To be the best, to take your talent and rise to the top you have to work harder, want it more than most and look for the chance to shine. That’s it, there is no secret. You can’t get there if you don’t – it just won’t happen. An overnight success requires days upon days, months upon months, years upon years of tedious practice, preparation and dedication.
You also are going to need a little faith along the way.
To get to be the best – you’re going to have to visualize then live your story. Everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (81): It’s Not About The Kick
Today the Baltimore Ravens kick-off their 20th season in the NFL. For a good part of these 20 seasons the Ravens featured Matt Stover as their placekicker. A man who during his 19-year-career kicked more than 470 field goals, scoring more than 2,000 points for three different teams and by his final season in 2009, was the third most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL.
Yet for Matt Stover it was never about the kick.
What it was about for the man who wore #3 for the Ravens, was the magic of three: faith, family and…failure.
“Any greatness requires a lot of lessons learned”, says Stover. “There is no greater teacher than failure. I in turn failed early, at age 11, December 2nd 1979, when during the Ford Halftime Show at the Cowboys-Giants game, I shanked a punt and lost the punt, pass and kick competition. Failure can make your fold up your tent, or light your fire and make sure it never happens again. Even at age 11 it hurt extremely bad, as it did anytime I didn’t perform well for my team.”
From the time he was young Stover wanted the ball, the best are always the ones who want the ball. “I had this innate drive to never be told to go out to work and kick. I never had to be told. God gave me the talent and I made the choice to utilize that talent and take it to the highest level. I realized going into high school I had this talent. I loved to kick.”
But as Stover will tell you it’s more than just love and the realization of what you are good at – what you can do better than most – it is the foundation and support around you that makes the real difference. Stover says, “we can talk about athletic ability and opportunity, but my family and my father and mother empowering me and the community I lived in gave me the environment to be successful and I made the most of my opportunity.”
“I also found my WHY at age 22. Thank you Lord that I did. I didn’t understand, I thought life was all about me, Matt Stover, then I discovered, ‘no, no, no’ it is about so much more.” Stover is a devout Christian who believes in the power of Christ and the Bible. He also believed in his friend, NFL legend Joe Ehrmann. Stover says it was Ehrmann who taught him that opportunity will show itself and you will find paths if you make good choices in our life based on what’s right and what’s wrong. Ehrmann taught Stover that life is not about your athletic abilities, the money in your billfold, or your sexual conquests, which is how much of male society is judged. “Joe Ehrmann taught me it is about a cause and purpose that is greater than myself”, says Stover. “That’s really what it’s all about and giving myself the freedom to fail. A lot of us don’t give ourselves that freedom and therefore we never take the chance.”
The freedom to fail – it strikes fear in the hearts of so many. But you’ve got to be able to make mistakes, miss your shot, get bruised, bloodied, but do so with the unwavering fortitude to have trust and faith in yourself, in a higher power, and realize you are not an island, you can’t go it alone, you must have help. Use relationships as the foundation to fall back on, and they in turn will help you rise back up.
“I loved being part of the Ravens franchise”, says Stover. “When I look back at a career I can say ‘wow’ I played at the highest competitive level. The people around me supported me. Ozzie Newsome did a tremendous job with snappers and hiders. He empowered me to work within my limitations, never expected me to do more, except when it came to a game winner, then you’ve got to give it a shot, no matter how far. We had a tremendous relationship – relationships, trust, integrity, character – all of that plays a part. Your character off the field defines who you are on the field, because it will absolutely show itself. Especially when you go through hard times, because that’s when everyone is really looking to see who you are.”Sometimes failure grabs ahold of you and won’t seem to let go. For Stover it was the 1999 season, and he was not doing well. Early into his 10th NFL season, Stover was struggling and the rookie head coach of the Ravens, Brian Billick, was looking to make an example out of him.
By the end of September, the Ravens were auditioning possible replacements for Stover. On October 6, 1999, they claimed a young, left-footed gun named Joe Nedney off waivers, in an effort to turn up the heat on Stover. Stover, could feel the pressure, but kept the faith. “Everybody is watching me”, says Stover. “They are saying this Christian guy has worked out pretty well, but now let’s see who he is going to be. It was tough, but I stayed faithful. The freedom to fail was there, and I had my wife as my backbone supporting me, (Stover married at age 23 after his rookie NFL season), when I went home to my wife and kids, they loved me. They didn’t care if made field goals or not. That unconditional love is what every human being needs. I also shared my thoughts and concerns with Coach Billick about my performance and whatever limitations he thought I had, I said if I can’t make the kicks you have to find someone else.”
But Stover also asked Billick to give him his trust. The coach put his trust in Stover and by doing so his competition, Joe Nedney, never even made it onto the field, he was cut after five weeks. Stover went on to kick 18 straight field goals that season and the next year he led an offense that went through a five-game stretch without scoring a touchdown, (all the points coming courtesy of Stover’s magic foot), to a Super Bowl Crown. Stover never missed a game due to injury, and played with the Ravens through the 2008 season. His final score as a Raven – a 43-yard field goal that won the game against the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Divisional Round. In 2011 Stover was inducted into the Baltimore Ravens Ring of Honor.
“If it was my kick I always wanted the ball”, says Stover. The kid who wants the ball is the one that goes to the top. A kicker better be locked and loaded when his time comes, give me the ball and be passionate without any reservation.”
But that same kid better be ready to work, because 95% of success is all about the GRIND.
Stover says just like Malcolm Gladwell writes about in his book Outliers, you better be ready to put in the 10,000 hours it takes to get good at your craft. “I loved to kick”, says Stover, “and I learned to train to stay durable and manage the job and the number of kicks, and how to get ready for a game. It’s a job even in the off-season. I have taught a lot of kids how to do it, there’s a lot of trial and error. I tell these kids go kick 30 balls a day, 3 days a week for 10 weeks, which allows you to develop habits and get in good shape, so that in competition you can replicate the motion. Kicking is a huge part of it, but so is weight training, watching what you eat and getting the proper rest. Ask any pitcher or golfer and they will tell you the same.”
But Stover also wants the kids and anyone who plays professional sports to know something else and to heed his lessons learned. Stover say, “I didn’t allow my identity to be defined as a football player, or as a kicker. When it’s gone, when you retire, you are going to have to die as that person. The kicker Matt Stover is dead.”
“It’s the legacy that lives. So the choices we make, how hard we work to obtain a desired level…mine was to be the best kicker I could for my team. Did I get paid for it? Did I have friends and privilege? Sure I did, but it does not mean I was entitled to it. You are blessed with a talent, so find the opportunities and make the best of it. As a man I hope my family says the same thing. I work hard to do it, I’m not perfect, I make many mistakes, but as a whole they can trust me.”
“Somebody I could trust – that’s what I want on my tombstone. I want to be remembered as a great father, great husband, good kicker, great teammate. I knew if I navigated myself well and did whatever I could for my team, and did it off the field as well, then I have earned the right to speak and help others spiritually, personally and professionally.
“And understand, it’s not about the kick. It’s not about the dollars. It’s about everything that goes with it, the cause and the purpose that is greater than yourself. If your role is to be a kicker then your duty is to kick the ball and do all you can to be the best at that craft. But if you look back at that career and realize that is all you did you will have regret in our life. We all have regrets, but I don’t want to live a regretful life. Live well, die well.”
Faith, family, failure – a recipe for success which has placed Matt Stover and his life squarely between the uprights.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time
Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, SpeechWriter, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors
Author: The #1 Amazon Best Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
Join the Tribe! Enter your name and e-mail address into the blog and get posts sent directly to your e-mail inbox!