Posts tagged Super Bowl

Thomas Davis: All-around champion



Thomas Davis daughterSuper Bowl week has to be an especially meaningful one for Carolina Panthers’ linebacker Thomas Davis. In every way the week’s events give reflection of the kind of man he is, on and off the field. Today — Super Bowl Sunday — he will start at outside linebacker in this year’s championship game, which is almost a miracle in itself. More on that later.

But Davis was also the guest of honor at another of the week’s most-celebrated events: the Super Bowl Breakfast, hosted by Athletes in Action, the sister ministry of FamilyLife. It’s not just a religious event, but is the occasion for the NFL to honor the one player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community.

Last year the recipient was Peyton Manning, who will quarterback the opposing Denver Broncos in this year’s Super Bowl. This year it is Thomas Davis. And the award this year has even greater significance.  It is the 50th anniversary since the trophy’s namesake led his team to victory in the first-ever Super Bowl in 1967.

The Bart Starr award has been given annually since 1989, and has included such outstanding athletes and men as Steve Largent, Reggie White, Mike Singletary, Jackie Slater, Bruce Matthews, Darrell Green, Curt Warner, Aeneas Williams, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning.

It’s not a one-time honor for Davis, who also received the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award last season. In his acceptance speech, he challenged his fellow NFL players to use their fame and fortune to give to others.

“Let’s take charge … Let’s step up and be a village of guys that make a difference to change this world. We’re well-compensated for what we do. Let’s show these kids how much we care about them. Let’s give the media something positive to talk about instead of always bashing our league.”

Coming up from humble beginnings

Thomas Davis grew up in the humblest of beginnings in the Wiregrass region of southwest Georgia, just a couple of hours from where Bart Starr was raised. Unlike Starr, poverty was a way of life for Davis, his sister, and their single mom. There were times, he recalled, they didn’t even have running water or electricity. His mom did her best to meet their needs, but it was barely enough to cover the essentials and no more.

Davis remembers a couple Christmases waking up with anticipation, only to find no present. In his young mind, he reasoned that maybe it was because he was bad and that the reason she was having such a hard time making ends meet was because he and his sister were too difficult. As he was able, he would pick pecans and peas, bale hay, anything to earn money to help the family stay afloat. That memory of struggling for survival and significance would be the impetus for what he would do for others if he ever had the means.

Sports was his chance. He lettered in baseball and track, but he was a standout in football. Because his high school was so small, he got little notice from college football programs and received only one scholarship offer. But at the University of Georgia under coach Mark Richt he proved to be one of the best players to ever come out of the state, earning All-American honors at linebacker and a number 14 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft.

From the top to the bottom and back

Thomas Davis PanthersGoing from poverty to riches went to Thomas’ head for the first three years of his career, as he revealed in an excellent interview with Sports Spectrum magazine. He could have and do almost anything he wanted, and he did. And, like Solomon, he found it to be meaningless.

It was during this time that the spiritual seeds sown by Coach Richt at Georgia, an outspoken Christian, began to take root in Thomas, and he became more aware of the grace of God in his life. It was also at that same time that he met his wife Kelly and he began to look outward to meet her needs and the needs of others. He got involved as a volunteer in a program that offered free heart screenings to underprivileged children and through that, Thomas discovered that he had a rare heart condition that could end his NFL career. Although it ended up not being as serious as first thought, the process of facing his immortality and the imminent loss of his career created in him a greater reliance on God and caused him to further take inventory of his life.

Thomas recognizes now that God was preparing him for what was to come. Until the heart scare, he had never had an injury or a threat to missing a game.

Then eight weeks into the 2009 season, playing on the Superdome turf against the Saints, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. He had surgery to repair the knee and missed the rest of the season.

Early in summer training camp the next year, in 2010, just after successfully rehabbing his injury he tore the same ACL in the same knee in a fluke, non-contact accident. This time he would miss the entire 2010 season, but he would have plenty of time to properly rehab the knee this time.

Finally, in 2011 he was back to full function for the season opener — his first regular season game in 22 months. But the very next week at Green Bay a teammate’s leg slammed against his knee — the same knee — and tore the same ACL for a third time in less than two years.

In the doctor’s office the next morning, the team trainer remembers that Thomas was crying and shaking his head, saying, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s too hard.”

Thomas recalls the soul-searching few days that followed.

“My wife and I talked about it, and the team chaplain … and they just asked me, ‘Do you really feel like you’re done with the game of football? Are you, in your heart, totally 100 percent sure that you don’t want to play again?’ And the answer to that question was ‘No.’”

The following Monday, according to the trainer, Thomas came into his office and said “We’re breaking history. We’re going for records. We’re doing it again.”

Indeed it would be history. No NFL player had ever come back from three ACL tears, much less to perform at the level Thomas does. He has become the Panthers’ all-time leading tackler, and every year since his return from the knee injuries has recorded more than 100 tackles.

But then two weeks ago in the NFC championship game, Thomas was making his 105th tackle of the season when he suffered a serious break to the ulna bone in his forearm. Initially, his mind went back to the ACL injuries, resigning himself to the fact that he would have to sit out the dream game of his life in two weeks. Under the same circumstances, most athletes probably would have. But this was Thomas Davis, who is no stranger to rehabbing injuries.  The doctors were willing to take the chance and so was Thomas. The morning after the game, he was in surgery to repair it, and Sunday he’ll start with a metal plate and several screws,  protected by a specially designed cast on his arm.

After all, what’s the chance that a broken arm will stop you when you’ve come back from so many desperate situations before, and when you have a chance to help your team win a Super Bowl trophy for the first time?


Offering others a hand up

Thomas Davis playgroundSince their marriage in 2008, Thomas and Kelly created and have continued to expand their own charity. The mission of the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation  is built on the principles of educating, empowering, and defending students in developing essential life and social skills that will help them rise above circumstances to become leaders in the next generation.  Both Thomas and Kelly are intimately involved in every aspect of the organization’s work. The couple has personally invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a playground in his hometown of Shellman, Georgia, and to provide for the material needs of underprivileged children across the nation. And every Christmas, they provide presents to children to show them unconditional love.

 

Michael Oher: Something to prove in Super Bowl 50



Michael Oher: Something to prove

Michael Oher got to prove his worth this year against the team that traded him to the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers. (Getty Images)

One of the backstories of Super Bowl 50 is the ongoing rags-to-riches story of Michael Oher. The outstanding left tackle for the Carolina Panthers will be working for his second championship ring in seven years.

Michael Oher has something to prove.

He always has something to prove.

Many have seen the 2009 movie The Blind Side, about a destitute Memphis black kid who was all but living on the street until he was taken in by a wealthy white family from across town. That kid, Michael Oher, went on to become a highly-recruited high school lineman and an All-American at Ole Miss, and was selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

Most people love the movie, but Michael Oher is not one of them. Based on the Michael Lewis book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, it focuses primarily on the Tuohy family, who adopted Michael and who continue to have a powerful presence in his life. In fact, they will be together in San Francisco for the Super Bowl.

But, as Michael puts it, the movie is what you’d expect from Hollywood, with a lot of overtly fictional elements. Then there is Michael’s book, I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond, which I just finished reading. While the movie characterized Michael as an unintelligent and unambitious young man who had to be taught the game of football, the truth is that he was already focused on sports and rising above his surroundings when he was walking the streets of Memphis. The Tuohy family just gave him opportunities he would have otherwise never had.

In his book, he gives a little perspective on the balance between opportunity and success.

Michael Oher has something to prove“When I was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens, I knew I had done the impossible. I hadn’t just beat the odds; I had blown them out of the water. But the story isn’t just about arriving at the pros. My goal had never been just to get the offer, or to sign the contract, or to get the paycheck. I wanted to do something, to know that I was working each day to do something with my potential, pushing myself to make sure that I was always giving my all. Making it to the pros wasn’t the finish line for me. The world is full of people who got their big shot and then never did anything with it. It had come too far to just let being drafted be the end of my story.”

From the start of his book, two things stand out that show that Michael was serious about his future: First, he was determined to rise above the options he was given as a child. Second, he knew the importance of surrounding yourself with people who watch out for you, and he realized the need to commit to them as well.

He knew that he could have become a bodyguard for one of the two local gangs and made a name and lots of money for himself.  But that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted out, and at an early age he realized that sports would be his ticket. His big goal was to get a scholarship for a junior college and get an education so he could get a job that would take him out of the neighborhoods where everyone was stuck and life was just a matter of survival. READ MORE »

Carolina’s Greg Olsen: MVP of hurting hearts



Greg OlsenCarolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen arrived at the hotel in San Jose this past weekend, preparing for the game of his career.

He unpacks his bags, and there lies Touchdown Bear, his traveling companion for every game of the past two seasons (watch the video). It’s a stuffed animal, custom-designed by his three children, and a reminder to him that the Super Bowl is not the most important thing in his life. It’s also a constant reflection that this game is not the biggest challenge he’s faced. This is not the first time he’s had everything on the line, or teamed up with others to face a formidable foe.

Three years ago, Greg and his wife Kara watched as an ultrasound revealed that they were pregnant with two children, one normal, and one with a medical condition known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Simply put, TJ would be born with half a heart. Fortunately for them, Greg’s generous NFL salary allowed them to seek out and receive the best care for their son, who would have died without aggressive medical intervention.

TJ would go through three successive surgeries to rebuild his heart, and his parents would provide very specialized and intense care for their son. For Greg, the pressure to perform was almost more than he could bear when they brought TJ home from the hospital after his first surgery.  “His care was going to be so specific and so important that if I did not give him the exact calorie per ounce, he was going to die. In my mind, that’s what I thought. If I couldn’t even make his formula right, how was I going to do wound care on his scar, how were we going to do his medicine?”

That’s sure a lot more pressure than he’s going to face on the field Sunday.

Since that time, TJ has had his two other operations and is doing well for a child with HLHS. The Olsens are thankful for each day they have with TJ and their other two children, because most kids with HLHS don’t make it to age five, even with the surgeries. And as they experienced the heartache as parents of HLHS babies, they’ve developed a passion for helping other moms and dads who have fewer resources than Greg and Kara. They sought out a way to level the playing field a bit for families.

Through The HEARTest Yard initiative, they help provide medical care, counseling, and encouragement for parents of HLHS babies through Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Greg’s and Kara’s compassion earned him a nomination by the Panther’s organization for the 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Efforts to help others have earned him recognition off the field as well as on.

Annie Lane picture AHA submissionMy co-worker Tracy admits that she doesn’t follow football much, but she knows about Greg Olsen. That’s because she and husband Matt are going through their own anguishing struggle with their daughter Annie, whose heart is failing after her second HLHS surgery. Tracy remembers what it’s like to get the diagnosis.

“One day, you’re a regular family who’s never heard of a baby having half of a heart. The next day, you’re the family whose baby is being diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening heart defect,” she says.

And Matt relates to Greg’s frustration about how alone and helpless it can make you feel. “It’s not like you can just call up your buddy and he can relate. Or talk to your brother who went through that last week. Or even turn to your pastor, because, well, no one else has heard of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome either.”

At this moment, Matt and Tracy are waiting to hear from Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, which did Annie’s first two surgeries. They’re hoping the facility can come up with a course of action to care for Annie as she waits for her third operation. In the meantime, all they can do is wait and pray. But they’re thankful that others are raising awareness of families like theirs. Tracy, a fellow writer, forwarded her thoughts to me the other day.

“Having someone like Olsen to look to is encouraging. He’s a regular guy who is loving his family well. A regular guy who had the courage to choose life in the face of a life-threatening diagnosis. A regular guy who is giving hope to other families who face this same terrifying condition.

“Heart families around the world are grateful for the awareness he’s providing because the more we know, the less afraid we have to be. The more we see that a scary diagnosis can still lead to a healthy, vibrant childhood, the more courage we have to advocate for the life of any and every baby. Olsen shares the reality that the grief is real, the challenges are real, but the value of his child’s life is real too. Those hospital-bound days fighting for TJ’s life were worth it. Whatever fight you’re in is worth it, too.”

Greg Olsen has fought to be, arguably, the best tight end in the NFL. But he admitted in an interview last year that he’s not the toughest person in his home.

“I wish I was as tough as TJ. If I was as tough as him, I’d be in good shape. What he’s gone through in his first eight months of life is more than any of us has gone through in a lifetime. Two open heart surgeries, the countless medications, the exams. He’s been through it all, and he just bounces back.”

TJ’s suffering has made Olsen tougher and more sensitive. It’s given him not just resolve, but also perspective. In the grand scheme of things, Sunday’s Super Bowl is not a life-or-death thing for Greg Olsen. In fact, I’m sure that if he has an outstanding performance, wins the big game and gets a huge bonus on top of his $22.5 million dollar contract, he wouldn’t think twice about trading it all away for TJ.

Learn the latest on Annie’s current situation, and follow the heart of HLHS parents through Tracy’s blog, Heart for Annie.

 

Super Bowl MVP: Dad



Just about everyone gets a little excited about the Super Bowl. Even the people who aren’t football fans probably look forward to the halftime show or the creative and entertaining commercials. They’re more interested in the side show than the final score or the MVP.

If this year’s commercials are any indication, there’s already a winner for this year’s Super Bowl MVP: Dad.

This year there are three commercials that will probably touch everybody, man, woman, or child. That’s because they’re about dads, and the fact is that either you are a dad, have a dad, or have a dad-hole you’re looking to fill. The commercials for Toyota, Nissan and Dove pluck all those heart strings.

Dove Men + Care: “Real Strength

This commercial’s been out on the web for a while (it went viral last Father’s Day with 12 million views), but the exposure it will get during the Super Bowl will likely make it a commercial that everybody remembers.

It’s simply a succession of two dozen clips of kids and young adults in everyday life. A swimming pool, a high chair, a wedding. No one says more than one word, but that one word is powerful. Dada. Daddy. Dad.

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The commercial’s text asks a simple question and offers a simple but profound answer:

What makes a man stronger?

Showing that he cares.

Dove’s reminder is that a dad’s strength is his involvement in the lives of his children, from their earliest years to the time they start their own families.

The commercial concludes by inviting dads to share how caring makes them stronger at #RealStrength

Nissan: “With Dad”

Like Dove, Nissan has already been around the internet with its “With Dad” campaign, but they’re keeping their Super Bowl commercial under wraps until the big game. Over the past several months, Nissan has repeated the mantra, “Everything’s better with dad.” It’s a campaign by Nissan’s chief marketing officer Fred Diaz, acknowledging something that every parent in America knows: it’s hard to strike a good balance between work and family, but it’s important to do it.

You probably remember Diaz’s contribution to the 2013 Super Bowl, with his tribute to farmers, with audio narration from Paul Harvey. If that’s any indication of the quality and impact we can expect, the commercial’s sure to be one of the viewer favorites this year. Until then, all we have to go on is this 10-second teaser.

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As for the football connection, you can check out a series of features Nissan did on the NFL Matthews family by searching #withdad on YouTube.

Toyota Camry: “To Be a Dad”

This commercial focuses on the reality of fatherhood, featuring real life stories from dads and their kids. Some are NFL players. Others are just regular Joes. The commercial begins with a simple question:

Is being a good dad something you learn, or a choice you make?

More than a feel-good piece about, say, ginormous horses and fluffy puppies, “To Be a Dad” focuses on how “one bold choice leads to another.” Whether they had a good father or not, these men share about how they are trying to be that good dad, and you can see how they are passing that legacy down to their own children.

At the end of the piece, viewers are invited to become participants by tweeting about their own father. The piece ends with this message:

Honor your dad.
Tweet us photos of him using #OneBoldChoice
to join our big game celebration.

Check out the extended length commercial here.

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As you can see, the commercial is inspiring in many ways.

  • We see men we respect on the field being men we can respect in real life.
  • We see men who started life with a void who are now determined not to let their children know that feeling.
  • We see children talk about how their dads inspire them.
  • We see dads who are humbled and gratified at the impact they’re having on their kids.

We also see some of the damage that’s in the process of being healed. Damage caused to grown men when they were little boys by fathers who weren’t present or who were emotionally detached. These men feel like they don’t have a template to follow and are left to make it up as they go, essentially trying to become everything they didn’t have as they were growing up.

Thankfully, we all have a Heavenly Father whose deep desire is to know us and have us experience all His best for our lives. And thankfully, He’s given us an instruction book that teaches us how to father, not out of our woundedness, but out of His wisdom and love.

My hope is that these commercials will raise the conversation around fatherhood. Hopefully it will spark stronger connection between dads and their kids, and will bring together those men who grew up without dads and those who were far more blessed, all around the conversation about what it means To Be a Dad.

Super Saturday successes



Here are some early reports from Stepping Up Super Saturday events from around the country. We’d love to hear a report or comment from you if you were part of the Stepping Up Super Saturday in some way.

If you missed Super Saturday, no problem. Find out how to go through Stepping Up with a group of guys by visiting SteppingUp.com.

Super Saturday by the numbers

  • More than an estimated 600 events hosted on or around 2/1/14
  • Estimated over 10,000 men attending
  • 133 known Stepping Up@Home events held
  • 316 men attending as reported by the Stepping Up@Home hosts

Some Super Saturday guest comments

  • Super Saturday success“I can now see the importance of doing this in a group session instead of by myself. Overall the need for this idea of manhood, ‘right of passage’, to be ‘mainstream’ is so extreme I feel challenged to help my family and friends and especially the church where the ball has been dropped!”
  • “Thus far the sessions have caused me to pause and opened my eyes and heart to the question at hand. My past has flooded through my thoughts as I have watched and listened to these beginning sessions. They have drawn me in and I long to discover more. Not only so that I can apply these principles as I begin a new chapter in my life, but so that I may also be prepared to minister to and guide my son and son-in-laws.”
  • Super Saturday success“Almost 50 men in Hagerstown, MD! Awesome program, FamilyLife!!!!”
  • “And the Rock Church in Scarborough, Maine is going to have changed lives, families, and marriages!”
  • “I can’t wait to share this resource with the men of my church. This material is exactly what we are looking for to help lead, transform, and feed the men of our congregation.”
  • “This is exactly what the Men’s Leadership Team at my church identified as a need last week. This material is right on target and a great need.”
  • “If this session doesn’t get you motivated in one way or another for the way we as men are to live our lives, then you need to start over! Very good I will be watching these videos again tomorrow! Thank you for this and I am only on session 1!”

Taking dad to the Super Bowl … and beyond



Among the key players in this year’s Super Bowl will be three very different men with one big similarity: They love their dads and are bringing them to the game with them – at least in a sense.  Their names are Manning, Wilson, and Sherman, and they have stories worth sharing.

But first I want to tell a personal story of some other men I met who also took their dad to the Super Bowl. Like most guys, they weren’t going as players but as fans, and I ran into them on my way to Super Bowl XL with my son.

Kolby and I were on our way to Detroit to see my former team, the Seattle Seahawks, play the Pittsburgh Steelers. On the flight, we got into conversation with two rabid Seattle fans, brothers in their late 20s, decked out in full team gear. They explained that their passion for the Seahawks went back to their dad, who had taken them to every game as they grew up. Kolby and I could feel the love they had for their dad in their voices and their passion. But what put these guys over the top was when they gushed about their excitement to take their dad to the Super Bowl to see their beloved Seahawks.

“Where is he?” I asked.

“Oh, he’s up in the overhead compartment. We got his ashes in a blue and green urn up there. We’re so excited!”

After they turned away came the whisper from my wide-eyed 15-year-old, “Dad, that’s weird!”

Yeah, it is. But, hey, I honor those guys for honoring their dad. It’s clear that he made his interest in them – and taking them to football games – a tradition, a memory, and a lasting bond. He must have loved them and they still felt it. They knew how much he would have wanted to see the Seahawks in the Super Bowl with his sons, so they brought him to the Super Bowl.

I love this story and the bond between men, a dad and his sons. And that takes me to this year’s Super Bowl.

The plot and outcome of this year’s game will depend a lot on the play of Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, and Richard Sherman. Each has something in common with The Urn Brothers in that they are bringing their fathers with them to the game. Not in an urn, but they are representing their fathers’ legacies of love and sacrifice that helped them make it to the big game.

Russell Wilson’s dad went to my alma mater, Dartmouth College, playing football in the four years before I joined the team. He passed away in 2010, but before he died he had built a character of confidence, commitment, and caring into his son. Russell remembers his dad regularly waking him at 5 a.m. and encouraging him to “make it a great day.” From what Dartmouth teammates said about Harrison Wilson and what we see from the hyper-prepared and team-lifting Russell, I think the quarterback is compounding the investments his dad made in him.

Taking Dad Super Bowl

Sons and their dads, from top, Russell and Harrison Wilson, Kevin and Richard Sherman, Peyton and Archie Manning.

Kevin Sherman is a dependable dad who wanted his sons to learn from his mistakes and to make the most of their education so that they could have more doors open for them than he had for himself. Compton, Calif., is a blighted neighborhood with few opportunities and scores of dangers, but Richard Sherman’s mom, dad and family have a winsome bond that was respected by gang members who didn’t want to lure the Sherman kids away from a great family and future.

The tight family is infectiously affirming. Richard swells with respect when speaking of his dad who worked 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. as trash collector for over two decades. From a dad’s dream to Richard’s attending and graduating from Stanford, quite a new legacy emerged in the Sherman family line.

Richard’s preeminent preparation and boiling competitiveness as a top NFL cornerback is mixed with a winsome manner off the field, although his articulate Muhammed Ali-like trash talking on the field is far from my liking, Sherman’s heated post-NFC championship game comments sparked controversy, not for misbehavior or slacking in life, but for venting battle-fueled bad blood between a DB and receiver. (Parents and youth coaches, certainly, let’s teach our kids not to belittle opponents, but let’s also read the whole story as we view others for the content of their character, not the color of a few comments after a heated game.)

Archie and Olivia Manning raised a super-close family that built Hall-of-Fame character, leadership, and humility into high achievers who make their teams eminently better. Archie labored in adversity without championships for the New Orleans Saints, but his greatest achievement was shaping Cooper, Peyton, and Eli Manning. Payton has a dad and brother as fellow epic NFL quarterbacks.

Despite what most think, the Mannings’ football career was not their dad’s focus as they were growing up. “We just tried to raise good kids and have a good family,” Archie says. “I don’t like the perception that … I’ve got these boys and I’m going to mold them into being NFL quarterbacks. Not so. You might can do that, and they might be NFL quarterbacks. I’m not sure you’re going to have a great father-son relationship, and that’s what I wanted.”

No wonder Peyton Manning was recently voted by his NFL peers as the most respected player in the league.

An infectiously intentional ivy-league dad who passed away early, a trash-truck driving, dependable dad from the ‘hood and an iconic pro-bowl quarterback from the Mississippi Delta. Each paved a path leading his son to the Super Bowl, and hopefully to even more important things – like walking in the footsteps of the key man in their life – Dad. And in a different, but similar way, just like the Seahawk-crazed brothers on the flight to the 2006 Super Bowl, these three players are taking their dad (through his legacy) to the game with them.

This all strikes close to home because of my dad’s legacy as a quarterback in the NFL and as a civic servant and leader in the public square. Although Dad and I both came within one game of the Super Bowl as players, we did go to a few games as spectators, and I’ve had the same opportunity with my sons. Most importantly, though, dad and mom loved and shaped me, as my wife and I have aimed to do with our four sons.

Millions of us dads will sit down with our kids on Sunday. So enjoy the game, but devote yourself and your energies each day to what matters most.

Someday each of us will be laid to rest (unless they scatter us in the ocean or take us to the Super Bowl in an overhead compartment).  What will you be remembered for? Riches, fame, and personal success are transient. But a legacy is what passes on to the next generation, and the next, and the next. … That is what endures.

Jeff Kemp and his father, Jack, were the first of six sets of father-son quarterback duos to play in the NFL. 

Inside the Manning legacy



Back in October, Scott Barkley at Fishers of Men blog had a particularly outstanding post about how one man took his ache for a strong father-son relationship and turned it into a great legacy. As we enter Super Bowl week, he’s given us permission to re-post this story of the Manning legacy. We hope it encourages you to make the little decisions that can make a great impact on the next generation. And if you haven’t seen The Book of Manning film by ESPN, we highly recommend it.

manning legacy

The Manning quarterbacking legacy. From right, dad Archie, and sons Peyton and Eli. Photo by Bill Frakes.

After his sophomore year at Ole Miss, Archie Manning had everyone’s attention. For starters, he’d just led the Rebels as quarterback in only his second year at school, a feat which didn’t happen a whole lot back then. In addition there was something in the air about the football team at the school – hope for a successful year.

All that would be challenged when he returned that summer to his hometown of Drew in the northwestern part of the state.

One day Archie came home and discovered the body of his father, Buddy. As it would for anyone, the moment and days to follow were defining in Archie’s life and as it would turn out, for so many more than he could possibly imagine. A good son, Archie felt his responsibility was to stay home and take up his father’s cotton business. This would be the same business that had fallen on hard times for Buddy Manning; the same business that demanded his time away from Archie’s athletic exploits at Drew High — the same business that Archie would surmise decades later in an ESPN Films special would play a part in his father’s decision to end his own life with a gun.

Jane Manning would have nothing of it and persuaded her only child to return to Oxford for his junior year. Helping Archie work through the return to Ole Miss at a time when school and football just didn’t seem as important was his girlfriend Olivia, who would later become his wife.

We never know what moments in time hang by a thread and how crucial they are to where things go. If Archie Manning stays home the likelihood is he grows up to be a decent cotton farmer who threw the prettiest spiral you ever seen at Drew High School. Maybe he ends up marrying Olivia, but there’s a good chance he doesn’t. Gone are those magical seasons at Ole Miss and the grainy films of Manning slithering through the backfield between would-be tacklers before connecting with a receiver downfield. Gone is the pro career and the all-Pro, Super-Bowl-winning sons. Gone would be the Manning legacy as we’ve come to know it.

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What we can learn from the aforementioned film “The Book of Manning” is not just what roads come from success and hard work, but those that appear through grief and disappointment. Archie Manning wouldn’t know how every time he saw an empty seat in the high school bleachers beside his mother – because his dad had to tend to business – that it would drive him to be the exact opposite. It wouldn’t become obvious until he was suffering through those awful seasons in New Orleans while Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw were enjoying the benefits of being surrounded by Pro-Bowlers. Even in those times, Archie considered himself a father before he was a professional football player.

And while many assumed his boys would be football players themselves, Archie contends that was never his plan. Sure, the home videos show them running through the backyard with their tiny-mite helmets and shoulder pads nearly swallowing up their bodies. That wasn’t Archie steering them, though, it was boys wanting to be like dad.

Which brings us back to small decisions, and the reflections that follow.

It’s easy for fathers to not remember little eyes are watching. After all, it seems they’re usually watching something else – the TV, their brother trying out his new rollerblades, the dog chase a squirrel. We can get lulled into thinking what we’re doing is slipping by unnoticed; the effect we’re having isn’t too big.

One of the biggest challenges for me as a father is making sure I spend enough time, real time, with each of my kids. So many other things at home demand my attention, not to mention that part of me declaring I deserve some time to myself. Doing the math brings it back into focus, though. My oldest is 11. At 12 years old your child starts pulling away from you. Friends, school, and the like increase their pull. She’s still in your home, but she’s less your little girl. At 18 she’ll probably be out of the house and in college. Your influence is still felt, but at that moment she’s largely in the world making her own decisions.

Legacies aren’t established in an instant. They take time and are built brick by brick through the small decisions we make every day, the way we respond to life.

ScottBarkleyScott Barkley is a deacon at First Baptist Church in Cartersville, Ga., where he maintains and writes for the men’s ministry website at Matthew419.net. He and his wife, Amy, have four children. You can find Fishers of Men on Facebook.

I didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, but …



It’s that time of year: the NFL playoffs. For months, fans have been putting their hopes in their teams’ players and coaches, who have been pouring every ounce of mental and physical energy into a singular goal: reaching and winning the Super Bowl.

Every team is dying to get there but few do. Fans dream of going to the big game, if they could even afford the tickets. Players, coaches, fans — we all yearn for our team to make it.

My own yearning to go to the big game started early — as a seven-year-old boy. It was around Christmas when my dad told me that if his team won their big championship game against the Chiefs, I would get to fly to Los Angeles to watch the very first Super Bowl in NFL history. Dad was more than a Buffalo Bills fan — he was their quarterback.

Dad played hard. We cheered hard. But our Super Bowl dreams were dashed when the Kansas City Chiefs won the league championship, earning them the trip to face the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I.

Less than 20 years later, I had my chance to go to the playoffs as quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams, only to lose in the first round. The next year our team made it all the way to conference championship game, just like my dad’s team did. But we weren’t that close; we lost to the Bears 24-0 in frigid, windy Chicago. But hey, 25 points in the fourth quarter and we’d have been in the New Orleans Superdome playing in Super Bowl XX.

make it to the super bowlOne of the best teams I played for, the San Francisco 49ers, went to and won multiple Super Bowls, but not in the season I was on the team. My teams made it to the playoffs six times, but never to the big game. So I know at least a bit about the yearning and the sacrifices made to reach and win the Super Bowl.

The best NFL coaches do more than just cast a clear vision of the Super Bowl as the team’s goal. They connect every little detail of preparation and practice as vital to the journey and prize of a Super Bowl championship. I remember Hall of Fame coach, Bill Walsh, explaining to us how details — like perfectly consistent steps in handing off the ball or timing in releasing a pass — relate to the constant improvement and excellence that would lead us toward a Super Bowl.

Laser-like focus is crucial to accomplishing great things in life. The trick seems to be in choosing what steps are important and what goals are truly great.

I didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, but there are more important things in life that we should all set our focus on. Often we are distracted from the ultimate goals and most important things in life. It may be busyness. It may be the sudden blitz of life’s painful problems. It may be the distractions of entertainment, or for us fans, the obsession with a sporting event like the Super Bowl.

I’ll be the first to admit it. I love the playoffs and I obsess a bit too much about getting to see all the great games, culminated by the Super Bowl.

But for those of us who believe in and aim to follow Jesus, all the enthusiasm and emotional devotion we have toward the playoffs should trigger a calibrating question: How much do other interests of mine crowd out what should be my transcending joy and dominant interest?

If I can put so much energy into reaching the Super Bowl, how much more focus and effort can I put into my marriage, raising my children to know Christ, and preparing them to walk in His purpose for them?

God and His Word point us as men to the ultimate goals and destination: seeking first His Kingdom, our eternal relationship with Him, and leading others to the same. Our goal is the upward call of the prize of dwelling with God eternally and elevating our Savior, Jesus.

We all love our teams. But this eternal goal should be motivated by gratitude and love for God, who never lets us down. And that should drive us to the daily and the practical: to show our love for Him by loving others, including each person in our family, and every human neighbor He puts in our path.

Friend, you may never get to attend the Super Bowl or accomplish your biggest earthly goal. But there are bigger, more attainable goals in Christ. This year let the intensity, attention, and extravagance of the Super Bowl prompt us as Jesus followers to refocus on our greatest joy, our greatest victory and our greatest calling. How should that make us live differently?

A new battle for godly manhood begins



Imagine if we could call men from all walks of life to become courageous, godly leaders in their own lives, marriages, churches, and communities. Well, we can. And the new battle for godly manhood starts with you.

Super Saturday battle for godly manhood - FamilyLife Stepping UpFamilyLife proudly presents the Stepping Up Super Saturday Video Event, a DVD-based kit designed for an all-day men’s event. High quality videos deliver dramatic stories, humorous vignettes, man-on-the-street interviews, and expert teaching from 12 renowned men’s ministry leaders, like Dennis Rainey, Robert Lewis, Tony Dungy, and Bill Bennett.

On the Saturday before the Super Bowl®, you can host a life-changing one-day video event that will call and equip men to Step Up to godly manhood! It’s easy, we’ll show you how.

We’re praying that thousands of men across America will host a Stepping Up Super Saturday: one life-changing day that could turn the tide for men in your community, and across America. Last year over 20,000 men attended a Super Saturday Video Event with rave reviews.

“Loved the event. I only heard positive comments from the men in our church. It was well done, we could do it for a reasonable cost, and had 60 men involved in a church of 350 (men, women, and children.) That’s pretty good. I think it hit where the men were at. In the closing comments we had 10-12 men share they were deeply challenged by it. I could tell by their comments that the material struck a chord through which the Holy Spirit is working.”

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