The powerful life lesson I learned from having to quit football

Life, Success

Sometimes things happen to you that are painful and hurt to go through but looking back on it, those events pushed you in the right direction.

For me, that came in the form of 2 grueling leg injuries. Resulting in a total of roughly 10 months on crutches and doing rehab. And much needed self-reflection and evaluation about where my life was headed.

The first injury was compartment syndrome on my right calf. As I mentioned before, this was the result of a mix of part mental stress & part physical exhaustion. Following months of hard work and rehabilitation to get back to physical form I was dealt another blow in the form of a broken left foot injury the following season.

That’s when the surgeon sat me down and let me know that I had a choice to make. You see injuries persist, you’re never back to 100% again after one. Given that I’d now had a major surgery on either leg, it was likely I could seriously reinjure one and possibly end up disabled. My parents were also made aware.

At the time, I couldn’t imagine myself doing much else outside of football. By this time, the majority of what I’d done in college was as a football player. I couldn’t imagine being anything else. All I wanted to do was prove that I could come back again and compete with the best!

But with enough urging for my parents to think about my health and my future, I began to reconsider the possibility of there being more out there for me.

My two injuries ultimately forced me into painfully having to leave collegiate football and my transition back into regular life wasn’t easy (we’ll discuss that in the next post).

But as with all things, given enough time and the benefit of hindsight, everything becomes clearer.

What do I mean? You see, it wouldn’t be until years later that I could see more clearly, but while on the Buckeyes football team I was surrounded by more physically gifted and talented people. Sure, compared to the average person I, myself, look more physically talented and gifted but put on that stage with those guys I was around the average – 6’2, 250lbs, etc.

There’s a lot to be said about being average amongst the elite, so I really count myself lucky to have been able to compete and hold my own amongst them. But ultimately what I see more clearly now is that there were many better players on that team than myself. I certainly wasn’t the worst but I can wholeheartedly say that I also wasn’t the best. I was somewhere in the middle.

As you move up in the sport of football (or any laddered activity), the number of individuals decreases while the talent and skill increases.

Currently, there are only 59 active members in the NFL from Ohio State (up from when I gave this talk & before the recent draft) but during the years I played there were close to a hundred individuals on the team each year.

If you do the math, over the last 7 years, roughly 350 players (conservatively) have come through Ohio State, yet only 59 are active in the NFL.

That just goes to show that the odds to professionally pursue football, let alone maintain a long-lasting career, are hard. That’s why I salute my brothers from the team who’ve been able to do just that.

What I ultimately learned, years later, from having to give up football was this: There are many arenas in life where you are just “good”. That was football for me. I was a decent player amongst great players. But the key, to success, is to find the arena where you are “great”.

Which reminds me of the famous Jim Collins quote, “Good is the enemy of Great”?

Follow your curiosity & superpowers and find where you excel – where you are great – not just good or average. Plant your stake there!