Last Chance U

last-chance-uIf you love sports like I do, and you live for second chances as most do, and if you’re sick of fake and false and phony living, like those hungering and thirsting for what’s right do, then the Netflix original documentary series “Last Chance U” is for you. But get ready, because it’s real, it’s raw, and it’s redemptive.

Coach Buddy Stephens and the East Mississippi Community College Lions Football Team are featured in this award-winning documentary in which they are followed for two consecutive seasons. They are dominant on the field but also tend to be self-destructive off it. It’s must see TV that you will use as fuel for the fire of life when you or someone you know needs a boost or a bolster or just a run of the mill shot in the arm.

Coach Stephens is hard-nosed and sometimes hardheaded. He’s harsh, headstrong, willful, and obstinate, just like many of his players. But the truth is, it takes one to know one.  Many of his star athletes fell from grace at larger, D-1 schools, and playing at East Mississippi State Community College is their last chance and their only ticket out and on and up towards the dream of playing in the NFL. But they won’t make it if they don’t listen and learn some hard life lessons. 

That’s why I believe sharing the Christian faith should be easy. We have all fallen short, we all need a second chance at living and at life and at a lifestyle that’s pleasing to God.We all need to learn how to overcome and comeback after being held back. And sometimes, albeit most times, we are the ones who have used our own arms to hold our own selves back from success.

I love Coach Stephens. I do. I love how he knows that these mostly minority young men that he coaches need a heavy dose of truth-or-consequences, because the school of hard knocks can be unforgiving and unmerciful. But Coach Stephens has also looked himself in the mirror and knows that after a failure he and his players must pick themselves up and dust themselves off if they are to have a chance at succeeding at “Last Chance U”.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=last+chance+U+trailer#id=1&vid=4c6ccd6888e8a157e2fc48e9f7d727e4&action=click

And I love the heart and the spirit of the Athletic Academic Advisor, Brittany Wagner.  Some might say that she’s just a pretty face but she’s doing a gritty job of guiding these student athletes off of the field when all they want to do is to play on it. But they also need to graduate, and her love and concern for her students shines through. 

LastChanceU-Coach Stephens-Brittany Wagner
Last Chance U-Coach Stephens & Brittany Wagner

I’d love to put my new book, Upsets, Comebacks Turnarounds in the hands of Coach Stephens and in the hands of his staff and his student athletes.  Last Chance U is a mirror of the book because his story and the stories of many of those he’s coached over the years are just like the stories from the Bible; they’re worth being told, over and over again.

You Can Still Win, Even After All of Your Mistakes: Ohio State 39 – Penn State 38

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Penn State led by 18 points TWICE and still lost. They took advantage of early Ohio State mistakes and miscues and built leads that were seemingly insurmountable. But Penn State forgot one thing; Ohio State was playing at the Horseshoe, defending their home turf in front of  109,302 raucous, rabid fans. And Ohio State remembered one thing; they remembered that you can still win after dropped passes and missed tackles and stupid penalties and untimely turnovers.  You can still win. You can come back from way back despite the darkness of your dilemma or the depth of your despair.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer surely couldn’t believe his eyes as his special teams play was less than special, giving up a touchdown on the opening kickoff.   But Urban was equally incredulous after the game, becasue even after all of his team’s mistakes, they still won. So he is pointing right at you because you can still win, too. Coach Meyer knows this becasue he himself overcame heartache and almost heartbreak as he somehow, someway, coached his boys to a marvelous and miraculous come from behind win.

And you can still lose even with a big lead and a comfortable cushion. Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley  just learned that the hard way. In spite of how wonderful you think you are and how marvelous things seem to be at present, everything can unravel, quickly. Everything can come crashing down and it can all smash to pieces and all can fall apart in the blink of an eye. You can lose it all because you thought you won with time still left on the clock. So don’t get complacent or conceited even when everything is seemingly going your way. You can still surrender the lead and give away the game.  Just ask Penn State.

So hats off to J.T. Barrett and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The fifth-year senior, some six weeks removed from his fan base questioning whether he belonged in the starting lineup, threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns, leading his team in an epic comeback that will long be remembered at the Horseshoe. Barrett seized momentum and snatched a win right out of Penn States arms as they outscored Penn State 19-3 when it mattered most.  J.T. Barrett completed his last 16 passes and was a perfect 13 for 13 in the fourth quarter as he led his team to victory down the stretch over the No. 2 team in the Country with the No. 1 offense in the nation.

J.T. Barret looked like new money as he pulled a rabbit out of the hat and escaped out of a straitjacket and handcuffs better than Harry Houdini as he won a gritty, gutsy, game that no one gave him credit for being able to win. Vegas began to bet against Barrett because they said he couldn’t win the big one. But win the big one he did, and in dramatic fashion.

So remember, you can still win, despite your faults and your failures and your disappointments and even your disasters.  You CAN still win. You can come all the way back, even from the dead. The power of His resurrection is alive and well, in sports and in life. It’s called grace.  And it comes from God. And you can still find it, even after you lose it.

Can Clemson Beat Alabama? (Round II)

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I like Clemson’s Head Coach, Dabo Swinney. I do. And in Alabama v. Clemson II, I DO think the Tigers can hang with the Alabama Crimson Tide tomorrow night. If Clemson pulls it out and pulls it off, the game will go down to the wire, which means I’ll need to stay up way past my bedtime to watch. Phooey.

Tomorrow night is college football’s big stage: the College Football Playoff National Championship. And on that big stage lies the 60 minutes that separates No. 2 Clemson from winning its first national championship in 35 seasons. To do so, the Tigers must beat No. 1 Alabama, the most successful program of our time. A victory by the Crimson Tide would be the school’s fifth in eight seasons, all under head coach Nick Saban.

Alabama is the college football team everyone loves to hate. People hate and love Alabama basically because of their colorful, crimson character of a coach, Nick Saban. Because of Saban, “‘Bama has been (and will be?) the standard in college football for a long time,” Swinney said before last year’s game. So, the question is this: can Dabo do it? Will Dabo do it? Or more pointedly, how might Dabo do it?

I ask myself these questions each and every day. Can I do it? Will I do it? Or more pointedly, how might I do it – whatever “it” is? And the answer is simply this: if you want to achieve you must first believe. And Dabo is driven and determined and set and settled on beating his alma mater tonight. Good for him. And his win tonight, if he can notch it, will speak volumes and teach another life lesson and set another sports precedent for the rest of us to follow.

On the flip side, Dabo’s desire and drive and desperation just might spell and equal an UPSET for Alabama. Make no mistake about it; even though the Tigers are No. 1, if they win, it WILL be an upset, because Nick Saban will be UPSET!

So here’s to the Clemson Tigers and cheers and hats off to Dabo Swinney. Because if he pulls this one off, he will have kept me up and kept us all awake and keep the college football world roused up and hunkered down to do it. Because it’s going to take some doing to do this. But isn’t that what we all face every day?

Wow! The Peachy, Orange-Like, Sugary, Citrus of a Rose Bowl Was A Fiesta

rose-bowl

You Missed The Rose Bowl?

Seriously?  How could you? It was one of the best bowl games EVER! Penn State started slowly, and it looked like USC was going to run away with it. But then, in the third quarter, Penn State scored what seemed like a gazillion touchdowns in a row, and just like that, USC was on the ropes and in danger of losing a virtual home game to that team from back east. But THEN, USC came roaring back and scored 17 points in the blink of an eye; and, voila, the Trojans won an instant classic 52-49.

The Rose Bowl is considered to be the “Granddaddy of ‘Em All,” at least when it comes to college bowl games. And if you didn’t see last night’s 103rd Rose Bowl, then you might as well consider yourself dismissed from the ranks of real, bona-fide, sports fans. Take it from me, and I don’t even like or support all of these dang gum bowl games to start with.

Seriously, I know why you missed the Rose Bowl: there’re too many of ‘em.  It’s ridiculous. You were suffering from “over-conjunctive-bowl-itis.” It’s an actual disease. I mean, how can even the most ardent of sports fans keep up and watch most of them, because there is no way, any one person could watch ALL of them? Right? Do you know how many bowl games there are? Way more than we need. Way more.  And I’m not the only juror to reach this conclusion; the verdict is unanimous.

Here’s how one sports writer summed up the current college bowl crisis back in 2014:

“For all of the good reasons one might propose for trimming the annual bowl game slate, the most common complaint seems to center around the exhaustion of being forced to endure all 38 (39, if you count the title game) bowl games we’ve had over the past month.”

Editor’s Note: in 2016 there were 46 Bowl games, including the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl and the Dollar General Bowl. But you knew that, as I’m sure you caught those games.

“The second-most common complaint — and one that actually has legs — is that bowl games have been expanded to the point that they have been stripped of all meaning.

Thirty years ago, there were 16 bowl games. Thirty-two of Division-I’s 112 teams made a bowl game, and the rest stayed home. There were a lot of teams with winning records that didn’t get to sniff the postseason. This year, 15 bowl-bound teams have managed just six wins. Thanks to its conference championship loss, Fresno State could end the season 6-8 by losing to Rice in the Hawaii Bowl.

And don’t sleep on the Camellia Bowl, which pits Bowling Green vs. South Alabama.  That very sentence alone is enough to make a traditionalist go blind. At the same time, the effects of bowl-mania are relatively benign — at least as far as game itself is concerned. Yes, reaching a bowl game may carry less significance than it once did.”

Editor’s Note: Wrong! Reaching a bowl game absolutely carries less significance than it once did. But surely I digress.

“But who ever said all bowls carry the same merit? Reaching the Rose Bowl still means the same thing it did 30 years ago. If its value has been diluted, it’s only because the new four-team playoff bracket is the primary attention-getter over the traditional big-name bowls.

Football programs don’t exactly line the stadium hallways with elaborate displays of TaxSlayer.com Bowl trophies. Nobody’s jealous of making the Camelia Bowl — other than the 50 teams who aren’t making a bowl appearance, and even some of them would probably turn an offer down.

Thirty-nine bowl games exist because all of them generate revenue.

That’s not the most inspiring genesis for holding a good ol’ football game, granted. But it would be inconsistent to decide now, after years of allowing money-minded college athletic departments to fatten their revenues on the backs of athletes who haven’t received one dime of extra compensation, that suddenly we are taking a stand and telling prospective bowl hosts to go shove it.

Bowl games make money, period, even if they’re terrible at passing on the benefits to participating schools — a criticism best saved for a different day.

The important point is that schools continue to accept bowl invites because of the benefits they do see: the national TV exposure (a huge boon for smaller programs), the slight recruiting edge, and the excitement a bowl berth can stir in a fan base.”  By: Jonathan Crowl 12/9/2014

Especially the Granddaddy of ‘em all.

Don’t Give The Game Away

jim-harbaugh-screaming

Did You See The Game? I did.

I watched the Michigan / Ohio State game yesterday. If you missed it, you missed a treat. It was a great win and a horrible loss both at the same time. Yes, it was a great win for Ohio State to come from behind and beat their archrivals 30 -27 in DOUBLE OT, at home, again. And it was a horrible, almost unspeakable loss.

One sportswriter put it this way:

“There is simply too much pain to process. Losing to Ohio State? Losing in double overtime? Losing with some controversy? Losing the Big Ten East Division? Losing a shot at the Playoff? It’s almost overwhelming. Michigan will bounce back under Jim Harbaugh — and very likely be right there for the 2017 national title — but this loss will sting all offseason. Then again, maybe there’s room for Michigan to make a national semifinal in 2016?”

Michigan had the game in the bag. I mean the game was won and the Michigan Quarterback Wilton Speight and the referees game it away. Yes it was a great game because it had everything: it had defense and turnovers and missed field goals and a pick-six and fourth and inches and a first down controversy in double overtime.

If you didn’t catch yesterday’s game, you missed one of the best regular season college games in college football history Michigan, the better team, had Ohio State on the ropes for most of the game, then choose to gift the game back to the Buckeyes down the stretch. Ohio State wouldn’t have even been in the game had it not been for the interceptions that the Michigan QB gave them. Wow.

Coach Jim Harbaugh has every right to be mad, but the first person he needs to be mad with is himself. He lost his cool and it cost his team five critical yards late in the game when the defense needed to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone. They did not.

We lead by example. A long time ago someone said, monkey see, monkey do. And the team saw their coach lose his composure, and then they went on to lose the game in typical Michigan, meltdown fashion (the Wolverines have lost five straight to Ohio State at the Horseshoe).

“Outrageous,” Harbaugh said at one point, describing the officiating that he thought cost his Wolverines the game at Ohio State Saturday afternoon. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how you handle a brutal loss when you speak to the public. What matters is what you show them. Harbaugh didn’t show much grace.

His senior defensive lineman, however, Chris Wormley, did. “There’s a few calls that I thought could go either way,” he said. “You’ve got to play through those types of calls, handle adversity.” Yes, you do.

And so the lesson is almost lyrical: you may lose and you may fail and you may suffer loss, but don’t give it away. Don’t lose your cool or lose your head or lose your composure. Your opponent may try to grab it or seize it or snatch it or even steal it, but DO NOT give it away.  And that’s just what the Michigan coach and the Michigan team did yesterday.

 

Joey Ortiz: A Modern Day Miracle

Joey Ortiz

Guest Blog

“Life is not about how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up.”

I started out life from the bottom looking up. I was frequently beaten with a horse whip by my father.  To kill the pain I started drinking at 8 years old.  I started playing football as an avenue to release my rage.  This catapulted me to local stardom on the gridiron.  I became so good I was recruited by many major college football programs, the only thing holding me back was my grades and my SAT scores.  I signed with the local college and was immediately declared ineligible.  I transferred to Sac City Jr. college and achieved “All State” status as a starting split end. 

I went to UNLV, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, on a recruiting trip and was offered a scholarship.  Three days later I got hit by a car traveling 55-70 mph as a pedestrian.  The car never stopped.  I laid dead in the street, to be revived and life flighted. I suffered 18 major injuries including losing half my left calf.  I was told I would never play again. 

I underwent a major rehabilitation undertaking and was back on the field in five months. This was history! Since I was damaged goods no major colleges were interested in me anymore. I hung out and partied for a year and started selling cars.  I quickly got addicted to cocaine and thought I had found the miracle drug.  In my fourth month I came across a customer named Pastor Doug Bird.  He bought a vehicle from me and spent 2 hours ministering to me. 

I was lost and it fell on deaf ears. I became a machine and dominated in the local car business reaching management in record time.  This was the life I lived until 2008.  My wife left me and I now have almost 6 years sobriety.  I got involved in Alumni football and learned that the director of the league went to church with Pastor Doug Bird.  I received an email invitation to church on November 1st 2009.  I went and gave my life to Christ that day.  I since have written a book entitled “Correcting a Wreckless Life;”  I appeared on TV, radio, in the newspaper, and on the 700 Club.  I now minister to the lost that are dealing with some of my same past issues that I have overcome thru Christ. In 2014 I signed with award-winning producer Michael Shortt to bring my story to the big screen.   Praise God!

Joey Ortiz2

 Joey Ortiz

 

The NCAA: No Class At All

NCAA

Should college “student athletes” be compensated for playing, principally football and basketball, before thousands in the stands and millions more on television? The tide has finally turned, and the holy grail of college athletics has finally tipped in favor of the athlete. And many are asking, “So what’s the debate all about?”

On the one hand, student athletes are supposed to be just that, students, but they are supposed to be “students” first, right? The truth of the matter is that most athletes in college are athletes more than they are students. So why not compensate them for entertaining us and for being the engine that drives the revenue that colleges revel in?

On the other hand, how do you fairly compensate all athletes? Who decides how much to give which athletes in which sports? Football and basketball are of course the main money makers; so do the athletes in these sports get the lion’s share of the take?

The NCAA in its infinite wisdom has decided to allow the larger American sports conferences to cook up a concoction that compensates their student athletes. This leaves smaller conferences out in the cold, or to continue the food analogy, left at the folding card table at Thanksgiving dinner to eat on paper plates while the “adult” conferences dine delectably at the dining room table.

Fair? Not hardly, but it’s a start. The way the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has handled the outcry for compensation of student athletes is classless and tasteless; in other words, the NCAA has lived up to its name: No Class At All. The NCAA needs be schooled on how to better treat the student athletes that have been their bread and butter for decades. The current system is repulsive and repressive; it is an oppressive system, and each and every oppressive system must and will be overturned and come to an end.

The NCAA began as an almost meaningless manikin; and now, thanks to the efforts of thousands of student athletes, it’s a mammoth, man (or student) eating monster. The NCAA has made billions of dollars on the backs of athletes who often don’t have enough money for food and other common commodities.

Student athletes have been cheated out of any compensation, much less fair compensation, for too long. But the recent ruling by the NCAA is a start. Hopefully, smart and sharp and bright and brainy minds will develop a plan and a program that allows the college student athlete to want to stay in school and learn life lessons and earn deserved degrees without feeling like an indentured servant at best or a bond slave at worst.