First I feel like I should apologize for the gratuitous pic I used for this post but my last article only got 56 views and well I have set bigger goals for myself. Charles Barkley was right…he wasn’t a hero or role model. That doesn’t mean he’s not one of my all-time entertainers. I grew up worshiping Johnny Unitas and then Joe Theisman. As far as I know Unitas was a wonderful person whereas Theisman turned out to be a supreme ass. Being a life-long Orioles fan I was also a huge Cal Ripken fan. Today with Twitter and cell phones there’s not much we don’t know about our favorite sports personality and low and behold they are just like us…human and possessing character faults of their own. That doesn’t mean we can’t find special stories that inspire us, just watch ESPN and whatever Tom Rinaldi wrote and produced and have plenty of Kleenex on hand.
With the end of September upon us, I have determined a couple things. One, my Redskins still suck and whatever enjoyment I get from the NFL this season will have to come from cheering against the Cowboys. Two, there are some inspirational football stories out there that don’t require balling my head off and can actually be used for an important life lesson…the lesson about “betting on yourself.”
Quick background here…I’ve been in sales almost my entire professional career. First radio sales and the last 15 years in IT. I was drawn to sales because it allowed me to control my own destiny. I think sales is the greatest career out there because it’s like being in business for yourself without all the drawbacks that business ownership present. So I can appreciate those individuals who also bet on themselves…”Exhibit A” being Baker Mayfield.
Baker Mayfield is the current starting quarterback at the University of Oklahoma. How did Mayfield “bet on himself?” First you should know he’s actually done it twice. After a stellar high school career in Austin, Mayfield walked on at Texas Tech and became the first true freshman walk on to start at QB for a Division I school. He was named the Big 12 Conference Freshman Offensive Player of the Year for the 2013 season…then he left Texas Tech over a disagreement with the coaching staff. What did Mayfield do next? He enrolled at OU…without initially telling anyone on the Sooner football staff. Fast forward 8 months and he’s Oklahoma’s starting QB for 2015.
That means Mayfield has believed in his abilities so much that he enrolled in two Big 12 football powerhouse programs without a promise of a scholarship and knowing both schools annually have their pick of some of the top talent in the country. Hard to not admire a kid like that…even for a die-hard Husker fan!
The next inspirational story comes from the NFL. Wait, how in the world can anyone be inspired by someone making millions playing a sport? When they bet millions on themselves. I present you “Exhibit B”…Darrelle Revis. Revis is a star cornerback for the Jets who’s on his second stint with the Jets after joining their hated rivals New England Patriots last year (and picking up a Super Bowl ring).
Most hard core pro football fans know the NFL is the one league that doesn’t have “guaranteed contracts.” That $110 million contract Aaron Rodgers signed with Green Bay? Half of it is guaranteed. It’s the same for all NFL contracts…you get paid if you don’t get cut and even if you don’t get cut there’s an understanding you WILL be asked to renegotiate after a year or two. It’s not like the NBA where Allan Houston made almost $17 million in 2006 and 2007 even though he was no longer in the league.
Revis has negotiated 5 contracts and as of next year he will have earned $134 million dollars by always betting on his own talents. After he was hurt in his first go around with the Jets they traded him to Tampa Bay where he signed a 6-year contract for $96 million…NONE OF IT guaranteed! The Bucs sucked in 2013…which happens pretty much every year…so with no worries about taking a “cap hit” the team cut Revis who was promptly signed by the Patriots for one-year at $12 million. Revis clearly could have got more money and a longer contract from other teams but he was thinking jewelry at this point. He got his ring this past February when Marshawn Lynch was, for reasons still unclear, not given the ball at the end of last year’s Super Bowl.
Five contracts worth a guaranteed $134 million by believing in himself and his talents. Did I mention he’s only 30 years old? Because he’s made (and saved) so much money, Revis has the luxury of walking away from any negotiation that doesn’t go his way. Baker Mayfield had options coming out of high school and after leaving Texas Tech, but he believed in himself and was willing to take the more difficult road of “no guarantees” of playing time, let alone making either roster to do his journey on his own terms.
Stories like Mayfield’s and Revis’s are kind of refreshing when we are bombarded daily on ESPN, Twitter, etc. about the character faults of our sports stars. They may not be heroes or role models in the way Charles Barkley was referring to back in 1993…but it doesn’t mean they aren’t someone from whom we can learn a valuable life lesson.
Bill Becker is the Founder and “Chief Creative Dude” of WeekendSportsUpdate.com. You can follow him on Twitter @weekendsportsup.