Chasing the Scholarship Dream to Reality

During my junior year in high school, I spoke to the head football coach about helping me get recruited. He had a very serious look on his face when I discussed this with him, as if he were trying but couldn’t muster the courage to say something he knew would hurt my feelings. Days later, he caught up with me to revisit our talk. He explained, “Marshall, you know, I always wanted to be in the Russian Ballet.” I immediately chuckled, looking at this 6’-4” 280-pound man. However, he wasn’t trying to be funny. He continued, “Some dreams just aren’t realistic. Those big college football programs chew kids up; it’s not for you.”

My college guidance counselor punctuated this message by telling me with a severe tone, “Those guys, Division I football players, are some tough hombres. You are too nice of a kid to survive in one of those programs.” He concluded the conversation in more certain terms, stating, “You are not cut out to play big-time college ball.” My coach and guidance counselor wanted me to attend a small college where I could enjoy a gentle environment and a football program that was a step up, but not a leap of faith. That was their vision for me and I just didn’t see it their way.

Suggestions such as those are dangerous. In an instant, words like that can steal your belief in yourself, and that is when your dream begins to evaporate. Those suggestions made me more angry than anything, which turned out to be a positive reaction. The anger turned into greater inspiration to pursue my goal.

But let me tell you a little secret here: it’s not enough to get angry and then feel more determined inside your head. Get out and do the workstudy the game, understand and improve on your weaknesses, push yourself to find your physical limits, then train harder, and push yourself past them.

Importantly, I didn’t allow the words of my coach and guidance counselor to permanently deflate me because I understood that opinions are not fact. These “all-knowing” adults didn’t know me as well as I knew myself at that age. The same holds true for you. They weren’t there when I ran hill sprints until I threw up during my summer training; they didn’t know I disciplined myself to work out twice a day, six days a week during the summer while living at home alone. What I’m saying is this: no one but me knew the kind of fire I had in my belly to compete. I moved forward without their support, which was not easy, but certainly doable.

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