I watched the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl tonight, which had the four top ranked college teams in the country, and there are some very talented players at this level, many of whom will be drafted by the NFL in 2015. Oregon and Florida State provided an excellent game, even though many of the players from Florida State didn’t shake hands with the Oregon team members. Alabama and Ohio State provided another great game. All four teams had very talented players, yet something was missing. What was it?
It was heart. Others call it intestinal fortitude. Without this quality, players will do the wrong thing or do the right thing the wrong way. I watched talented players make arm tackles and touch and push offensive players to the ground. It was almost like they had a big NFL contract waiting in the wings and they couldn’t afford losing millions of dollars with an injury that might come from making a hard tackle.
They know how to make textbook tackles, but the runners broke tackle after tackle without much of a problem. That is not to say that the runners were not huge and gifted, but it does say that nobody wants to tackle low anymore. Most defensive players tackled high and tried to wrestle runners down with their arms. Nobody… I mean nobody drove through the runner and wrapped them up with their arms and pounded them into the ground.
Bear Bryant was rolling over in his grave as his Crimson Tide allowed Ohio State to run through a vaunted Alabama defense. My high school coach played football under Bear, and he had drilled the technique of making fundamental tackles into all of us. I weighed 120 pounds, but was able to crash my body into 250 pound fullbacks and wrap my arms around their legs and pull them into me, driving them into the ground. The rest of our team followed suit. We all were willing to sacrifice our bodies for the sake of the team.
In the 1960’s, I remember my football coach being approached by two guys on our team before wind sprints at the end of practice. One told my coach that he had a broken nose and couldn’t run the wind sprints. Coach asked him why he thought he had a broken nose. He said that his friend told him it was broken. Coach asked him if his friend was a doctor. He admitted that he wasn’t, but he was sure that he couldn’t run with his nose being in the condition it was in. Coach asked him if he ran on his nose. He gave up and ran the wind sprints.
I know this was a different time back in this decade and none of us had any hopes of receiving multi-million-dollar offers to play in the NFL, but I just don’t know how much intestinal fortitude is out there today. I know that there is a lot of independent talent, but do players still have what it takes to win as a team fueled on something more than individual effort. As I watched these defensive players use just their arms to attempt to bring down quarterbacks, I wondered how inspiring this had to be to the other team members.
Even though intestinal fortitude comes from individuals, it is contagious and infects the entire team, so that the team will follow the little guy who gives everything he’s got to give. Before you know it the entire team has guts. Everybody on the team is willing to do the right thing or at least attempt to do it the right way.
As I watched many Florida State players walk off the field without shaking hands with the winning Oregon players, I couldn’t help but think: that team has no guts… it just wants glory.
Talent is important, but guts bring glory.