Leadership is a Choice
I was ten years old when I first started learning about leadership. I was just beginning to learn how to play football, basketball and baseball. I loved all three sports, mainly because they were the outlets for my frustration. My parents took good care of my four brothers and me, but our home was filled with strife. I discovered fear early, and playing sports was my exit strategy.
By the time I was in high school, I was considered a 'leader' on the football field. I still played multiple sports (and ran track), but the football thing was taking center stage. I didn't really get the whole 'leader' thing and, frankly, I didn't want anything to do with it. I just wanted to play ball.
My college football career at UGA thrust me to the forefront of national conversations. I heard words like Heisman. All-American. The next Herschel. After I injured my knee four games into my sophomore year and subsequently flunked out of school (it's funny how that happens when you stop going to class), I was definitely running from any leadership role that was expected of me.
Finding myself at at junior college with a knee to rehab, I started leading...myself. I took three critical steps as a future leader.
- I stopped whining about my knee.
- I stopped blaming UGA for the fact that I was at a JUCO getting my GPA back up to a satisfactory academic standard.
- I stopped complaining about missing almost two years of football, and concentrated on doing what I needed to do to get back in Athens and playing at Sanford Stadium.
When I finally had made it back, something had shifted in me. I realized, for the first time in my life, that it wasn't all about me. I had teammates counting on me to get my act together. I had coaches expecting me to earn and honor my scholarship...every day. I had a family praying for me to finish what I had started.
With my back against the wall, I had to choose to be a leader.
As a D1 college running back, my entrance into leadership was less overt, but intentional. I didn't give any motivational speeches in the locker room, or serve as the official hype man on the sideline.
I just did my job.