John Earle, our team chaplain when I coached at Grapevine, told me this story about an experience in the NFL. “Everything is tough for undrafted free agents in the league. Guys like me have to find some kind of way to make an impression and ‘bring it’ every day. We had to take care of ourselves because as soon as you were injured, you would be cut. Each morning I was one of the first in the training, room to get taped and treated for any minor injury. Guys like me (rookie free agents) had to wait to get our ankles taped if there were veterans in the training room. If you were an early bird, you could get taped and whatever else you needed to be done and not worry about it.”
“One day, early in camp, after leaving the training room, I walked to the locker room to get dressed and ready for practice. It was completely dark, so I figured I was the first one there. I found my way to my locker and put my things down.”
John continued, “when I turned around, Tim Krumrie was sitting at the locker right across from mine in full pads and chewing on his mouthpiece. He was just staring right at me and not saying a word. Tim was an eight-year veteran at the time who had been All-Pro multiple times. He was waiting for me to arrive so he could intimidate me before practice that day. I thought, C’mon man! Give me a break; I am trying to just make the team!”
“That day I knew Tim was going to give me all he had and of course, he did. Here is the difference in an All-Pro’s mindset versus a high school player’s mindset: Tim wanted my best to get him better. He wasn’t trying to get me to quit or make me have nightmares; he played mind games to get me to go harder against him. He scared me; he always went 100 miles per hour,” John told me.
John was drafted in the 11th round from Western Illinois by the Cincinnati Bengals. He played in both the NFL and Canadian Football League for five years. I have had him tell this story to my teams at Grapevine and North Forney. The great ones don’t just get through practice ... they attack it.
The story above is an excerpt from Culture Defeats Strategy 2, Chapter 6 - Practice is Everything.