Homewood High School Alabama Vanderbilt University'90

My Story

Having played sports for much of my life, I came to realize that I loved to win and I hated to lose. I spent much of my life trying never to lose. And of course, there is nothing wrong with trying to be your best and win at all the different things in life we attempt. However, it took me a very long time to realize that an undefeated record forever in everything is impossible. As I came to realize this, I began to embrace the losses/failures as opportunities to learn, grow and be kept in a more humble posture towards God and myself. I still don’t like to lose yet I don’t view my losses as things to hate but things to embrace. I had a pretty storybook type high school experience…four year starter in football, three year starter in baseball, all-state, Parade All American, USA Today Academic All American…things seemed to always go right for me. I am grateful for and worked hard for my successes. But it was not until I got into college that I realized life was much, much more about how we navigate trials and setbacks than it is about how wonderful everything is. As I have aged, I have become just as grateful for my redshirt year in college as I am for the three years I started. I learned more from my injury year after my redshirt year than I did from my high performance year. I learned empathy for others who also suffered. I learned patience and resilience as I pressed through difficulties. And I found that the victories that came after difficulties were much more enjoyable than the ones that came easy. I enjoyed my team’s victory over the Emmett Smith led Florida Gators more than the victories over lesser competition…because it came at a higher price. Each of those things earlier in my life trained me and prepared me for the things in life that only God knew lay in store for me…the death of a loved one; the failure of a business; an unwanted divorce; and many other trials. During each of those dark times in my life, I shed many tears…but I knew I would get to the other side mostly because I knew in my heart that I knew how to persevere through difficulties. And I learned that in part from sports. That lesson becomes more and more valuable as we move from our last days in sports to our first days in the rest of our lives. I recall struggling for several years to find my groove after football ended. I had an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree but still felt like I wasn’t important. But I pressed on and was supported by one thing that never changed…my teammates. Dear men that stood by me on the football field were now standing by me in the difficult parts of life. And they do so today, almost 35 years later.
Three things that I will leave you with are these:

1. Never, never, never give up. Tenacity and resilience can be learned. You can do it!
2. Never, never, never try to go it alone. Recognizing your weaknesses and limitations does not make you a loser…it makes you human!
3. Never, never, never stop being grateful for the things in life that are good…and there is a lot for which we can be thankful. Do a Gratitude List every day and watch your life change.

God bless you as you move through the game of life and remember…we are all teammates!

My Advice

1. You can always go a little more than you think you a few extra routes, take a little more batting practice, hit a few more sand wedges, run a few more 40s!
2. If you have time to do it TWICE, you have time to do it RIGHT ONCE!
3. TEAM above SELF.
4. Ask for help; be humble, help others.
5. Love life and treat others with respect...they deserve it just as much as you do.


Johnny, thanks for being so candid and talking about stuff that people don't always want to share. Knowing you during football for a short time I saw that you always were a good guy, nice to others and more of an example of a role model though I seemed to follow others(down the wrong path)! Your perspective on winning is very interesting! Of course we all want to win(in games, in work, in grades and relationships, etc) but life can never be done with an undefeated record so learning through loss is so important and something that all athletes can learn through your story and words. And lastly, never giving up, never trying to do it alone and never stop being grateful are also great pieces of advice for current athlete's as well as ex-athlete's like myself. Thanks for being a friend and thanks for sharing your heart. I know others will be encouraged by your story and advice. -Gary Rogers

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