January 2010 will forever stand as a turning point in my life. That date was the point in my life when I decided to live out the famous words of the Reverend Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, former President of Morehouse College and mentor to the greatest American to have ever lived, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Whatever you do, strive to do it so well that no man living and no man dead and no man yet to be born could do it any better.” These words came alive as I listened intently to my mentor as he tried to explain why I had not reached the milestones in life that I had hoped.
As an 8th grader, I decided that I wanted to be a football coach. Most of the positive encounters with men in my community growing up had been with coaches. Though none of those men was my father, the encouragement and expectations set by these men gave me a sense of invincibility and pride. The conversation on that cold January day in 2010 came on the heels of yet another rejection. In my pursuit of my dream job, I had cross many milestones and accumulated a number of noteworthy achievements, so I thought. I decided to attend a college that would give me a greater opportunity to play and expand my mind in a way that I would not have gotten had I gone to the number of other "Big-Time" schools that I could have chosen. After graduating with a degree in Mathematics, I chose to accept a low pay, high stress job as a Division 1 graduate assistant football coach because as I thought, the experience would be a great resource for my future players. The ability to say that I had played and coached at the “next level” were extremely important bits of information for young men from limited means and little parental support in their pursuit of a better life.
Following my amazing yet brief stint at college football coaching, I began my high school coaching career at one of the most celebrated high school football programs in the state. Not only was I joining a coaching staff that had decades of championship experience, I was joining at a time of transition. As I began my high school coaching career as an assistant coach on the offensive side of the ball, I inherited a position group that would produce four college scholarship athletes and one Mr. Football award winner. Not long after joining the staff, my hard work and dedication were rewarded with a promotion to offensive coordinator. In my mind, I was well on my way to achieving my goal. Nevertheless, after seven seasons, six ending with a trip to the final four and one ending in the championship game as runner-up, the reality that I was still years from achieving my dreams became extremely apparent.
As I sat nearly in tears after yet another rejection email, I went to the one person who I knew would shoot me straight. As I sat in his office, he said the words that I had never considered, never imagined. "35", no one in our business will take you seriously about the position you want until you turn 35 he told me. By my estimation, I had applied and interviewed for over 30 head coaching positions over the course of a five-year period. That process came on the heels of my annual spring practice tours where I traveled to colleges around the country in pursuit of knowledge to aid my pursuit of the coveted head coaching position.