Growing up in Seattle Washington, I was one of the first Seattle Seahawk fans. Literally. Dad had season tickets from their first season taking me to the games including the very first played in the newly built Kingdome. Never would I imagine that over thirty years later, I would attend the NFL’s 2010 Hall of Fame Ceremonies in Canton, Ohio.
It was awesome to see past NFL greats like Franco Harris, Joe Theismann, Gale Sayers and even Steve Largent – not to mention all the new inductees including Emmit Smith, Jerry Rice and our friend Floyd Little. As fun as all the events were: parade, tailgate party, Hall of Fame dinner – it was the actual enshrinement ceremony that moved me the most. Each player, a champion in his own right, gave an emotional motivational speech! I knew I was inspired when I started taking notes.
Their messages were filled with gratitude and desire and accomplishment – all messages that can be applied to any leader today. Russ Grim showed how coachable he was when he said, “When the coach tells you you’re playing offense, you’re playing offense!”
Rickey Jackson came from a small town where there was a sign that said “Welcome to the home of Mel Tillis.” He said, “I wanted my name on that sign.” He had friends who went down the wrong path, and he refused because he didn’t want to mess up his chances of getting his name on that sign!
Emmit Smith talked about the power of having a dream. When he was young, he told his dad “I’m going to play professional football and I’m going to play for the Dallas Cowboys.” He also encouraged the audience to never let anyone else define who you are. Then he talked about what it takes to succeed and I was pleasantly surprised that two of his strategies are the same as the one’s I talk about in my book ‘Why Settle for the Balcony? How to get a Front-Row Seat in Life’: Set goals and Be of Service. I would bet that if I asked Emmit (or any of the other Hall of Famers) what his favorite front-row seat in life was, he would say ‘This moment right now’.
Jerry Rice was the most surprising to me. He said fear of failure was the engine that drove him to work hard. He was running and running and running out of fear that he would be caught. I was really moved at the end of his speech when he said, “There are no more routes to run, no more touchdowns to score, no more records to set. That young boy from Mississippi has finally stopped running.”
Then Floyd Little got up to accept his honor. He was amazing. He thanked his children and told each one how proud he was of them. He thanked his wife DeBorah and said that she stood shoulder to shoulder with him. He also said, “Because of those that encouraged me in those early years, I am here today. So I want to encourage you, every student, every athlete, every person who will hear my voice, don’t listen to the naysayers. I had plenty of those. Don’t listen to those that will judge you for your rough edges. Don’t focus on your weakness so you won’t become a victim. Find the goodness in you that says, Yes, I can be a good student. Yes, I can be a good son and daughter. Yes, I can be a positive role model. Yes, I can, because the good in you is better than the worst in most. The choice is yours.”
Yes, I’m a football fan. But more importantly, I am a fan of champions who believe in being positive, being grateful for people and opportunities, and who have lived their lives chasing and living their dream. That’s more than motivation, that’s inspiration.
Marilyn Sherman is a motivational speaker and author of two books that help people get out of their comfort zone and get a Front-Row Seat in Life.