Updated: Jul 16
Denver Broncos Legend Karl Mecklenburg
All-Pro Author and Speaker Inspiring Long Term Positive Change in Individuals and Teams
When Karl Mecklenburg was on the junior varsity squad, a tough football coach sentenced him to a week of grueling workout drills.
The coach was angry because Karl had to miss a rescheduled game to go hunting with his father. So, the coach insisted the teen run up dozens of long, steep hills five days in a row. The coach surely figured the boy would quit the team.
Instead, it hardened young Karl’s resolve.
“I’m going to be a great player,” Karl told himself. “If I can do this, I can do anything.”
And he did. Karl would play in six Pro Bowls and three Super Bowls. He was such a versatile linebacker; he played all seven defensive front positions. He amassed 79.5 sacks, the second highest total in Broncos history.
But to succeed, on the gridiron and off, he ran an obstacle course dotted with professional and personal challenges. And his start as a pro player was hardly auspicious. Back in 1983, when the Denver Broncos drafted Karl, it was in the 12th round with the 310th picking overall.
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.
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.
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. Karl insisted the big potential he found in himself, despite his handicap, exists in us all.
“The path you take and the success that you ultimately achieve is up to you,” said Karl. “Don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t, because you can. Find that passion and chase it.”
Along the way, the lessons Karl learned could serve as a playbook for others.
He learned teamwork, the key to any successful organizational endeavor. It’s a concept Karl stresses in speeches to corporations and groups.
He also reminds kids to wisely select their teammates off the field.
“Your team of friends is the only team that you get to pick,” he said. “Choose a team of friends that have dreams and aspirations, who value friendship and respect you.”
Karl’s most precious team is his family.
“I am a devout Christian, and I take my love for my family very seriously,” he said. “I want everything I say and do to reflect God’s love.”
In the community, Karl puts his words into action.
This father of three works with his wife, Kathi, on behalf of kids and families in several charitable groups. Through his REACH Foundation (Rewarding Experiences for All Children), http://www.karlmecklenburg.net/ the Mecklenburgs encourage youngsters to read.
Their Aspen Youth Experience introduces urban kids to nature. And in Colorado Youth Outdoors, he works to pair kids and their families with the traditional outdoor sports he shared with his own father, grandfathers and uncles – hunting, fishing and camping.
In addition to his motivational speaking, Karl is the author of two books, “Meck for the Defense” and the newly released “Heart of a Student Athlete, All-Pro Advice for Competitors and Their Families.”
Karl Mecklenburg spends quality time with students after giving an inspiring presentation at Yuma High School in Colorado. Karl’s passion to help others lead a successful life is a commitment he has made. He is an extraordinary Insightful Player® team member who has his feet planted firmly on the ground with his head way up in the clouds.
Instant replay of Karl’s guiding principles:
Act in the best interests of the team. Think “we,” not “me.” Leadership is critical to business and all relationships. Leadership is the highest expression of teamwork.
Have the courage to try new things; you will gain confidence and develop new skills that will; carry over into every area of your life.
Have the courage to be decisive. Trust your intuition and take action. Being decisive will expand your perspective and give you easier access to your wisdom.
Own up to mistakes and then forgive yourself. Learn to be 100% accountable to yourself without self judgment.
Work hard, continue your education and refuse to quit.
Nurture a big dream, a passion. Think big picture and long term. Your passion will make it easier to overcome obstacles.
Use your desires to help you create and follow through on specific short-term and achievable goals. Make sure they move you forward to fulfill your dreams.
The Insightful Player® series is brought to you by Coach Chrissy Carew, Hall of Fame Master Certified Personal and Business Coach and Author of her newly released book, INSIGHTFUL PLAYER: Football Pros Lead A Bold Movement of Hope. Chrissy has been deeply inspired by her father, the late Coach Walter Carew, Sr. Her father is in several Halls of Fame as a high school football coach and baseball coach (as well as high school and college athlete). He used sports to help kids build strong character and teach them valuable life skills. The Insightful Player® initiative was created to help make our world a much better place by inspiring youth. To contact Chrissy Carew visit http://www.insightfulplayer.com or call 603-897-0610.
©2009 Insightful Player, LLC
Karl Mecklenburg is a valued member of the Insightful Player® team. To be named to this team, one must be a person of integrity, such as a current or former NFL player, who shares their personal message of hope for the sole purpose of lifting the spirits of all, especially children.