When I think back through my life I feel like we have made a lot of improvements in our society, especially when it comes to racial equality. And while there are plenty of improvements, I have noticed some good life lessons for kids have diminished over the years. As I think about growing up as a young man in the Sixties and Seventies, and now as I look at my children growing up and their friends, I see several lessons kids are missing these days.
The people your kids spend time with will have a big influence on them. It’s important to teach them what to look for. These are principals I think are essential. Choose your friends wisely. Choose them for the sake of friendship. It seems like such an obvious statement, but my parents used to say it to us all the time. Don’t choose friends because they are popular, or because they are good-looking, or because they are rich or athletic. Choose your friends wisely because you enjoy them and because they are good people.
I am troubled by a society that devalues life directly and insidiously and then markets that idea to our kids through video games, music, movies, and television. This, in turn, contributes to kids not realizing that life should be respected, nurtured, and protected. I am concerned about kids who see themselves as cosmic accidents and haphazard, random events. It’s the opposite of how to build self-confidence and self-worth. If life is seen as accidental, then wasting my life, or taking someone else’s may not be that big of a deal.
We have ten kids and so we have a lot of issues with keeping our kids on track. I actually just read Proverbs yesterday where it says something along the lines of Train up a child in the way he should go…guide him down the right path…and when he’s older he won’t leave it. The question is how do you really guide them? How do you keep them on the right path? How do you discipline kids? There is a balance between the nurturing side, knowing kids make mistakes and thinking back to the days where I was a child, and the discipline side. Communicating to them, You have to do the right things. If you do the wrong things it will hurt you in the long run. As a result, you are going to suffer consequences.
Self-esteem and how they see themselves is so important in children. Many times how they see themselves is totally different than how everyone else in the world sees them. It can be hard to know how to build self-esteem in our kids. No one wants a child who thinks too highly of themselves, but it is equally bad when they think too low of themselves. They need to know that they are important.
The number one thing I think for a parent is spending time with kids. That’s how you are going to demonstrate that you love them. Getting the time with kids becomes difficult as schedules become hectic or job demands come upon you. When you have to be away from home for a considerable amount of time, how can you spend time with your kids and show them how much they mean to you?
During my first season with the Bucs, things started to turn around for us, and we entered the 1997 season with high hopes. In the opening game, at a critical moment when we were trying to protect a slim lead, Hardy Nickerson, our defensive captain and a team leader, received an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for getting into an altercation with a 49ers player after the play had ended. I was livid. We spent a lot of time trying to help our young players understand that they couldn’t get foolish penalties and expect to win big games, so I brought Hardy to the sidelines and asked him what happened.
People often ask what my personal goals are for the next couple of years. What else would I like to accomplish? What would I like to do? From a career standpoint in football, I am very satisfied. I have no regrets in terms of what I would like to accomplish athletically. There’s nothing I look at and think to myself that I would like to return to coaching. That is never going to happen. However, there are things I really enjoy doing and are my goals for the next 10 years.
From playing college football to being drafted in the NFL; to playing with the Steelers and winning a Super Bowl; to becoming an assistant coach to a head coach and then winning the Super Bowl with the Colts. After spending over thirty years in the NFL, you probably guessed that I am someone who likes challenges. Before you even begin personal challenges or a work challenge, you have to figure out how you are going to approach it in order to succeed. This is how I prepare for a challenge.
As a society, we claim that we like athletes who tend to be humble and quiet, but in reality, those aren’t the guys who get the focus—at least not as much as the other guys who are trying to bring attention to their own names. Barry Sanders and Deion Sanders came into the NFL together in 1989. Barry was “old school.” He did his job and played spectacular football, and when he scored a touchdown, he handed the ball to the official and then went back to the bench. After games, it was hard to get him to talk about himself. He would praise his offensive lineman, then head out and stay away from the camera as much as possible.