Former Players

A Letter to My Younger Self

By Walter A. Bernard, Esq.

Dear Younger Self,

I am writing this letter to you in hopes that you will use this knowledge so that it will have a vast impact on you in the future. As you are aware, everything has an expiration date, including football. However, just because your playing days will one day end, the lessons the game will teach you, must never leave you. Here are ten lessons that will help you on your journey:

Lesson 1: Outwork Everyone. There are always going to be people that are smarter, more talented, and have more experience than you. Nevertheless, a thirst to succeed and an appetite for zeal makes for a meal even a top chef couldn’t cook up.

Lesson 2: Critics Are An Asset. Use their innuendos to open up your windows. Remember, there is still a sayer hidden in the naysayer. Naysayers are just three letters overweight. Help the naysayers trim the fat.

Lesson 3: Blitz On Occasion. It’s not enough to play prevent defense. When you have a goal you’re trying to get to, blitz from all angles. You might get blocked on occasion, but it’s only a matter of time before you sack that goal. You might have to go over, through, and around that block, but when you are determined to get there, you will, even if it takes all game.

Lesson 4: Fumbles Are Guaranteed To Happen. You never know when life will bring a sudden change. You will always make mistakes, and those around you will make mistakes that can affect you. You have two options: 1) Complain about the current situation or 2) Get back on the grind and do something about it.

Lesson 5: Hit The Weight Room Hard and Often. Adversity comes in different weights and sizes. At times it will feel light, and at other times it will feel as though all the weight is on your shoulders. When you push against adversity, no matter the weight, you will always come out a stronger person. It’s ok if you can’t lift it on the first try. Don’t be afraid to ask for a spot and keep trying.

Lesson 6: Take Pride In The Name On Your Back. That name on the back of your jersey is more than just a name. It has represents everything about you, your community, your family, your city, and your fans. And while the jersey will eventually become a memory, the name, and everything for which it represents, will continue to live. With everything you do in life, remember your name, and take pride in the things you do while representing it.

Lesson 7: Study Your Playbook. The football playbook is the basis of every offense and defense in the game. Coaches and players alike lose faith in you when you don’t know your playbook. Similarly, everything in your career has a playbook. Want to know how to open a business? Study the playbook. Want to know how to become a lawyer? Study the playbook. Failure to study and understand the important things in your life will cause those around you to lose faith in you.

Lesson 8: The Game Ends At 00:00. As long as you are living, there is still time on the clock. No matter what the score says, many things can determine the outcome of the game. When the score isn’t in your favor, don’t forget that it’s impossible to have a comeback without a deficit. Some of the greatest comebacks in history were determined by one simple emotion: Belief.

Lesson 9: Watch Film. Film study is essential in football because it allows you to review your mistakes and correct any bad habits you may have formed. It is a tool that better prepares you for the heat of battle on the field. Learn to take a step back and evaluate what you have done in life, and what you are currently doing. Review your mistakes and learn from them. Review your strengths and build on them.

Lesson 10: There Will Always Be Training Camp. Nobody really likes training camp. It’s physically and mentally draining on the body and to top it off, everyone is away from their families. It is an environment filled with super human athletes displaying extraordinary abilities, competing for a limited number of spots. It is competition at the highest level. In training camp, you fathom the true meaning of sacrifice. You run when you don’t feel like running, you practice when you don’t feel like practicing, and sometimes you read over your plays once more when you would much rather sleep. When training camp is over, you realize that you are capable of doing things you never thought were possible. As a result, you will come out a stronger person.

Former self, I went to law school and learned quickly that law school is a lot like training camp. You are again competing against the best in the world. However, instead of competing against superhuman athletes, you are competing against the brightest minds in the world. They too, were competing for a limited number of spots in order to reach their goals. The meaning of sacrifice is again echoed. There were many weekends spent in the library when all of my friends were out partying in the clubs. There were birthdays, holidays, and weddings that were missed because of these sacrifices. However, I came out of that training camp a stronger person, and did things I never thought I could. In life, there will always be training camp, and although you may not want to go, you must, if you wish to prevail.

Be Blessed,

Walter A. Bernard, Esq.

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