True Character Can Be Found On or Off the Field

Rudy Ruettiger as played by Sean AstinHe went to the first football practice his senior year with high hopes of being a starter. One look at the kid and you could tell he was a born athlete, the kind that could play any sport and contribute to the team. Going to a large school where almost everybody played football and nobody got cut didn’t matter to him.

In a town with close to 90,000 people and a high school with over 3,500 students, you can bet there were several players sitting on the bench that would be starters anywhere else. The large number of players would relegate some very talented football players to mop-up duty and special teams.

Going into the season it looked like this kid had a reasonable shot at being a defensive starter. He could hit like a truck and had great instincts. Shortly after the season started the coaches moved him to offense as a back-up running back.

Along with his physical gifts, he was a very perceptive kid and could read the writing on the wall. Early in the season, it would have been easy for him to clean out his locker and quit the team. However, he got together with his dad and discussed his options. For a player with so much athletic ability, it would take someone with a great attitude to stick around and cheer from the sidelines knowing he could help the team just as much as some of the starters. He told his father he had decided he could help the team by giving a hundred percent at practice and challenging the starters so they could get better. In the back of his mind he hoped for just one chance to prove himself in a game on any Friday night.

He never really got that shot. He was a standout on special teams and the team was very successful without him being a major player. When he did get in games, he excelled and there wasn’t a player on the team who put out more effort in practice.

His dad works in my neighborhood and I see him almost every day. He once told me about the time his son looked him in the eye and said, “Dad, it doesn’t look like I’m going to play much this year. But, I’ve decided to give it my all and help the team. I’ve seen kids in similar situations who got all bitter inside and really hurt the team. I don’t want to be like that, Dad.”

His father told me he had never been more proud of his son. He was more proud then than at any time when he was the star on one of the teams he had played on in the past. He told me there comes a time when you hope your kid has developed character and is ready for the world.

“You can only do your best and hope you raise a good kid,” he said. “After a while, whether a kid is good at sports or good at playing an instrument or good at math, those things are all secondary to being a good person. I’ve seen all the competitive parents pushing their kids to be the best they can be at a sport. But, often times you don’t see enough positive personal development come out of that.”

While talking to this hard working, devoted family man that day and reflecting back on the 10 years I’ve known him, I am hard pressed to come up with a person with a better attitude.

This is something we should reflect upon when we start acting like our kid’s junior high football games are Super Bowl XXXXVII.

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Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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