How You can be “Third String” and still win a National Title

One of history’s great college football stories has just been written. In my mind, it has massive implications for how one thinks about life and success. Appropriately, it occurred in the first year of the College Football Playoffs, which I nicknamed “January Justice.” Finally, the college football championship is decided on the field and not voted on by some obscure committee. 

Cardale Jones started the year as the third-string quarterback for the Ohio State college football team but finished the year leading the Buckeyes to a shockingly easy national championship win. Despite losing the turnover battle by four, they still managed to dominate an excellent Oregon football team. How did it happen and what implications does it have for your career in business?

Many of us toil away in life hoping that “our day will come.” We want to make it in a big way and secure our own version of a national title. We desire to be #1, but many of us are caught in negative thinking: “Why me? What makes me so unique or deserving? Why should I win?” Well, friends, someone has to finish first and I ask: “Why not you?”

Let me add that success can be fleeting. Grab and enjoy it while you can. Ohio State only has one year to enjoy its role as National Champion. It is the nature of the universe that things cycle. So, be ready when your turn comes and,just as importantly, be aware of the opportunities that come your way.

Country Singer Willie Nelson sagely said “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”

Preacher Joel Osteen added, “When the negative thoughts come – and they will; they come to all of us – it’s not enough to just not dwell on it… You’ve got to replace it with a positive thought.”

So watch for and search out these four factors that can lead to your own national title:

1. A Great Coach or Mentor
2. Remarkable team members
3. An opportunity
4. Being ready when the Opportunity presents itself.

Find a Great Mentor

Cardale Jones was blessed with arguably the best college football coach in America. Urban Meyer is one of only two individuals that has coached a national football winner at not one, but two schools. He led an obscure Utah football team to an undefeated season in 2004 and his quarterback was #1 in the NFL draft. Shortly thereafter, he resurrected the University of Florida football program and led them to two national championships.

Urban is a master motivator. How else can you explain why, with all of the natural gifts possessed by Cardale Jones, he remained at Ohio State on the bench. Urban once said (and it applies amazingly to QB Jones), “It takes a little something special to be a great player. Push yourself to be great.”

Surround Yourself with Great Colleagues

If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times—you are the average of the five people with whom you surround yourself.

I have been third string a number of times in my career, when I was acting on my own. But when I combine my efforts and synergize with a talented team, I look like a freakin’ superstar.

Many people are singing praises of Ezekial Elliott and Cardale Jones these days, but equal praise should be lavished on the offensive linemen for the Buckeyes. They punched holes in the Oregon defense that only Florida State could have dreamt of doing just ten days earlier. Michael Jordan once observed that talent wins games but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.

Recognize the Opportunity

This is perhaps the most subtle of the four points. How do you recognize a great opportunity? My quick advice is this: Explore, ask questions, study market trends, bounce the idea off a hundred people, get feedback, AND DO THIS EVERYDAY.

As that occurs, you will begin to see a ton of potential deals that could benefit you. One of my childhood heroes was Bob Feller. Bob had the hottest, fastest pitch in the history of baseball this side of Randy Johnson. He once stated:
Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.

Winston Churchill added, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Be Ready when the Opportunity Presents Itself:

It has been said that success is where preparation and opportunity meet. (Bobby Unser). You have to work every day at your chosen endeavor as if you are going to be the “next man up.” You will be if you observe principle three. Now be ready when opportunity knocks.

To me, one of our biggest hurdles to our success is our own self-doubt, or in other words, our fear of failure. We only have a few short productive years on this orb we call planet earth so don’t let fear decide how your life will be.

I just started a new gig as a Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Utah. Folks, I am not a trained teacher—my PhD wife Linda has that calling. Yes, I had fears and trepidations when asked to teach, but I went ahead anyway. Just do it. Everyone in this world wakes up in the morning and has some new or creative idea but the only ones who win are those that overcome their self-doubt and charge forward, believing it can be done.

I would hate to think what would have happened to Ohio State this year if they did not believe in themselves. Early in the season, they were blown out on their home field by Virginia Tech’s very average football team. Then, they lost their two best quarterbacks. If any team ever had a reason to doubt themselves, it was the Buckeyes. But they did not—they believed. They continued to work hard and when the opportunities came to them late in the year, they seized on them.

Congratulations to the Buckeyes, but more importantly, what can WE LEARN from their dramatic story? Will you do something today to recognize and then act on the business opportunities that come your way? If you do, you will one day grab a piece of a National Trophy—it is there for the taking. Just ask third-stringer Cardale Jones!!


Posted in Posted in Lessons Learned, Sports, Up Principles  |  7 Comments

7 thoughts on “How You can be “Third String” and still win a National Title”

  1. Another great observation David! In the end it’s all about the nexus of preparation and opportunity. Thank you for the insight that most of us don’t notice until you point it out.

  2. Wow, great article David,
    Any chance you could add the Head coaching job at the U of U to your teaching duties. :-) You are a National Champion! Best wishes with your new and exciting endeavor.
    Best, Dan and Trudy

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