Mondoville College is unusual among colleges our size in that we had three former students on NFL rosters this season. We’re proud of all of them — and of nearly all the kids who have wandered around this place in my years here. (We’ll make an exception for the alum whose, um, entrepreneurial leanings got him declared persona non grata on campus. But honestly, I even found him entertaining.)
As it happens, one of our former students happened to be a focal point in yesterday’s comeback win that sent the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, he was a focal point because he mishandled an onside kick as a member of the Packers, who were the victims of the comeback. The misplay led to a key score for Seattle.
I didn’t see the play — I had spent the afternoon in the office, and then came home and switched the TV on. As the game ended I heard an announcer mention a player “in his second year from Newberry College” who had made a game-changing error. As it happens, I follow the kid on Twitter, so I sent him what I hope was a consolatory message — that we’re still proud of him and that this will make him stronger.
But what I wanted to tell him, if I had more than 140 characters, is this. We all fail sometimes, students, alumni, teachers. I’ve had my share of failures — I’ve had a scholarship pulled, been threatened with the loss of my job in my magazine days, been invited to the world by my M.A. school. I’ve had innumerable stories and articles bounced over the years, to the point where I walked away from writing for a number of years. All these moments, all these failures shaped me.
None of them define me.
Nor does what happened yesterday define our former student. I don’t know what he’s thinking this morning, but I hope one of the things he learned in Mondoville was that he is a human being, valued even though imperfect, with an importance beyond the playing field, and that he may not see until his playing days are over. Until then, he has to do the best he can with whatever time, however many plays, he has before him. That’s all any of us get — we play the hands we’re dealt. I trust he will.
And next time you’re in Mondoville, swing by campus. You’re welcome, always.