Blue Highways Journey – Episode 24 – Humility

Adam Steele shared another blue highway hero story with his team.  This one concerned a young man who became an inspirational role model not only for his small town but for the entire state. Don Akers went to college with no expectations of playing football. In fact, his high school was too small to even have a team. But the story of Don’s football career became a legend.

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 kickoff returner 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 in the next special teams 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 teams. 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 Don made a great play. BTDT stook 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 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”.

Adam concluded the story by sharing with his team the lessons he learned. “What Don taught me was that humility is a greatly undervalued trait. We’ve become a praise culture. Claire, we shouldn’t have to reward people for doing what’s expected. Why can’t we do quiet celebrations that are internal to each individual? We need to encourage a culture of self-worth that is based on internal standards, not those of others. We need to focus on personal pride, not external praise.”

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“The only wisdom we hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility.”
 – T.S.Eliot

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