College Football Jupiter High-School, FL '93 Youngstown State University '97
t me first share a bit about my background. I grew up in Jupiter, Florida and played sports from age 10 until graduating from college at age 22. My mom didn’t want me to play tackle football, so I didn’t start that until 8th grade. In my first year of tackle football I went to a team that had not won a game the prior season. After getting players from my neighborhood to join the team, we went on to win the championship that first season. As I reflect on this story, one of my first life lessons was that every organization needs to be more inclusive. The year we won the championship, we were inclusive with different groups of kids from various backgrounds. When you bring people together from different backgrounds with different abilities, and when they work together towards the same goal, that’s when you truly are a team. I continued football into my Freshman year of high school. Since Jupiter had no experience and not many wins when I arrived, I wanted to put Jupiter High-School Football on the map in Palm Beach County. As a freshman, our freshman team was undefeated and I eventually played on the varsity team my freshman season. Eventually, throughout my high school career, our teams won back to back district championships and played in the State Playoffs. I was recognized as one of the nation’s best running backs, which got me a full scholarship to college. I got an opportunity to play football at Youngstown State University. One of my takeaways there was that I was able learn how to organize and prioritize time, and I was able to learn the importance of focusing on perfecting your individual role, as part of the teams overall success. Additionally, I was able to learn to comfortably socialize with others, as there were many unique individuals from around the world on my team as well as in school. I came from a two parent household and we were very poor. My parents both worked 2 and 3 jobs and I hardly interacted with them, so in college, it was good to meet and get to know others through sports. Football was great and I learned many life lessons that I still apply today with my son as well as in business, but there are regrets that I have to this day! At Jupiter Middle School, I played percussions (drummer) before I started playing football. I loved being a drummer! A story I remember from one of the state band competitions is; we were tasked to play an upbeat song and a slower song that we had practiced prior to the competition The third song we played, was a song we had never seen before. We went to the back of the room and practiced for a short time and came out and played for the judges. After a rocky start, our band eventually pulled it together and we won that competition. The comments that were told to us were that the drummer did a great job of keeping the beat together, which held the band together for that performance. Winning this competition and hearing those words about me made me feel that I was pretty good. Additionally, at Jupiter Middle School, I was the Captain of the Black History Brain Bowl team. Our team won third place in the State and that is another proud, non-athletic monument I hold dearly. I had all intentions of continuing band and joining the debate team when I entered Jupiter High School, but I as I reflect, this is a time in my life when I was not true to myself. As an eighth grader entering high school, and working out with the older players, I gave into indirect peer pressure. I was more than just a football player, I was also a drummer and had at least a small interest in the debate process. I remember vividly the way my teammates talked about the “band geeks” and band not being “cool” (even though they practiced longer than us and was one of the best bands in the country). So, not being aware, or wanting too bad to fit in, I ended up quitting the band. This is the first time I remember not being my authentic self. The interesting thing about my story is that I never felt I was born to be an athlete. I love writing poems. I love listening to music and sharing the artistic side of life with others but because I didn’t allow this aspect into my life, for many years, I think it made me an angry person inside. In fact, I was a handful for Coach Tressel in college and I blame that partly because I neglected the chance to really be my authentic self. I conformed to what I thought people thought I should be, and I didn’t really look out for my interests. I should’ve followed my heart. In college though, I did have some positive things that came out of the experience. I’m grateful for the new friends in life, that have become like my brother, such as Matthew Richardson (we still talk daily), as well as being a part of an environment where I could learn to socialize with others that were different from me. Lastly, I have to mention that I was a part of the ‘93, ‘94 and ‘97 National Championships in college. Winning three National Championships were great and I’ve even used them as great ice-breakers on many occasions.
So today as I reflect on my Check Your Game moment, I think about the things I’ve learned from my past and how today I am encouraging others to be their authentic self instead of succumbing to the pressures that others place on you. I believe when you are truly being authentic that most people will accept you and appreciate you just as you are. Chase The Sun. No matter how dark today is, the sun always rises, so you will too.
Reggie, I enjoyed talking and learning from you! You gave me a new perspective that I hadn't thought of. I appreciate your transparency and humility to share things in your life that weren't always easiest and some mistakes too. I do know that others will learn from you and I'm grateful for your message. I look back when playing sports and realize that there are so many other areas outside of what people call a sport that are so similar. Most things take hard work, commitment, consistency and teamwork but as an athlete in high-school, I thought those other areas weren't cool like you mentioned in your story. I wish I had read your story when I was younger. I wish I could've given more respect to others and other interests that the kids had but I thought sports was the best! It's not. We all have been given talents and our talents are used in different areas which makes life more interesting. I'm sorry that you didn't stay with the band as well as football, but at the same time, I'm glad you didn't because I wouldn't get this story in order to encourage other athlete's to expand their minds, be open to trying new things and not to be embarrassed about trying out a new endeavor even if it might look "uncool" to the kids. Thanks again for being authentic and encouraging others to be authentic! You will be making a difference and I'm sure you are right now with your son as well as others that surround you. -Gary Rogers