It was the first day of tryouts for my junior high school football team. The entire summer before was spent preparing for this moment. Each day that summer, after finishing my work on my family’s garbage route, was filled with running, lifting weights, and throwing the football. My sole intent was to become the team’s starting quarterback.
After we all warmed up it was time for the offense drills, and the coaches instructed us to head over to the marked stations indicating the position we wanted to try out for. I walked over to the quarterback station with three other guys and we began with some simple throwing drills. I knew most of these guys, we played the previous few years in midgets and peewee football. I had never tried out for quarterback before because those teams never threw the ball, so I was always running back and defensive linebacker. I always wanted to be where the action was, and it never appealed to me to hand off the ball forty times in the game as the quarterback did in those leagues.
This year was different, and the quarterback position suddenly became desirable. Junior high football teams actually threw the football! The quarterback could also run the option, meaning the quarterback made the decision to either keep or hand off the ball. So, with the chance of getting the ball on almost every play, this position had to be mine.
During each of the drills it was obvious that I had the best arm and was the fastest of the group. It isn’t that I felt I was better; these were measured drills. My passes were the most accurate. I ran the 40-yard dash almost a second faster than the next fastest kid trying out for the quarterback position.
After the last drill one of the coaches asked me why I wanted to be a quarterback. He told me that I was too tough for the position and that I wouldn't be able to play on defense; the team wouldn't want to risk injury to their starting quarterback. I let him know I was willing to give up defense, that I had worked hard all summer, and I truly wanted the position. The first day of try-outs ended and I was confident the quarterback position would be mine.
As we were choosing our jerseys, I grabbed number 14 because that was a quarterback’s number. With my new jersey, I distinctly remember looking at the coach. It was clear by the expression on his face that he did not want me playing quarterback.
At the second day of tryouts, like the day before, I ran over to the quarterback station. There were only three of us now. As we went through our drills it was still clear that I was best qualified for the position. I was even more confident that I would win the starting job.
While in the locker room after practice, one of the coaches sat down next to me and pleaded their collective case that I should not be the quarterback because the team needed me to play both offense and defense. For the first time I started to waver in my resolve to become the quarterback. My coach was asking me to do what was best for the team.
As I sat on that bench, alone and depressed, Matt, one of my teammates came up to me and said, “Dude! You're not going to be the quarterback! That position is reserved for somebody whose daddy is somebody in the community, let alone someone in your situation.”
Matt had two older brothers that had played football and their experiences were very similar to mine. It was clear that the best player didn’t start at the quarterback position if their family was not well connected. Matt was also a good friend of mine and we had talked openly about my grandfather. He knew that my grandfather had shot and killed a police officer, and that my mom had testified that the police officer had raped her and that I was the product of that rape.
This wasn’t the first time I was discriminated against because of who I was; but, up to this point in my life, it was the one that hurt the most. I loved football and I had worked so hard to win the starting quarterback position. Now I wasn’t going to get it, not because I wasn’t good enough, but because of what my grandfather had done.
One of my biggest regrets in life was that I gave in to the requests of my coaches and decided not to try out for the quarterback position. Retrospectively, this was one of the most motivational parts of my young life. I was being penalized, looked over, and denied an opportunity because of where I came from and who my family was. I wasn’t being recognized for who I was or what I could do.
After coming to terms with what I was up against, I told the coach that I decided to instead try out for running back. He was pleased; I remember seeing that big smile on his face. He told me I had made a good decision and it was going to be better for the team. He also told me to swap out my jersey for a running back’s number.
It was slim pickings as I pulled through the leftover jerseys in the equipment room, the other seventy-five kids on the team already had their numbers. As I went through the stack, I came across number 48. Immediately, whistles and alarms went off in my brain. My grandfather was 48 years old when he shot and killed the police officer. At that moment, sitting alone in that cluttered and dingy equipment room, having just been penalized for not being “somebody”, I chose number 48.
In a decision that proved more advanced than my years, that number 48 would be the fuel that encouraged me to excel. In my football career, number 48 stayed with me and drove me through my junior high, and into high school and college years. In my professional life, I would use “48” as daily motivation to always become more, to never settle, to never be comfortable. It has been part of the motivation that has pushed me to be who I am. One of the philosophies of 6 Months 2 Success is “Things only have the meaning I am willing to give them.” That day, many years ago, I chose to give the number 48 a new meaning; that of motivation and determination to never be willing to give up on a dream again.
It is now my dream to help others find and realize their dreams through 6 Months 2 Success Franchising. If you have struggled to reach your goals in the past, let 6 Months 2 Success help you by providing the right tools, knowledge and support that you need to finally achieve your goals.