The Super Bowl is the pinnacle. It is the crowning achievement of the greatest athletes in the world, a capstone that brings the best and brightest to the biggest.
Or does it?
You’d expect the game to be the culmination of a journey, one that began with the best of the best high school players who transitioned to all-American honors in college and ultimately to the league.
Only it’s not.
Sunday’s game will feature exactly ZERO players who received a five-star recruit rating out of high school. Perhaps more interestingly, it will include 10 who received two stars.
Consider that for a second. Graded on a curve (as most of life is) those are C & D students in the football world, and yet you’ll be sitting home watching them compete on Sunday; sitting home, just like every five star recruit in world.
It seemingly defies logic, until you think about it.
Five star recruits were not only the best players on their team; they were the best in their conference, state and region. They were a huge deal in their hometown and treated as such. Blessed with insane physical skills, they didn’t have to work that hard to dominate the scores of lesser players they faced every week.
Add in the distraction of attention, from both recruiters and girls with the naiveté of a teenager and you can see the issue. These players were massively talented studs that were never pushed, never challenged, and rarely forced to be focused.
Meanwhile the two and three star players took a different path, one that featured some adversity. At every level they learned what it is like to get knocked down and to be a step slow. They also knew they couldn’t get by on reputation. The only way to overcome that skill gap was via hard work and adaptation.
A prime case study is three-star recruit, Cardale Jones, our national champion winning QB. Jones is no stranger to adversity; his short college career has been full of it.
First, he was a poor student and had some serious struggles with academics; struggles that were further enhanced by a widely publicized misstep on social media. Add into that mix a teen pregnancy and, following spring ball last year, a demotion to the third string.
Would anyone blame Jones for fleeing Columbus at that point? Leaving the Buckeyes in search of a clean slate somewhere else?
Were he an entitled five-star recruit, he may very well have lost hope and transferred. But that’s not Jones’ style. Instead he re-dedicated himself; got his grades up and prepared for an opportunity he knew may very well never come.
You know the rest of the story. The unlikely opportunity arrived and a prepared and polished young man stepped into the Big Ten title game and never looked back. A three-game win streak led to a National title and NFL interest. All of this fueled by his decision to take his lumps in Columbus, put in his work and hope for the best.
Jones did what successful people do. He took what could have been chocked up as a failure, and re-framed it as a setback, then backfilled with effort. That is what sets Jones apart and can serve as a lesson to the rest of us.
Mistakes happen and challenges arise, your attitude in how you confront them will make all the difference. Will you embrace failure, or find a new path?
Dream-chasing isn’t for the meek. Someone will always have more money, more connections and a head start. Luckily tenacity, grit and desire are our trump cards.
In football and in life, no one cares where you started, only how you finish.