Thursday, we talked about how in football, as in life, sometimes it’s hard to understand the difficulty of sifting through an abundance of talent in the draft process, in the hiring process and elsewhere. I found one more parallel between football and life this week as my partners and I tried to identify the best candidates to fill a post at a Texas school district.
At one point this week, as we discussed a candidate, the founder of our firm, Bob Ledbetter, asked if this person had the temerity to make a call on third and 22 with the wind in his face? Would this candidate really have the guts and gravitas to face down tough situations without blinking?
It made me think about the times I’ve faced such situations, and when I’ve seen others face them. It also made me wonder if I’ve faced fourth-and-one decisions in my life and didn’t even realize it.
For example, several draft-eligible players and their parents faced a fourth-and-one over draft weekend when they went undrafted and unsigned. For all practical purposes, they failed to convert. Many of them, however, and maybe most of them, think they failed on a third and two. They still see the NFL as an eminently makable goal if they can just land in the CFL, the AFL, or even some European league. They don’t realize that if they failed to land an undrafted free agent deal, the CFL and AFL are uphill battles at best and, realistically, long shots.
Of course, we all face our own 4th-and-1 situations. At 47, I failed to convert on my original goal of working in an NFL front office when I was offered the chance, at 27, to work as a business office intern with my Saints. I’d be leaving a job as a sports writer in Beckley, W.Va., for an unpaid job in New Orleans. Ultimately, I was afraid to make that kind of leap of faith, and I hoped it was just an incomplete pass on 2nd and 10. Nope. It was much more than that.
The story has a happy ending for me. I was offered another chance to convert on a similar goal at 33 when I launched ITL. It would give me the opportunity to stay relevant in the game I loved and, maybe someday, even raise my family with the money I earned. At the time, I thought it was maybe a second-and-five situation in my goal of working for an NFL team; I’d go in, prove my worth, sharpen my eye as a scout, and wait for teams to line up, offering scouting jobs. In truth, it was my fourth and one for having a viable job in football. By God’s grace, I converted that one. Seven years later, with Inside the League underperforming, I was probably facing a fourth and one when I returned from the Hula Bowl, unemployed and down on the long-term prospects of ITL. If my wife hadn’t essentially dared me to retool ITL and make it into the service I originally had intended, I know I would have charged into the middle of the defense and stopped short.
A lot of people from all walks of the football business read this blog. Some of them are third-year agents who never got anyone signed and face having to take the test over again. Some are college students pursuing a degree in sport management and hoping to win a toehold in the business somewhere. Some are professionals weighing a change in course to pursue a job that captures their passion. Others are players in indoor leagues all over the world.
No matter who you are or where, I encourage you to take a long look at where you are and where you stand in accomplishing your goals. Even if you didn’t get the yards you need for one goal, it may be first and 10 for you elsewhere.