Learning from Football Failures

Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.

Vince Lombardi

It is almost twenty years ago that I walked away from football. After playing four years at the University of Northern Iowa or maybe I should say I was just on the team. I did not play all that much only in “mop up” duty when the game was in complete control. I grew up wanting to play in the NFL, but after no real playing time, I knew that wasn’t an option and I forgo my last year of eligibility to start my working life.

I had strayed away from the many reasons I had success earlier playing football in high school. Over these four years, I made many mistakes and I did not learn the lessons till I had sometimes years later to reflect on what was the real cause of these failures.


Skill and ability are important in any athletic endeavor but, your attitude is so critical. Early in my college career, I began to goof around more and more during practice. The coaches took notice and then knew better than to risk their job with playing me. This lesson has helped me in my professional career realize that a little joking around is okay, but we need to get our work done and approach it in a proficient manner.

Work Ethic

As a high school athlete, I was always early to practice and would put in extra time in the weight room and run to get into shape. As my focus was more around having fun, I began to put less focus on working hard during practice and in the offseason.  In my work career, I know understand how essential good work ethic is to achieve high standards.

Know the Playbook

Our college playbook was much larger than I used to.  I remember studying it somewhat in training camp for my freshman year. After that, I did not pay a great deal of attention to it. That led to some embarrassing moments in practice. One time the head coach, Terry Allen, stopped the practice because I went the wrong way on a play. He walked away shaking his head and I was sent to the scout team(the team the defensive starters beat up). Today I make sure to know what is expected of me and understand every position.

Know your competition

When I was a sophomore I thought in my junior year I was assured of a starting position. There was someone that was graduating I thought I was next in line. During the summer months, I didn’t work too hard and when I got back to training camp, sure enough, the freshman from last year worked hard and earned the starting spots. Always understand who your competition is or you will be left behind.

Use your opportunities

As a student and an athlete, I thought things would be easy for me. By not working hard I squandered my time as a football player and as a student. I was fortunate to receive a partial scholarship to pay for half of my tuition at UNI. When opportunities come around you must take full advantage of them.

Own your mistakes

Had you asked me whose fault it was that I didn’t play during my college years I would have blamed others. We can think of one million people to blame for our failures. The day we realize we are in charge is a big breakthrough. Own your mistakes and your life experiences will start to change drastically.

What life lessons have you learned from sports or other activities?

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