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Defining Moments – an Interview with Terrell Davis

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Everyone experiences moments in life that change and define them. I recently spoke to Hall of Fame football player Terrell Davis about the moments in his life that have shaped him. Terrell described how, with grit and determination, he reacted and responded to a series of challenges and opportunities: from the difficulties of his youth, to the ups and downs of his college football career and, finally, to his NFL success. Here are some of the main takeaways:

Find the Right Path

Just 14 when his father died, Terrell found himself on the wrong path, one that led to a violent near-death experience. At this crossroads in his young life, he made the momentous decision to reject the negative influences that surrounded him. He reconnected with his old coach, got his grades back on track and began his journey to sporting success.

Never Settle for ‘Just Good Enough’

At one point in his college football career, Terrell was trying to be ‘just good enough.’ He didn’t want to attract too much attention as he was concerned about the pressures that could bring. The problem with trying to be ‘just good enough’ is that it’s an impossible target to hit. If you work hard and really focus, you can excel. But being ‘just good enough’ to not make ripples is an almost impossible task and it leads nowhere.

Don’t Let Others Shrink You

Later, Terrell realized that he was limiting himself based on others’ perceptions of him. He was giving so much energy to coaches’, players’ and fans’ opinions of him that he had shrunk himself down so he wouldn’t get in trouble or get noticed. Watching a pivotal game from the stands one day, he finally vowed to have no regrets and to make his family proud. He dug deep into his own motivation and accountability and moved forward with focus, determination and purpose. As he said, “Doing things based on what other people think of you is dangerous … it’s super dangerous and it crushes dreams.”

Grab the Opportunity

During a defining moment in a game in Japan, Terrell was called on unexpectedly. Despite being somewhat unprepared (and having a hotdog in his mouth!) he grabbed the opportunity with both hands and made the biggest play of his career to date. He went on to become one of the most successful running backs in the history of the NFL, winning the Super Bowl in his hometown of San Diego and then being inducted in the Hall of Fame.

In life, things don’t always go how they’re supposed to. There will be setbacks, failures and missed opportunities. The important thing is that we do what we can to meet each defining moment with courage and determination. As Coach Frank White once said, “If you’re true to the game, the game will be true to you.” That motto applies to football and to life!  To learn more about life’s defining moments, listen to the latest episode of “It’s a Good Life.”

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