Chasing the Pro Sports Dream: Is Almost Good Enough?<br />

Chasing the Pro Sports Dream: Is Almost Good Enough?

Curtis Clay, former college football player and Dallas Cowboy for three weeks, gets real about the cost of encouraging our boys to be athletes only

by Curtis Clay, July 30, 2012

Chasing the Pro Sports Dream: Is Almost Good Enough?<br />

Close call! Curtis catching a pass during NFL training camp. 

NFL dream was (and is) still in effect, but you can believe I graduated from TCU with a broadcast journalism degree.

Luckily, I have parents who support me in all my endeavors.  Straight A’s were celebrated just as much as touchdowns.  They encouraged me to take the risk, but expressed the odds of a pro sports career in a way that didn’t deter my football dreams.  I trained all spring and summer during the NFL Lockout without any clue if I’d get picked up.  I was all but ready to go play in Canada when a scout for Dallas told me to report for a physical.  Ninety guys fighting for 53 jobs is tough. But harder when you’re undrafted and many of those spots are already locked down.

I first realized just how cutthroat the NFL was when they released my roommate.  The “reaper” entered our hotel room at 6:00 a.m., turned the lights on, and asked my friend where he needed a flight to.  No emotion. No remorse. Strictly business.  I laid in bed, pretending to be asleep, thankful that it wasn’t my time. My release, a couple weeks later, wasn’t much better though.  After driving 20 miles to the facility for an early morning practice, I was stopped at the door before even getting into the building. To sum it up, they told me “Thanks, but, no thanks.” Sadly, I had several college teammates who had to go through the same thing and it still hurts every time I get a call or text from one of them saying their time is up. 

But, to keep it real, football was not my Plan A, so I felt prepared for a life beyond it.  The reality is that even if I was fortunate enough to play football for the NFL average (3-4 years), I could still end up as a late twenty-something wondering: what’s next?  I believe in my ability, but I am rational and haven’t placed all my eggs in one basket.

Here’s the plan: I’m still training in case football calls again, but I’m also putting myself in a position to be successful in another arena.  I just received my Master’s Degree in Educational Administration and I teach at an elementary school.  Yes, my kids want to be an athlete or an entertainer. I encourage them to pursue that passion but I also ask them what else they want to do and remind them that they are so much more than a singular thing.

Success comes in various shapes and sizes and I am living proof that youth should be made aware of the alternatives.  No matter what your goals are, and regardless of the discipline, one thing remains consistent: you have to believe in yourself and put in the work.  We cannot produce a generation of people who quit every time things get rough.  Glass ceilings are meant to be broken.

Football gave me a platform to tell my story, but my education gave me the competence to articulate my message.  In addition to teaching, I run coaching clinics and am a motivational speaker.  No matter where I am, I try to express that self-belief and a strong work ethic are essential values if you want to go anywhere.  You may not accomplish every goal you set for yourself, I certainly haven’t, but failing does not mean you’re a failure.  Re-evaluate, set new goals, and do that little bit extra. 

My dad used to always tell me, “It takes more to be a champion.”  As a youngster, I was under the impression that being a champion meant never losing.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to understand what he really meant.  Being a champion doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed at everything you do.  It doesn’t even imply that you will always get a fair opportunity.  But champions are those who give everything their best effort.  They are those who lead by example, even when it’s easier to conform or take shortcuts.   Champions are those who continue to believe they can accomplish anything even when the entire world says you can’t. So, yes, be a champion in sports. But more importantly, be a champion in every facet of your existence.

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