Denver Broncos Legend Karl Mecklenburg believes the big potential he found in himself, despite his handicap, exists in us all.

As a young athlete, Karl was, by his own description, stiff, small and slow. He wasn’t naturally gifted. He had to work at the game. He left one college when the scholarship he thought was coming never did, and then toughed it out as a walk-on at another school. Ineligible to play, Karl had to sit out for a year. To hang out with the team, he swept the weight and locker rooms.

He didn’t let the housekeeping chores bother him.

“It was worth it to me, because I had this passion that I wanted to be the best player that ever played the game of football, and that was something that I made my decisions around day to day,” said Karl. “I worked super hard at it, and I also worked hard at school.”

Even after he was injured, and forced to rehab in the women’s training room (a punishment he believes was designed to rattle him and get him to relinquish a hard-won college scholarship), he pushed on, driven to make a comeback.

Talent, he concluded, was just a tiny piece of the path to success, especially since Karl knew talented players who never made it.

“I think God has given each and every one of us more talent than we can use in a lifetime,” said Karl. “And along with that, He’s given us free will. What that means is that it is up to us to go out and find out where our talents and abilities lie and then work hard to develop those talents and abilities. It doesn’t happen by accident.”

For Karl, a good and successful life required a smart game plan. The ingredients? Hard work, the courage to try new ventures and the persistence to pick yourself up and try again if you fail.

Supportive parents stood by young Karl as he worked to correct a noticeable lisp. Over and over, he repeated the phrase: Sister Sally sells seashells down by the seashore.

He battled dyslexia, too. It’s a learning disability that haunts him still. “I have to watch my pen form letters or the ‘p,’ ‘d,’ ‘q,’ and ‘b’ will be mixed up,” said Karl.

The challenges made him a cheerleader for a can-do attitude. And at least for Karl, there were some advantages to being dyslexic. For starters, he is ambidextrous. “I think a little differently, and that’s a great advantage when you are out in the world … As a football player, I played all seven defensive front positions, and they moved me around, left side, right side. It didn’t matter. I am just as strong with my left side as my right side.”

Karl insisted the big potential he found in himself, despite his handicap, exists in us all.

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