ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England --
The crowd is on their feet screaming with fists pumping as the quarterback walks up to the line of scrimmage. The slight rise and fall of his right leg signals motion, sending the wide receiver full speed toward the opposite sideline. The quarterback initiates the play quickly taking three steps backward. As defenders close in on him, he escapes by scrambling left and signaling the receiver to run to the corner of the end zone. He cocks his arm back and delivers a tight spiral to the receiver for a game-winning touchdown. The crowd goes wild.
But, the officials quiet the stadium with whistles, and yellow flags are scattered in the field. That triumphant high-school touchdown is taken away in a matter of seconds. The officials gather at center field and make a final determination: offensive pass interference on number 15. "Boos" roar from the fans as I maintain control of my emotions for my team.
Had I let my temper get the best of me, I could have put the team in a worse position to overcome the bad call by the officials. Little did I know, the Air Force core value of Service Before Self was already a part of me.
I remember that night like it was yesterday. I think back to all the excessive pains, practices and films our team worked through after a sluggish loss. In many years of playing football, there are three lessons that I maintained.
- Keep your composure and discipline through the toughest and unfairest of times
- Use individual skills of each person to build a team
- Don't quit...never give up
These lessons learned from football can lead to personal growth in many areas. The development in core values can result in a close-knit team or an Air Force unit to overcome adversity and succeed.
My old football coach once said, "When spirits are down and life gets tough, you can either do one of two things. You can quit, or you can give 110 percent, 100 percent of the time. When you do that, you are winners."
Years ago, I would proudly walk onto the gridiron on Friday nights with my teammates side-by-side ready to tackle any adversity we encountered. The feelings you get in those moments never go away, they just don't come every Friday night.
Those moments come fewer and further apart like when you get married, see your child for the first time or proudly serve your country.
Airmen recognize that same feeling every day as they maintain loyalty to their core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence In All We Do.
Adversity will always shine light on leadership, professionalism and discipline. So, when our brothers and sisters may be struggling to maintain the Air Force standard of excellence, we as Airmen, must join together as a team to help. By doing this, we show faith to one another and to the Air Force mission.
Lessons learned from playing football are important, but their importance to our Air Force is much higher. We must always remember that football is a game -- defending our nation is not.