Overcoming Obstacles: Responsibility and Focus
After playing college football for the Baylor Bears, Mike Singletary was drafted by the
Chicago Bears in the 2nd round of the 1981 NFL Draft and was known as “The Heart of the Defense” for the Chicago Bears’ Monsters of the Midway in the mid-1980s. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998. Singletary later pursued a career as a coach, first as a linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens, then as the linebackers coach for the San Francisco 49ers. He was the team’s interim head coach in 2008, and coached the 49ers until he was fired in 2010.Mike Singletary was a Hall of Fame linebacker with the Chicago Bears but these days he is turning around the 49ers’ fortunes
Last Saturday in pre-game for my Junior Midget team, I read the following story of a very focused man named Mike Singletary.
In 1971, Singletary was 12. His mother had decided to not have an abortion trusting that God had a plan for this child. Mike was the youngest of 10 kids. Deserted by their his oldest brother, at 23, accepted his new place in the family and wanted to lead.
“I don’t ever want to hear you say some of the things I’m saying,” Grady would tell his kid brother. “I don’t ever want to see you do some of the things I’m doing. I’m making bad decisions. But you’re gonna make the right decisions.”
One evening Grady seemed different, and left what might seem later on to be haunting advice.
“Take care of your mother,” he said. “And whatever you do, always make sure you do your best.” Then he asked if he needed a couple of dollars for anything. “That was big,” Singletary reflected this week. “For him to ask if I needed any money. He didn’t do that. And that was the last thing he ever said to me.” He paused. “It was an interesting series of events that day.”
A few hours later a hospital called to say that Grady was in a coma after a pile-up of half a dozen vehicles, hit by a drunk driver. He never recovered.
Singletary reflected on the incident,
“Sometimes you get to a place in life where you feel you’ve made some choices, and maybe they weren’t the right choices, and that it’s all coming to an end. That it’s just a matter of time. Because the person that’s not going anywhere, that’s not striving to do anything great, he’s just fitting in. You just kind of drift. You don’t really know where you gonna end up. And that was the one thing I couldn’t do.”
Several yeas later in a crucial December 1983, game against the Vikings, Singletary was on the sideline getting taped up on a finger that was close to being dismembered from his hand. He was warned by his trainer but went out onto the field anyway.
“I didn’t come here to watch the game,” he glowered. “Do what you got to do, wrap it up, whatever. But I’m playing.”
A few seconds later Mike was in the middle of the Vikings huddle.
“You will not score.”
Obviously his opponents found this outrageous. He repeated the mantra to them.
The did not score.
“Yeah, it was stupid. That’s the only thing you can call it. But thankfully it worked out. And that was a big day for us. We grew up as a team.”
Growing up Singletary was often hospitalized and was often in a an oxygen tent. Sometimes his mother looked at the runt of the litter and sobbed. At the same time, however, he always had an aura about him. As early as five years old, people were telling him that he would some day be a leader of men.
Reflecting his lack of focus he said, “I was afraid to step into who I was. I saw the light, I saw that spot, but I kept thinking it was too big. And finally there were things that happened that left me no choice. Either I step into the light, or I disappear. Meaning that you find me in jail, or on the side of the road. But not in the parade. I’m just watching the parade go by. So I had a choice, and really it wasn’t much of a choice.”
In seventh grade, for instance, it was Coach Miller. “Son,” he said. “I see something. Nobody else can see it, but you need to get your suitcases ready. You’re going to do great things in life.” And from that day he addressed him as “Suitcases”.
<<Side Note: I remember reading that often great singers and actors believe that God has a plan for them. And interesting frame that propels us forward when the Man upstairs is the guide yah? God has a plan for you. You are special.>>>
When all this duly came to pass, he would instead be nicknamed “Samurai” by his fellow Bears, who saw him make 885 solo tackles during a 12-year, Hall Of Fame career – 109 during their epoch-making 1985 campaign, when he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. It wasn’t a matter of simple bulk, either. Singletary is no more than 6ft tall. Rather it was obsession: in preparation, ambition, execution .
Singletary sets himself and his men exacting standards. In his playing days, he would tell the referee when he had broken a rule, and not been penalized.
“Everyone that’s doing something worthwhile, none of us has come to this place on our own,” he says. “There’s been someone there, who believed in us when we didn’t really believe in ourselves. Calling us, challenging us. Now I sit and talk to these young men, and sometimes they look back at you, and you can look right through them. But sometimes they get it. And all of a sudden there’s something different in the way they walk, the way they talk. To see them come around, when maybe others have been saying: ‘This guy, he’s no good, get him outta here’, to see them stand up and be men, that’s exciting.”
In the press conference, he made a defining, fire-and-brimstone statement of intent. People who were in it for themselves, rather than the team? “Cannot play with them,” he exclaimed. “Cannot win with them, cannot coach with them – can’t do it. I want winners!”
“It is my belief that every young man, deep down, wants to be great,” he says. “And certain circumstances through life make him begin to give up on that dream. Maybe someone told him when he was a kid that he wasn’t very good. Maybe Mum and Dad told him he wouldn’t amount to anything. But every now and then he comes to a place where someone believes in him again. Then he has to make a choice: ‘Do I really believe this person? Do they really believe in me, or are they trying to use me?’ I want to tell my players the truth, at all times, and I think they can appreciate that: ‘Are you cheating yourself? Are you cheating the team? Are we who we say we are?'”
“I think a man becomes less than a man when he begins to compromise on what he believes is right,” Singletary says. “So that is the thing I’m always searching for, the truth – about who I am, what I’m doing. And what I know to be true, I’m not going to compromise. That’s something I’m willing to die for. And unless you have something you’re willing to die for, then there’s not a reason, really, to live.”
During his Chicago days, Singletary became intrigued by the things he was hearing and reading about Ross Perot. This was long before Perot’s maverick challenge for the presidency in 1992, when he won 20 million votes. Singletary’s business partner back in Texas knew Perot, arranged a meeting, and the football star flew home to Houston. The tycoon had a sculpture of an eagle in his office, and talked about how eagles are always alone. Singletary was engrossed.
“It’s OK to be different,” he explains now. “Most people in our society succumb to the pressure. It’s like I tell my kids. The people willing to swim against the current, they’re the ones that society says: ‘There’s something wrong with that person, something defective’. When, in all honesty, it’s those people who save society. Because they recognize something’s wrong. I’ve an eagle in my office now, too, with the same words on it. Eagles don’t flock.”
This was mostly from an article here http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/general/others/american-football-mike-singletary–deep-down-every-young-man-wants-to-be-great-2039893.html and Wikipedia.com
I closed that appropriately we are named the Eagles. And that a team is made from individuals that have a personal responsibility to push themselves so they can push their teammates. The mantra on our team this you has been “I am the fix, I am the answer” to invoke in each player a personal responsibility. That by the way is culled from my Libertarian roots than I believe our biggest problem is to look to someone else to fix out problems.
That is that the phrase “it takes a village” has been bastardized that the Village has a responsibility to fix the individual without first recognizing that it is made and bettered from individuals and will be fixed by individuals.
I closed with whenever we may feel down, or sorry for ourselves, there are others that are inspired and are competing against all odds.
I showed them a picture of a boy younger than them crossing the finish line triumphantly . Running with only these: