College Football Archbishop Moeller High School, Cincinnati, OH '89 North Carolina State University '93
My life, after my playing days ended, has been a perpetual series of “Check Your Game” moments. The moments actually started before my playing days officially ended in the sense that my college career did not materialize the way I had always envisioned. When I say “always envisioned,” I do mean exactly that. I cannot remember, as a child or as a young man, ever thinking of anything else. I wanted to be a Moeller Football Captain and I wanted a football scholarship to play out of state. I never considered that the day I would no longer run free and wild and passionate in football pads…in games…would HAVE TO end sometime. That whole question of “What about Life after Football?” just wasn’t my concern. But the day came, and I was lost. That was when I decided to forego my final year of eligibility at NC State, take my degree and move on from football. It came before I was ready, but I had to make the decision to leave. I had the maturity and vision to make the decision that was best for me at the time, but I wasn’t self-aware enough to take the lessons I got THROUGH football and apply them, with pride, to my next chapter. Then over the years, I faced regret, shame, depression, and self hatred for not pushing more. However, since I walked off the football field as a player over 25 years ago, l recently, fully embraced the distinction between no longer playing the game…and moving on from football. I will never move on from football. I know today, that all those moments…all those decisions…my shortfalls in effort…and any unrewarded or unnoticed commitment to my goals have all been vital to my development as a man. I am grateful for the football that exists in my soul. It has manifested itself in who I am…and in some ways, kept me alive. In the darkest of personal and emotional times, the character I developed in football, kept me at what I describe 51/49. It was 51% knowing I could endure and survive and that better would come if I was committed to just keep pushing…and 49% not caring if I lived or died. I have been able to connect with my “gifts from football” more and more and more in recent times. I will never move on from those fibers of my being. I am committed to sharing those parts of football that exist in me. The football that exists in me goes far beyond the lines of any field, but rather the lessons I learned about people, about effort, about commitment and mostly about myself. I have been gifted the awareness of discovering how I can apply what I got out of 16 years of playing football to my own personal development as a man, a husband, a father and as a coach. But, most of all, I now see myself as a mentor, swimming in the opportunity to share those gifts with new generations. I have a further developed an approach to being a coach (going into my 7th year)…I have the opportunity to pay attention to ways to share my “old school” values and impart those timeless human lessons on the generations that will shape our world…FAR BEYOND stat sheets and scoreboards.
So much good advice is available from former athletes, and I am happy to jump into a forum where the advice goes beyond the short term. For example; we all can give advice for workouts, nutrition, technique, commitment, discipline, courage, accountability, academics...you get the point, but what moves me is the quest in finding a way to reach people in a way that it affects them. I was blessed to connect with the positive messages I received from many great coaches who held true to the messages of loyalty, persistence, accountability, courage and confidence. My advice for athletes is to connect to those intangibles, in every part of their life. Start now...and take pride in recognizing those things in yourself, because when you deal with a coach, boss, acquaintance or teammate that doesn't hold those values as sacredly as you do...know it isn't you. When you can look yourself in the mirror and stare into your own eyes and know you have been and are giving the best you have...please understand that you are always in process and know that you have nothing to be ashamed of. Develop your core values that you are to live and embody right now...and for the rest of your life experiences. There is a peak for every athlete with regard to their performance inside the lines, but there is no end to continuing to develop those core values the rest of your life. And, if you are aware, open, courageous and honest with yourself about who you truly are in those values, you can find a way to impart those ideals on the people around you.
Mike, it's been way too many years since we were on the field together and I sure wish you would've stayed at IH with us but I know you were successful at Moeller HS and in college. I appreciate so much your transparency with all that you said and can feel what you felt too. You and I, like many other athletes who have been a part of sports for so long, get so caught up in our sport and get our identities all screwed up. Our self worth is tied to who we are as an athlete and how good we perform and that affects us during our sport but even more so when our sport is taken away. You have a lot of advice and wisdom that takes more than one read of your story. It's deep and also true! I am fortunate to have played with you for a year and more fortunate to have gotten your story to share with others who are currently playing. I know others will be able to learn from you and others and be better for it. Thanks again for everything and looking forward to staying in touch. -Gary Rogers