Photo, courtesy of the Jacksonville Jaguars
Detroit Lions, Montell Owens
Hard-Driving Hunger to be His Best Puts Him on the High Road on and off the Field
Montell Owens’ path to the NFL wasn’t easy. He got there through sheer determination and hard work.
At Concord High School in Wilmington, Delaware, Montell excelled in academics, music and sports. He was a member of the National Honor Society, a lead trumpet player in the jazz band, and a letterman in football, baseball, and track. As graduation approached, he began to get offers from colleges. The best offer – a full football scholarship – came from a surprising place: The University of Maine. All Montell knew about Maine is that it was cold and nine hours away from home. Still, his parents could not afford to pay for college, and Maine was the opportunity he had been waiting for.
The first two years of school were lonely and hard. He was far away from his friends and family, and the person he spent the most time with – his football coach – never seemed to give him a break.
Jeff Cole was Montell’s running back coach. Every day, month after month, no matter how hard Montell worked, it seemed that the coach was not satisfied. Although Montell fell back on his work ethic and did what he had to do, his heart wasn’t in it.
After about two years, Montell and his teammates noticed a change in Coach Cole. He didn’t have as much energy as he used to; he started to lose a lot of weight.
The team learned that Coach Cole was going overseas and they thought maybe he was taking a vacation. Three weeks later, they saw Coach Cole walking toward them. He was skin and bones and his hair was gone. That’s when they learned that his trip was a last-ditch effort to try a treatment for the brain cancer he had been quietly battling for three years. Within two weeks, Coach Cole was dead.
After that, Montell’s whole mindset about his experience at Maine changed. Instead of feeling victimized and unappreciated, he began to think about the lessons Coach Cole had tried to instill in him. For three years, Coach Cole had awakened each morning knowing he was dying. But he lived each day with drive and determination.
Montell wondered if Coach Cole had ridden him so hard because he saw more potential in him. So for the rest of his time at school, Montell dug in and gave Maine his best. Although he was a good player and a hard worker, he didn’t have the kind of playing opportunities that would showcase his talents to NFL scouts. But Montell was not ready to give up. He went to a training camp to prepare for the NFL tryouts and started being noticed by NFL trainers.
Finally, it was draft day. Montell was at the house of a friend, a wide receiver named Kevin McMann. Kevin had had a great year, and when Kevin was taken with the last pick, Montell celebrated with him. Later, it hit Montell that when Kevin was selected, there went his chances for playing in the NFL.
Then his phone rang.
“This is Coach Pola here with the Jaguars. Montell, do you want to play some football?”
When Montell got to Jacksonville, he realized he had his work cut out for him. He was competing against seven other running backs. Montell knew he was last in line, and he would need to work hard to make the final cut.
But it wasn’t easy. Many of the plays were new to him, and he wondered if he was in over his head.
One night, sitting alone in his hotel room, he was overwhelmed with frustration. He felt like giving up, but then he began to pray. He prayed for comfort, and he prayed for help. He found himself almost trying to bargain with God, promising he would be a better Christian, a better person, if he could just make the team.
Suddenly he was hit by the realization that he had been so consumed by football, he had lost sight of his real priorities. He had lost sight of his faith.
Montell made it through two rounds of cuts. Then he got a chance to play in a preseason game in Miami. He got a chance to play in the fourth quarter and the next thing he knew he was placed on special teams. And he knew that his success had stemmed from the night in his room when he had almost given up hope and turned to God for comfort and help.
As an NFL player, Montell knows there are millions of kids who look up to him and other players for inspiration. He wants to push kids in the right direction, without pushing them away by being too rigid and harsh. He tells them: Follow the road that will lead to your dreams, but don’t travel alone. Bring along your faith, your family, your friends and your passion, and you will go far.
Instant Replay of Montell’s guiding principles:
Develop a relationship with Christ
Take full responsibility for your life and give your best every day.
Be willing to try new things.
Trust and act on your yearnings for success.
Push through obstacles to gain inner strength.
Tap into your passion to move forward.
Believe in yourself, especially when others don’t.
Maintain a positive attitude regardless of your situation.
Rearrange your priorities so that the important things in life come first.
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
Montell Owens 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.