He was born into poverty as the son of Mexican-American parents. His father endured progressive blindness and his mother, part Native American, was fully blind. Jim worked as early as elementary school to help the family. Football pulled him up and he became one of Stanford University’s greatest quarterbacks. After his junior season while eligible for the NFL draft, he decided to stay at Stanford (turning down the pay) to set a good example for the Chicano youth he tutored. Due to injury and inconsistency, his NFL career was a disappointment until 1980 at 33 with the Oakland Raiders. Replacing an injured starter, he came on to lead Oakland to the playoffs and a Super Bowl win. His redemption complete, he would win another Super Bowl before retirement. High character and perseverance are the greatest tools to find our happy ending. [Tweet This]

Prove Them Wrong

The 1983 NFL Draft is considered the greatest QB draft of all time. Dan Marino was at the bottom of that great class. The QBs chosen before him were John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, and Ken O’Brien. Dan Marino was chosen by the Miami Dolphins and came in eager to prove the scouts wrong. He’s now a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, played in 9 Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl, was NFL Rookie of the Year, won the NFL MVP award, and was also named the Walter Payton Man of the Year winner in 1998. He also has a strong grip on the NFL passing records. Men like Dan Marino give us the example that the “experts” aren’t always right, and deep passion is an intangible that overrides many shortcomings. If you have a passion to be an All Pro Dad and the odds are stacked against you…prove them wrong.

Sound Off

What are some of your favorite life lessons taken from our beloved sport of football?

  • Mike the Grate

    One of the best lessons I learned from playing football is that getting to the one afternoon of fun (the game) takes an entire week of work. Hard work and discipline are required for almost anything meaningful in life. I apply that lesson at work and in my marriage…I don’t always want to put in the hard work, but I know that it will pay off in the end.

  • Andy Showen

    Thanks for some great reminders. I never knew the Jim Plunkett story. My son isn’t an athlete but he’s applying to Stanford (he’s a brain) and it was great to share it with him. I always had huge respect for Dan Marino for the reasons you stated but to me the most inspiring story is Jim Jensen, who refused to sit on the bench as a third string prima donna QB who was too good to take a hit, and played on special teams so he could contribute. I’m a construction lawyer and a few years ago during the underground cable downturn, I was driving around in my car in the boonies in Broward County trying to locate a client assigned to me that seemed to be going out of business. One of the lessons I learned from my dad, and Jim Jensen, is nobody is too good to not do grunt work out in the field. I found the company’s equipment yard and went knocking on trailer doors to find the man in charge. I was shocked to meet the guy in charge, who turned out to be — Jim Jensen — doing honest work in the construction biz.

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Gather up the family this fall and play a game of touch football together. You won’t regret it.

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