Being a Role Model – II

Coach Sampson issued his annual tryout invitation for the university’s football team to the student body. He never expected anyone to actually make the team, but this was a PR gesture he felt obligated to make. But this year he was surprised.

Don Akers came out and the coach was impressed. Don had incredible speed, but his work ethic was even more impressive. In just two weeks, Don was on the depth chart as a special team player. When the number one starter became hurt, Don was on the field.

In his first play, Don tackled the return back on the five-yard line with a hit that could be heard over the noise of the crowd. The other players on special teams were jumping up-and-down, slapping Don on the back. But he just ran off the field as if what he had done was nothing out of the ordinary.

Don repeated his extraordinary performance on the next special team situation. When the other team punted the ball, it was Don’s block that allowed the punt returner to gain 46 yards. Again, Don ran off the field with a “nothing special” trot.

Over the next three games, Don got on the field as both a defensive back and running back. This was the first time a player had played on all three teams: offensive, defensive, and special. And his performance was remarkable. But his demeanor was even more noticeable. After an outstanding play, he again showed no elation.

His teammates started chanting “BTDT” every time there was a great play. BTDT stood for Been There, Done That. Other than the chant, there was no pounding of chests or other self-congratulatory images. Soon the fans began to chant BTDT.

Don had become a role model for his team and its followers. The marketing staff even picked up on BTDT and adopted it as the university’s message with the secondary message: “Where greatness is ordinary.”

Role models, like Don, lead by actions, not words. In fact, they are introverts in many cases. They tend to be soft spoken and don’t enjoy accolades for what they think of as just doing their jobs. They inspire by not seeking glory. Others react to them by seeking out their own best selves, not praise.

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“But a role model in the flesh provides more than inspirations; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, yes, someone like me can do this.” – Sonia Sotomayor (Supreme Court Justice)

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