David Bruce: Football Anecdotes

In 2011, Joslyn Levell, an 8thgrader with spina bifida who spends most of her time in a wheelchair, got an impressive date for her end-of-school-year formal dance at Suncrest Middle School in Morgantown, West Virginia: J.T. Thomas, who had played football at West Virginia University and had been drafted by the Chicago Bears. That date was so impressive that it got a lot of media attention. Joslyn said, “I’m not used to the attention, but I like it. It’s been amazing. I can’t wait to hear what everybody has to say.” Mr. Thomas has a seven-year-old brother named Jared with autism who rides the same bus as Joslyn. Bus driver Jake Tennant invited Mr. Thomas on the bus and introduced him to Joslyn because he knew that Joslyn is a Bears fan. They talked, and Joslyn told him that all the boys she had asked to be her date to the end-of-school-year formal dance had turned her down. Mr. Thomas said, “I hugged her and signed a few things and we talked for awhile and she cried a bit. I gave her a hug and told her everything would work itself out.” Mr. Thomas decided to ask Joslyn to allow him to escort her to the dance. Of course, he wanted this to be OK with everyone; after all, he was 22 years old and Joslyn was only 14, so his stepmother, Rochelle, telephoned both the school and then Joslyn’s parents to get their permission, and then Mr. Thomas telephoned Joslyn. Calling someone for a date can be nerve-wracking. Mr. Thomas said, “I was nervous that by the time I reached out, she might have had a date and would have to turn me down.” Joslyn said, “After so many people turned me down, this was so big, especially because he asked me instead of me asking him.” Mr. Thomas gave Joslyn a bouquet of roses and a corsage, and at the dance Joslyn made sure that the boys who had turned her down knew that her date was a football star.

Lots of football players who played for the Green Bay Packers under Coach Vince Lombardi did not retire rich from football. However, many of them have gone on to become rich in part because of lessons that they learned from Coach Lombardi. Willie Davis earned an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago while he was playing for the Packers. At one point, he grew discouraged and wanted to quit. Many coaches today are likely to welcome such a decision, hoping that the player would then concentrate solely on football and not be distracted by academics; however, Coach Lombardi talked to Mr. Davis and said that he had never seen Mr. Davis quit and that he did not want him to quit now. After retiring from football, Mr. Davis made millions from radio. Max McGee founded Chi-Chi’s, the chain of Mexican restaurants, and grew rich. Many other Packers did not retire rich but are rich now. Jerry Kramer believes that all of Mr. Lombardi’s players learned from the coach. One thing that Mr. Kramer learned from Coach Lombardi was this: “You don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time.” Mr. Kramer says, “Some of today’s players would probably scoff at this as a cliché, but any time I think of taking a shortcut, of just going through the motions, I hear Lombardi’s raspy voice, I see his shiny eyes, and I just can’t do it.”

On December 12, 2009, Edward Myers, who is 11 years old and lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, found a purse in a creek. He said, “I retrieved the purse, and we [he and his parents] looked through it and we found $2,000 in cash.” Edward and his parents telephoned the police, and the purse was returned to its rightful owner, who gave Edward a $100 reward. Edward bought a Carolina Panthers’ jersey, and a player on his favorite NFL sports team further rewarded him. Steve Smith, a wide receiver for the Panthers, learned about Edward’s good deed and wanted to treat him: He sent Edward four tickets to a game. Edward said, “Steve Smith wrote a letter and invited me to the last game of the season.” He added, “I got front-row seats. I get to see two teams go together—it’s gonna be a good game.” (The Panthers beat the New Orleans Saints, 23-10.) After the game, Edward said, “It’s been great to see all the players—it’s so amazing.” Edward said about Mr. Smith, “How thankful I am that he thought of me and my family,” adding, “I would have never thought in my life to take the purse.” Edward’s mother, Donna Myers, said, “I hope it shows someone that might not be making the right decision that good can come from doing the right thing.”

Chris Johnson, a native of Orlando, Florida, and a running back for the Tennessee Titans, won The Associated Press 2009 NFL Offensive Player of the Year award, and in early 2010, he did a small but nice good deed. Mr. Johnson ate breakfast at a Denny’s restaurant in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Before he left, he paid the bill for an elderly couple whom he did not know but who were sitting near him. Mr. Johnson may intimidate some people because of his dreadlocks and gold teeth, but this good deed shows that he can be a very nice guy.

Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes valued punctuality. One day, it seemed as if he was going to be late for a meeting. He drove (a little fast) into the parking lot, which seemed to be filled, and finally he found a spot where his car could fit. He maneuvered his car into the spot, but then he found that he couldn’t open his door enough to get out of his car. Woody then moved his car forward, put it in neutral, got out of his car, and then pushed it back into the parking spot. He made the meeting on time.

“In truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate discipline.”—Vince Lombardi.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”—Johnny Majors.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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