Just a Guy Off the Street: a Lesson in Leadership

“How you respond to the challenge in the second half will determine what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.”          Lou Holtz

“In the realm of ideas, everything depends on enthusiasm. In the real world all rests on perseverance.”              Goethe


Pete Hunter had the day off from his job as a mortgage loan officer when the phone rang. He had once dreamed of a long career in the NFL but was now making ends meet by working for the Petra Lending Group in Addison,Texas. After playing Division II college football at Virginia Union, Pete had been drafted in the fifth round in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. In just the third game of his third NFL season, Pete tore his ACL in the Cowboys’ Monday night win over Washington, placing him on the injured reserve list for the rest of the season.

Before the start of the next season, Pete had been traded to the New York Jets, where he was waived after less than three weeks with the team. He was picked up by the Cleveland Browns later that year as a special teams player, seeing action in just four games in 2005. But the Browns again cut him and by the beginning of the 2006 season he was out of football.

But Pete hadn’t given up. He moved back toTexasand kept himself in shape by running, lifting weights and putting his body through strenuous conditioning. But he was beginning to wonder if all this commitment was really worth it. “Many days I wanted to give up. Then the day I was ready to call it quits, the call came.”

It was New Year’s Day, 2007 and the general manager of the Seattle Seahawks was on the other end of the line. Injuries – the very thing that had put Hunter out of the game – had now decimated the Seattle Seahawks defensive secondary. Three of their four active cornerbacks had been lost just before the playoffs and to fill in the gaps in a win or go home wild card game, they needed someone with Pete Hunter’s skills. And it certainly helped that he had played for their upcoming opponent, the Dallas Cowboys.

Would he be up to the challenge with the game less than a week away? Adding to the pre-game pressure was trash-talking Cowboys’ wide receiver Terrell Owens, who mocked the rag-tagged Seahawk defense. He referred to Hunter and the other two playersSeattlehad tossed into the line up as just “guys off the street.”

Could Hunter handle the pressure of the game as well as the national attention of a play-off contest? In the most critical game of his career, Hunter had three tackles, a fumble recovery and forced an interception. And on the final play of the game, with the Cowboys driving, it was Pete Hunter who knocked down the Hail Mary pass to Terrell Owens ensuring the Seahawks’ victory. Not bad for just a guy off the street.

Isaiah 40.31 reminds us of the familiar promise to “mount up with wings as eagles.” But it also prompts us to “walk without fainting.” Typically that is not easy. We like the flying, it’s the walking with which we have difficulty. But the reality of life is that there is much more walking and not much “mounting up with wings!”

The exceptional moments of life aren’t a test of a man’s mettle, the better question is, how do you handle discouragement? complacency? routine? Your leadership worth and depth of character is revealed in your attitude toward the ordinary and routine things. Not when you are on stage or in the limelight, but when you feel like you are on the backside of the desert. Leadership effectiveness comes not just from ability; but also from tenacity, perseverance and endurance. Missionary William Carey stated: “If, after my removal, anyone should think it worth his while to write my life, I will give you a criterion by which you may judge of its correctness. If he gives me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod…to this I owe everything.”

Don’t get discouraged in the process of what God has called you to do and to be. The Apostle Paul who experienced more than his share of setbacks, summed up his commitment to persistence when he wrote in Galatians 6.9, “So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit” (The Message).

Stay the Course,

Dr. Greg Morris

Dr. Greg Morris serves as the founder and president of Leadership Dynamics™, a non-profit corporation committed to the training and development of leaders and their organizations. He has authored In Pursuit of Leadership: Principles and Practices from the Life of Moses. For more information, visit LeadershipDynamics.org, LeadershipDynamics.wordpress.com or contact mail@LeadershipDynamics.org  You can follow Greg on Twitter at @LdshpDynamics


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