Class of 2011
On November 19, 201X, I sat across the desk from my college football coach, trying to find the words to explain to him the most difficult decision of my life. Despite several months of analysis and reflection, I could not help but wonder if what I was about to do was the right choice.
I have loved football since seven years old when I watched John Elway lead my beloved Denver Broncos to consecutive Super Bowl wins. Inspired, I spent much of my childhood and adolescence emulating my heroes, dreaming of one day leading my own team on the gridiron. My dreams of stardom were briefly interrupted by a move to Southeast Asia during my early teenage years. I recruited local children, who had never even seen a football, to practice and play games. After returning to the United States before my sophomore year of high school, I again began actively pursuing my dream of playing quarterback. As an undersized and inexperienced missionary kid, my prospects of even making the football team at a large Texas high school were bleak. Despite being at a significant disadvantage during my first season, I was named the starting quarterback of the lowly “gold” junior varsity team. By my senior year, I had overcome all odds through hard work and determination. I earned the starting position on the varsity team, was voted team captain and performed at a level that garnered All District and All State honors.
Less than three years after being advised by my high school head football coach that I would be lucky to even make the team, I signed a commitment letter to play quarterback for the Wheaton College Thunder football team. I dove into college football with the same work ethic and desire that had led to achievement in high school. By the time spring football rolled around, I had worked my way into the role of backup quarterback, with an inside track to the starting position once the incumbent starter graduated the following year.
Despite my rising role on the football team, a combination of subpar grades and dissatisfaction with my lack of academic achievement led me to step back and look at the “big picture” during the fall of 201X. My reflections yielded the sobering realization that because the NFL is no place for 5’11” Division III quarterbacks, and because the prospect of coaching or administrative work in sports did not interest me, the game of football simply held no future for me beyond my senior year of college. I realized that my grades and overall quality of education would play a role in the course of my adult life to an extent that football would not. To verify that my conclusions were correct, I consulted a wide range of sources, including family members, teammates, and professors. Several months of research and analysis culminated in my decision to take full advantage of the academic opportunities at Wheaton College through a renewed focus on my studies; something that a rigorous football schedule would not allow. In order to improve my grades and broaden my intellectual horizons, I elected to leave the game of football.
Beginning in the spring of 201Y, my grades demonstrate immediate, significant, and sustained improvement. My experiences with football have yielded several invaluable lessons that will directly enable me to succeed in law school and my future legal career.
The first lesson is about hard work. People see touchdowns. What they don’t see are the rigorous hours of preparation underlying each of these adrenaline-filled moments of glory. Whether perfecting timing with receivers on passing routes, running sprints after practice to ensure peak physical condition, or adhering to strict dietary regimens, hundreds of hours are dedicated to producing a single touchdown. My experiences taught me to relish hard work and perseverance. I know my success in law school and beyond is contingent upon my willingness to put in the unglamorous hours necessary to excel. I am committed to applying myself fully and enthusiastically in every way possible to ensure this.
Another lesson involves the discipline required when the crowd is screaming, my pulse is pounding, and the game is on the line. Down by three points with less than two minutes on the clock and more than half the field to the end zone, it is essential to keep a level head and execute each play efficiently. Discipline helps me to ignore the urge to make a deep throw, and instead fire a ten-yard completion. Discipline allows hard work to come to fruition when it counts. I know that my ability to remain disciplined amidst highly challenging and hectic circumstances will allow me to thrive in the demanding law school environment and legal world.
The third lesson is about critical thinking. My decision to stop playing football required critical evaluation of a variety of viewpoints. I evaluated each piece of advice based on how it impacted my goals of academic improvement and refocused studies. Because my analysis deemed football to be inconsistent with my new goals, I was able to make my decision with confidence. I know that my capacity to think critically will be invaluable to my legal education and career as I isolate relevant issues and evaluate the consequences of each. I have developed this ability in a real life, high stakes situation.
I still love the game of football, and stepping away from it was the hardest choice that I have ever made. My decision to stop playing was a major catalyst in my maturation and personal growth. I miss the competitive environment and teamwork of football, but I have found even greater satisfaction in the stimulation presented by academics, and I eagerly anticipate the challenge of law school and a career in law. Through football, I learned important lessons regarding hard work, discipline, and critical thinking that I will directly apply to my work as a lawyer. I am confident that I can succeed in the demanding and competitive legal world.