This morning, the host of ESPN radio said something like, “Anytime you see two grown men crying in sports, something special is going on.” In case you’ve been living under a rock, he was referring to what took place on Saturday, December 14, approximately 7:50 PM Central Time:
On a grand stage in bustling New York on a chilly Saturday evening, a humble 23-year-old from rural, impoverished Ohio hoisted college football’s most prestigious award by the largest margin of victory in the 85-year history of the award.
And I hope you were paying attention!
No, not to the stats or the runs or the passes or the touchdowns. Instead, hopefully you listened to the humility, the process, the thankfulness, the selflessness, the respect. Here’s what unfolded in college football’s version of Cinderella.
- The ex-employer, the ex-boyfriend, the ex-coach, the ex-team–played perfectly by Ryan Day and the Ohio State University family
- The current employer, the current boyfriend, the current coach, the current team–also played perfectly by Ed Orgeron and the LSU nation
- The hero with the perfect message–#9 (perhaps significantly NOT #1) Joe Burrow
- The supporting cast–Joe’s family and friends
Two years ago, the “ex” proverbially kicked our hero to the curb, leaving our now beloved #9 with choices: gripe, take his ball and go home, or prevail. You see, many top athletes would have chosen the easy road in the interest of self-gratification. “Ohio State doesn’t want me? I’ll go to some obscure Division II school where I can be ‘Big Man On Campus.'” Nope, not our #9. His choice: transfer to another top program to compete with one of the top QB recruits in the country for playing time. How many of us would do that, knock me down, I’ll get up and take some more?
And how about that supporting cast? Do you think they said, “You got screwed, Joe!” or “Don’t worry, Joe. It’s not you! It’s political!”? We all know life is sometimes tough and unfair. But we all have a choice. Instead, Burrow was supported with, “We feel for you, Joe. Now get up and get back to work! And let us help.”
Enter Coach O. How many of us in positions of power are willing to take chances to achieve greatness? Our #9 was essentially an unknown commodity, but Coach O knew he needed drastic change to live up to Louisiana’s expectations. Were there bigger, faster, stronger options than our #9? Probably. Did he already have a QB on his roster that was a highly rated recruit? Yep! He knew he needed more, but just knowing isn’t good enough. Do you have the courage to stand in the face of expectations, adversity, and rabid stakeholders and make career-altering decisions? And yes, this one worked out, but many don’t (i.e. O’s stints at Ole Miss and USC). Do you keep fighting, with confidence, and continue making tough decisions? Leaders do!
All of this set the stage for Joe’s trophy in New York. In his ensuing acceptance speech is where we can learn the the biggest lessons. Here it is if you missed it.
Our hero won anticlimactically by the largest landslide ever, stood up, adjusted his coat, hugged the supporting cast, then the current coaches, then the exes. And how about the demeanor of those exes, who just had 2 current players lose the award to our hero? They exhibited great support and appreciation for Joe. Do we do that? Are we that selfless in someone else’s moment?
Then Joe approached the podium. Overcome with emotion and unable to speak for approximately 30 seconds, he finally composed himself and delivered our biggest lessons of the evening. He thanked everyone he could remember, including the exes, for he recognizes how much they helped on his journey. He recognizes they, too, contributed to his award.
And then, Joe Burrow delivered his most important message. He stated that his goal everywhere he goes is to leave a legacy of work ethic. His goal is to give 100% every single day! It isn’t to be the #1 pick in the NFL draft? His goal isn’t to become the highest paid player in the history of the NFL? It’s not to win trophies and titles?
Our beloved Joe recognizes what many do not. He focuses on what he can control: his attitude, his resilience, his work ethic. He realizes the rest will come. Did you get that? Stay in control of you, and the results will come.
In our lives, we play all of these roles as parents, spouses, teammates, friends, employers, coaches, employees, and this list goes on. We have choices EVERY. DAY.