I believe ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there. I played football because I love every aspect of the game. I remember watching my first Monday night football game. It was incredible. Howard Cosell, the best football announcer, announced the game. I felt like I was there at the game, and it felt so real. I said, “I want to play football just like the professional football players.” That next week I was playing Pop Warner football. I felt like a professional football player. We did many things similar to what the professional football players did. We learned how to play real football. It was a dream come true for me. I played Pop Warner football for 3 years and I still play street and field football to this day.
My Grandfather took me to my first professional sports game. It was a baseball game at the Philadelphia Veterans Stadium. It was the Philadelphia Phillies versus the New York Mets. What a feeling it was to be part of the game. The players made the game and I wanted to be just like them. The players wanted to be there. They were such competitors. They weren’t there for the money; they did it for the love of the game. I would go on to idolize them. I remember all of them like it were just yesterday. They left a lasting lifetime impression. To be a professional in any sport is an honor and a privilege. All professionals should always remember this.
I recently went to the Super Bowl NFL Experience with my family. Archie Manning was talking at one of the NFL booths. Archie Manning played for the New Orleans saints and was an average Quarterback. His claims to fame are his quarterback sons Peyton and Eli Manning. Both spectacular NFL Quarterbacks. When Archie Manning was done with all the questions that were asked, my son asked for his autograph, and in front of 100 people Archie Manning told him no. I couldn’t believe Archie Manning did that to my ten year old son. Archie Manning obviously has forgotten that to be a professional in any sport is an honor and a privilege. All professionals should always remember this.
As we walked around the NFL Experience I told my son that all professional sports players are not like Archie Manning. Right then, we saw a news booth with Joe Montana doing a live news cast. They let me and my son ask Joe Montana questions on live television. We met and talked to the greatest quarterback ever. Joe not only shook our hands and gave my son his autograph. Joe also gave me one too. I told my son; Joe Montana was the greatest quarterback ever. My son then asked me why Joe Montana is considered the greatest quarterback ever. I told my son because he had character.
I went on to tell him that Joe Montana is my favorite player of all time. He wasn’t particularly fast and he didn’t have a cannon for an arm, but he had an instinct for getting the ball down the field. He played college football at Notre Dame from 1974 to 1978. From the first time he started at quarterback until he was drafted into the NFL he led his team to victory after victory. He was known in college as the comeback kid because he had so many come from behind victories. He was elected to the college football hall of fame in 1979. Montana started his NFL career in 1979, with the San Francisco 49ers, where he played quarterback for the next 16 seasons. While a member of the 49ers, Montana started four Super Bowl games and the team won them all. In 2000, Montana was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1989, and again in 1990, the Associated Press named Montana the NFL Most Valuable Player, and Sports Illustrated magazine named Montana the 1990 “Sportsman of the Year”. As a result of his high level of play, Montana appeared in eight Pro bowls, the NFL’s version of an all-star game. Noted for his ability to remain calm under pressure, Montana helped his team to 31 fourth quarter come-from-behind-wins. In 1994, Montana earned a spot on the NFL 75th Anniversary ALL-Time Team.
However, Joe Montana was involved in many charities and donated thousands of dollars and volunteer hours. In the press, he always said we did it as a team. When in public he was always an ambassador and inspiration to all. Montana was never in trouble and always a professional on and off the field. It was never about the money for Montana, it was about the team. He could have been more aggressive and demanded more, but decided to look to the future of organizations and charities. Montana knew it took a team to win, not money or material items. He cared about the fans and always thanked them for supporting him and his team. This along with all the other accomplishments on and off the field is why Joe Montana has character.
Some professional athletes generally care more about money, and are willing to shoot more for the stars. They are star players who set bad examples for all. This group includes Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Terrell Owens, Michael Vick, Robert Horry, Ricky Williams, and Ron Attest. This group did illegal activities, they bad mouthed the game, fought with the fans and had the “it’s about them attitude”. This group should be banned from sports, because they do everything that parents teach their children not to do. They will never be elected to the Hall of Fame, because their interests are how much money they can make, and how they can deceive the game and fans. These are star players with amazing abilities who are at the top of their game, but they lack something that is called character.
The great ones when I was young were Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michel Jordan, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, and Wayne Gretsky. They all were the best of the best. They had character and every one of them are Hall of Famers.
I believe there is hope in the future. These future Hall of Famers Tony Romo, Antquan Bolden, Jay Cutler, and Larry Fitzgerald all have pride in teamwork and thank the fans for watching them. They sign autographs, give to charities, and volunteer their time. They have shown ability and character from the start. Any professional player can become a hero; it just takes talent and skill. However, I believe it takes talent, skill, sustained superior performance, and character to become a legend. All players should always remember that heroes will be remembered but legends never die.