Last week I wrote about negative consequences so today I’d like to talk about positive consequences.
Having participated and worked in the world of college athletics for 38 years, I saw lots of success stories…and here are two of my favorite…both a result of positive consequences.
In January of 1991, the Nebraska football team had fallen on “hard” times. Oh, the Huskers were still winning at least nine games each season but the team was in the midst of a seven game bowl losing streak which included a number of lopsided losses to southern schools. Following a 45-21 loss to national champion Georgia Tech in the 1991 Citrus Bowl, Coach Tom Osborne decided some changes were needed.
College football was becoming more of a passing game and the Huskers needed more speed on defense. Instead of 250 pound linebackers to stop the run game, Nebraska started recruiting smaller, quicker linebackers. They needed more athletic linemen who could rush the quarterback and better defensive backs to cover the speedy receivers.
Offensively, Coach Osborne stuck to his guns with an option offense. But in the 90’s he brought in quarterbacks Tommie Frazier, Brook Berringer, Scott Frost, and Eric Crouch who were among the best ever option QB’s.
Always a hard working staff, the coaches dedicated themselves to work even harder, especially at recruiting. They wanted better leadership on the team, so a “Unity Council” was formed. The goal was not to be just good…but to be great…to field a team that could win a national championship.
The positive consequences of these changes were not immediate. The team still won only nine games in 1991 and 1992 while being manhandled by Miami and Florida State in bowl games. In 1993, Nebraska came within an eyelash of an undefeated season and winning the National Championship, but the heartbreaking 18-16 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl only served to motivate the team even more.
For the 1994 season, the Huskers chose “Unfinished Business” as their season long motto. And they finished that business by going 13-0 and winning the National Championship in a come-from-behind 24-17 win over Miami in the Orange Bowl.
The 1995 team is the best I’ve ever seen in college football. Undefeated and again National Champions, the 95 Huskers played four teams that finished in the top 10 rankings. They beat those four teams by an average of 31 points including a 62-24 win over No. 1 Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.
Following another undefeated National Championship season in 1997, Coach Osborne retired having won 255 games in 25 seasons. In his final four years, Nebraska was 49-2 including three National Titles.
Coach Osborne being carried off the field after winning
his first National Championship against Miami in 1994
My favorite “individual” sports success story occurred while working at Texas A&M. As part of my duties, I was the administrator overseeing the golf teams at A&M. Men’s Coach J.T. Higgins built the Aggies into a national power and won the National Championship in 2009. Coach Higgins and I became good friends and had a candid relationship.
In 2007, Coach Higgins told me that he had asked a local College Station golfer, Jordan Russell, to walk-on the A&M team. I had seen Jordan play and told Coach that I didn’t think he was good enough to be part of our team. He was a skinny kid who had only been recruited by one small college. But Coach Higgins said, “He’s a hometown kid, he’s smart, will work hard, and I think he has potential to be a good golfer.”
Not surprisingly, in his first year at A&M, Jordan was 12th on a 12-man team. In practice rounds on the tough Traditions course, he usually shot in the 80’s…more than 10 shots worse than the better golfers. But I also saw why Coach Higgins liked the kid…he was the hardest worker on the team and was determined to prove that he belonged. I also liked that Jordan practiced and played with the best players on the team…he wanted to learn from them and challenge himself against the best.
Jordan redshirted his first year at A&M and in his second year he was still not good enough to make the top five…but by now his hard work was showing results…more muscle from the weight room along with an ever-improving golf swing.
In the fall of year three, his sophomore season, Jordan still couldn’t make the line-up but he was getting very close. Over the Christmas break, Jordan was at Traditions all day every day working on his game. One day it was raining with the temperature in the 30’s…the golf pro told me two rounds were played that day…both by Jordan Russell. When I asked Jordan why in the world he would play on such a miserable day, he said, “we play tournaments in weather like this and I want to be ready for every condition.”
That spring of 2010, Jordan finally made the line-up…in fact he won a tournament by shooting 70-69-67 and was named an honorable mention All-American. The next year in his junior season, Jordan set the all-time season scoring record at Texas A&M and had the lowest round in school history with a 63. By the end of 2011, Jordan Russell was the 12th ranked amateur golfer in the world! In three years, he went from 12th on the A&M team to 12th in the world…amazing! (What a great judge of talent I have.) Jordan is now a professional golfer and with his talent, work ethic, and great attitude…don’t be surprised if you hear a lot more about this young man in the near future.
Both the Nebraska football team and Jordan Russell had positive consequences by setting goals, developing a plan and vision to reach those goals, lots of hard work and commitment, and of course a little luck along the way.
You can also have positive consequences from doing “little things”…like being nice to people, giving of your time to a worthy cause, having a positive outlook, praying for others…the list is endless and the benefits are priceless.
I’ve been having some “weird” thoughts lately…of course my friends would say what else is new?
When I was diagnosed with the big c four months ago, my doctors said I likely had one year to live…which was six months more than the average. I determined to make the most of every day and also made a mental list of the places I wanted to go and the people I wanted to see.
But now, with my tumor marker numbers dropping so significantly, I find myself in kind of a “limbo.” Do I only have eight months left…or will I go into remission and have years left to live?
I’m looking forward to my next scan in six weeks. I’d love nothing better than to start making some long-term plans for my future.
There has definitely been a positive consequence to having a negative diagnosis…and no matter what my future holds…I know that I am a better person for having gone through this experience.
Next Stop: Blessings