Why I’m Rooting for Blake O’Neill

Rooting for Blake ONeillUnless you’ve been off the grid the past few days, you probably know that the University of Michigan football team’s punter is named Blake O’Neill and that he bobbled and lost the ball on the final play of the Michigan – Michigan State game. A play that cost Michigan the game, the Paul Bunyan Trophy, and bragging rights for one calendar year of the rivalry. Reports are that O’Neill has received death threats via social media for the blunder and that he has received much criticism on campus at every turn.

Before I continue, what you must know about me is that I grew up in Ohio. And every boy’s dream in Ohio is to put on THE Ohio State University’s scarlet and gray and to run out of the tunnel at The ‘Shoe to the tune of “Across the Field” in front of over 105,000 screaming fans. So needless to say, I was raised and trained to despise Michigan maize and blue. Typing the words “I’m Rooting for…” a Michigan player at the start of this post is no small feat for me.

So now that you understand both the difficulty and magnitude of what I’m writing here…let me ask you for some help…

Let’s encourage Blake O’Neill.

I know how Blake feels from my time playing quarterback at Western Michigan University. In fact, I was in a meeting with an athletic director I’d never met before, just two months ago, to discuss what Next Level Performance could do for his athletic department, and he said to me:

“I thought your name looked familiar when we set this meeting up. You were the WMU quarterback. I was cursing your name when you threw four picks on your senior night.”

While I’ve moved on from that not-so-great night in my football career six years ago, it will always be a part of my story. Why? Well…here’s the side of that story few people know:

A friend of mine had invited a 9 year old boy who I’d previously signed a football card for to come in the locker room after that fateful four interception game. I knew about my special visitor a few days prior to the game, but in the busyness of the week I had completely forgotten about it.

As I entered the locker room angered, dejected, and sorrowful that my college career had ended on such a sour note, I felt like throwing my helmet and breaking into tears. But as I turned the corner toward my locker, I suddenly saw two little blue eyes, wide as saucers. The boy’s jaw dropped as he peered up at me. And after a few moments of talking with him and giving him my wristbands and towel as a memorabilia, the sting of the loss had faded and I was quickly reminded of what really matters:

What we do for others far outweighs what we accomplish ourselves.

Yes, Blake O’Neill dropped the ball. But I’d venture to say, if we’ll all be honest with ourselves and each other, we’ve all dropped the proverbial ball a few times in our lives. We’ve let people down. We’ve hurt people. We’ve failed to make good on our promises and commitments. We’ve underperformed. We’ve said cold words.

We’ve dropped the ball in much worse ways than dropping a football before a punt.

The only difference between us and Blake is that millions of people saw his ball drop in a stadium and on television. And I’d also venture to say, we’re probably all glad millions of people did not see us drop the proverbial ball in our own lives.

Succeeding greatly requires being daring, taking a risk, and putting yourself out there. The courage to take the field and risk dropping a ball in front of 110,000 screaming fans is an accomplishment in and of itself, let alone performing at a high level. So let’s cut Blake a little slack. Let’s encourage him.

I’m rooting for you Blake. And I’m asking you reading this to root for him too. Why?

Because so called “failure” really isn’t about what went wrong. It’s about happens next.

Overcoming failure is all about two things:

  1. Reaction – How did you handle the adversity of life gone wrong?
  2. Response – So…what are you going to do now?

Blake, I’m rooting for you, because you have a golden opportunity before you. You handled step one well—your reaction—and I’m excited to see your response. It was Winston Churchill who said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Blake, continue on…but continue well. Because this isn’t about what went wrong…it’s about what happens next. And you have total control over that.

Blake, Hebrews 10:35-36 has given me great confidence over the years in the face of failure. And I pray it would for you too: “So do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

Stay the course Blake. We’re rooting for you.

Are you rooting for Blake too? I hope you are. And if you are, do him a favor:

  1. Click THIS LINK and go to his Twitter profile
  2. Tweet him a note of encouragement
  3. Share this post with others and encourage them to do the same

Overcoming failure is about what happens next. The response. And we’ll get to see that unfold in the weeks ahead. That’s why I’m rooting for Blake O’Neill.

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