Aaron Hernandez: Triumph and Tragedy

Aaron HernandezTalk about a modern day, made for reality TV soap opera. This just in: another athlete has given us yet another harrowing, heartbreaking homily on the hazards of mixing giftedness with recklessness. The dramatic, meteoric rise of the footfall career of Aaron Hernandez met an equally speedy fall and sudden stall.

In actuality, the life and death of Aaron Hernandez was a sad, sobering, shocking yarn full of knots and kinks leading to a tattered and torn, threadbare end. The life of this famous yet infamous professional football player was both sewn tightly and frayed badly, full of high drama and sordid saga that finally all unraveled in a lonely Massachusetts jail cell.

Aaron Josef Hernandez, the 27 year old, 6’-1’’, 245 pound, once and future rising New England Patriots star tight end took his own life this past week. It’s as sad a tale that has ever been told. His is a rags to riches back to rags story that seems like it didn’t have to be. It’s so sad and seemingly so senseless.

Hernandez worked his way up to the top of the sports world. He was NFL divinity; he played in a Super Bowl and played on the best team in the league and was an All Pro selection. But he also simultaneously wormed his way down to the bottom of the general population of humanity; Hernandez was convicted of murder and was serving a life sentence at the time of his death.

Hernandez grew up on the “other side of the tracks” and rose to prominence seemingly overnight. Hernandez attended Bristol Central High School and played as a wide receiver until becoming a tight end, and also played defensive end. As a senior, he was Connecticut’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year.

And his star kept rising.

Hernandez caught passes from Tim Tebow when he played college football at the University of Florida. He was a member of the 2008 BCS National Championship team and was voted a first-team All-American. He was widely recognized as a key contributor to that team’s national championship success. Hernandez then became the first Gator to win the John Mackey Award, given annually to the NCAA’s best tight end.

And his star kept rising.

Hernandez was drafted by the NFL’s New England Patriots as the 15th pick in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft even though he was dogged by allegations of failed drug tests. Still, with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady throwing to him, Hernandez shined for New England. He played on the 2011 Super Bowl team that lost to the New York Giants 21-17. On August 27, 2012, the Patriots signed Hernandez to a five-year, $40 million contract extension, running through 2018. The $12.5 million signing bonus was the largest ever given to an NFL tight end.

But it all began to unravel when he was released by the Patriots in June 2013 immediately after his arrest for the murder of Odin Lloyd. We may never know the whole story, but what was once a bright triumph turned into a dark tragedy.

Sports are like life and life is like sports. There are wins and losses and victories and defeats and ups and downs and twists and turns all the way from start to finish. Aaron Hernandez is just another example of how a good run can all come crashing down with a bad decision here and a misstep there. In all, Hernandez spent more time in prison than on the field with the Patriots. In spite of the tragedy, in life and in death, Hernandez taught us that we don’t have to have a dead end.

Reports say that Hernandez etched John 3:16 on his forehead before taking his life. John 3:16, the hallmark scripture of our faith, coupled with the Easter message, proves that God loves us and is concerned about us. Jesus conquered death so that we don’t have to use death as an out or an option. We may fall but we don’t have to fail or give in or give up if we put our trust in Him.

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/aaron-hernandez-ex-nfl-star-kills-prison-cell-article-1.3073294

What’s Next For RGIII? — Plan B

RGII Released

What a sad day for RGIII fans, worldwide. Anywhere and everywhere there are fans of this Heisman Trophy winner, they’re all taking time to pout and pine and ache and anguish over this once prime and prized QB who tore it up at Baylor, had one good year in the NFL with the Redskins, but hasn’t been able to find his way since.

Here’s the black and white, bottom line:

Robert Griffin III will be a free agent again, as the Cleveland Browns released the injury-plagued quarterback on Friday. Too bad, so sad.

The Browns gave Griffin a chance to revive his career after he was released by the Washington Redskins following the 2015 season. Cleveland named him the Week 1 starter in 2016, and he struggled in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Late in that game, Griffin broke the coracoid process in his left collarbone, an injury that sidelined him for 11 games. Though he played better in four games at the end of the season, he admitted his injury had not fully healed.

The Browns’ move comes after they traded with the Houston Texans for quarterback Brock Osweiler on Thursday, though league sources have told ESPN that Cleveland is likely to trade or release Osweiler before the 2017 season. But let’s get back to RGIII.

I’ve been a faithful fan of Robert Griffin III from the start. I’ve pulled for him and prayed for him and cheered for him and jeered at him, but it’s all because I like him. I do. Even in his arrogance and overconfidence (“I’m the best QB in the NFL” — really?),  I’ve tried to be there for him (like I could actually help him, right?) But I did try. And he did too. From where I sit, I believe he stood a chance. Unfortunately, he had hope but he did not have the help that he really needed. And so it appears that it just wasn’t meant to be.

RGIII’s story is a narrative reminiscent of another Heisman trophy winner who just couldn’t make it in the pros: Tim Tebow. Their stories are eerily similar.  They were great standup, standout QB’s in college, but this pro thing just didn’t seem to fit. Why didn’t they succeed as we – and they- had hoped and dreamed they would? Why do teams love them and then loath them? And why do we delight ourselves in their rise and yet disassociate ourselves with their fall?

It sounds like life. You have to believe, in God first, and then in yourself, regardless of who doesn’t. Now Tebow is trying out for the New York Mets. Seriously. Maybe RGIII can reinvent himself and find a path to his ultimate purpose. And the same goes for us when Plan A hits a snag and blows a tire or fizzles out or just doesn’t work out.

Because you always need a Plan B.

Is Tim Tebow Relentlessly Pursuing Failure?

tim-tebow

This is an excellent post from ESPN’s David Fleming, so I’m sharing it it’s entirety:

TIM TEBOW’S FIRST day of spring training unfolded pretty much exactly as expected. Before he stepped foot onto First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, Florida, his $28 Tebow 15 jersey was already available for purchase outside the ballpark. There was touching chatter about the joys of pursuing his “childhood dream” of playing baseball, not to be confused with his currently on hold “lifelong dream” of being an NFL quarterback. Many experts, after making a special point to say how nice and hard-working Tebow is, admitted that the guy who struck out 20 times in 62 at-bats during the Arizona Fall League didn’t look any more comfortable or natural as a pretend baseball player.

 None of that, of course, stopped networks, including this one, from running video of Tebow crushing home runs during his first batting practice session, titillating footage that has only slightly less correlation to actual baseball performance than sunflower-seed spitting. And, predictably, before the day was through, the New York Post had dubbed Tebow “a much more athletic Garth Brooks” while judging this spring training experiment to be Tebow’s latest, greatest feat of athletic failure. It was a declaration that Tebow seemed prepared to handle better than any curveball he has faced.

 “There are certain things in life we love and we have the chance to pursue, but a lot of the time fear of the unknown, fear of failure gets in the way,” Tebow told Marty Smith on SportsCenter at the start of camp. “If I fall flat on my face, then guess what, I’m going to get right back up again.”

 It’s a mantra that has sustained Tebow over the past five years. On Jan. 9, 2012, Tebow threw for 319 yards in a stunning 29-23 overtime win against an injury-depleted Pittsburgh defense in the AFC wild-card playoffs. Since then, though, he has grifted his way to untold riches and largely unearned opportunities with five franchises in two professions while barely bothering to alter his act. First, NFL quarterback was the dream he would relentlessly pursue, then — nope, hold up, wait a minute — it was actually baseball the entire time. In both sports, he has benefited from the same viral coverage to cloak his shortcomings, co-opted the same kind of devout “experts” to vouch for his authenticity, shown the same lack of humility and understanding of the challenges he faced, and, worst of all, exploited the same needs and dreams of fans in both sports.

What continues to make him one of the most puzzling and compelling athletes of his era, though, is not the long string of embarrassments, but rather, what seems to be Tebow’s absolute fearlessness in the face of Mets spring training, a challenge that is almost certainly going to be his greatest, most public humiliation yet.

“People will say, ‘What if you fail? What if you don’t make it?'” Tebow said at the beginning of this process. “Guess what? I don’t have to live with regret. I did everything I could. I pushed it. And I would rather be someone who can live with peace and no regret than being so scared I didn’t make the effort.”

Whether you think that’s enlightened or idiotic is up to you.

TEBOW HAS BEEN transformed into shorthand for fans, an instant litmus test. Are you a fellow dreamer and believer? Or are you one of those cold-hearted realists who worry about the minor league player who had his spring training roster spot stolen by Tebow’s publicity stunt?

In a way, he has even become a counter-culture icon, unafraid and unharmed by failure in an increasingly perfectionist society. It’s a place where icons such as Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison confiscate their kid’s participation trophies and up to 75 percent of kids drop out of sports before age 14 because of a fear of failure. And so, what might be at the heart of the latest chapter of our ongoing infatuation with Tebow is the utterly unsettling way he has embraced, perfected and, yes, profited from the art of failure.

It would certainly explain this latest campaign, why at 29 he’d be so gung-ho about publicly attempting the most difficult challenge in sports — hitting Major League pitching — after more than a dozen years away from the game.

“I applaud what he’s doing. So many of us are crippled by high expectations that we tend to quit things way too early,” says Mark Anshel, a professor emeritus at Middle Tennessee State and the author of “In Praise of Failure.” “I think Tim Tebow knows exactly what he’s doing. If helping people deal with failure is how you believe you were called to serve God, then I’d say attempting to become a professional baseball player out of the blue at 29 is the absolute best place for him to be.”

Tebow ‘not going to worry’ what people think

On the first day, Tim Tebow spoke with his trademark smile and charisma, Tim Tebow added a new line to his resume: spring training attendee. What did the QB-turned-outfielder say at Mets camp, and how many BP homers did he blast?

Since the 2012 NFL playoffs, Tebow’s business as a pro athlete has been failure — and business has been good. After a brief, brilliant flash of success, the Broncos grew tired of his terrible throwing mechanics and struggles with the cognitive side of the game, and Tebow agreed to a trade to the absolute worst possible spot for a developing quarterback: the New York Jets. Tebow’s act of self-sabotage resulted in him completing just six passes behind Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy before being cut by Rex Ryan.

Not only did Tebow make the same choice when it came time to pick a baseball team, at both stops he also used his popularity and the ravenous media coverage, including a good share of it from yours truly and the rest of ESPN, to take the attention off his on-field struggles. No one remembers that on the first day Jets camp was open to the public, Tebow was so bad he completed just three passes while fans heckled him and coaches worried that he wasn’t a viable option to replace Sanchez. Instead, the only thing we remember about Tebow as a Jet was the shirtless QB jogging across the field in the rain after practice. Similarly, no one knows that Tebow went 0-for-3 in his Arizona Fall League debut or that scouts knew right away there was zero justification for his roster spot — a gift he honored by keeping his TV gig on the side. No, we remember him “saving” a fan who collapsed during an autograph session.

When his first stop in New York was over, an NFL scout told me the truest thing I have ever heard about Tebow’s athletic career. And it remains just as true in baseball: It is nearly impossible to find a teammate who will say anything bad about him as a person, or a scout who will say anything good about him as a player. “He’s a tough guy, a great leader, a great person,” an NFC scout said at the time. “He’s just not a quarterback.”

It didn’t matter. In fact, it only helped Tebow develop his brand: Failure Incorporated. The next summer, after he was unceremoniously let go by New England, Tebow vowed to go to the ends of the earth to make himself an NFL quarterback, a pledge that apparently did not extend to Canada or Orlando, where he had standing offers to hone his QB craft in the CFL and the Arena League. Stooping to play fullback or tight end, where he worried he would no longer be everyone’s focus of attention inside the huddle, was out of the question too. (And yet we believe this same guy intends to spend his summer in Single-A ball, riding a crowded, stinky bus, grinding his way through 140 games in 150 days?)

In parting ways with the Patriots, Tebow tweeted 2 Corinthians 12:9, which says, in part, that “power is perfected in weakness” and, therefore, the best way to have Christ’s power dwell inside you is by boasting of your weaknesses. This seems to be the moment where Tebow was able to meld his rapidly dwindling prospects as an NFL quarterback with the universal connection to, and the spiritual rewards of, failing with honor and purpose — sometimes over and over and over again.

Despite an abundance of critics, Tebow has remained steadfast in his endeavors. The fear of failure is not something that dictates his path. Rich Schultz /Getty Images

IN 2014, TEBOW turned to former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer for tutelage and support. Dilfer and passing guru Tom House worked to improve Tebow’s throwing mechanics at the University of Southern California. But like millions of Tebow supporters, Dilfer might have been unable to separate his fondness for Tebow the man and his evaluation of Tebow the quarterback.

“This is one of the greatest players to play college football, and he didn’t know how to pass,” Dilfer raved on ESPN at the time. “I believe now he knows how to pass. Every GM, every scout, every person out there should go at least watch Tim Tebow now, because it’s a different guy.”

From – David Fleming, http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/18791367/tim-tebow-relentless-pursuit-failure

Time Out For Tebow

Book_Cover_400x400

“So Long,” Tim Tebow. Turn out the lights and pull down the shades because the fat lady is singing for you. At least in Philly. For now. Anyway, the Eagles cut Tebow Saturday, but they could pick him back up. Later. Go figure.  This was Tebow’s forth team and his forth cut.  And this one, even though he may not admit it, hurt. Maybe not as much as the Denver fiasco, but it really looked like Tebow tried and vied and strived and struggled, all to no avail, or so it seems.

Philadelphia Eagles’ Head coach Chip Kelly and the Eagles held on to Tebow as long as they could on Saturday before cutting him, but the team eventually had to make the move because Kelly didn’t feel Tebow was good enough to be the Eagles third-string quarterback.

“Tim’s really progressed but we didn’t feel like he was good enough to be the three right now,” Kelly said. “He just needs to get out there and get more reps.”

I still hope that Tim makes it in the NFL.  I do. If not in Philly, somewhere. This last effort and attempt was spirited and spiritual.  Chip Kelly and the Eagles invested a lot into Tebow, tweaking his technique and modifying his mechanics. But, unfortunately, alas, the comeback has hit a setback. But I still hope the best for Timmy.

Tebow doesn’t seem too concerned by any of this; the Bible verse he tweeted out basically means, “God works for the good of those who love him.” Amen Tim.

If Tebow does come back to the Eagles or go to another team and make it, it would be a heavenly story with an earthly meaning. 

Tim Tebow ‏@TimTebow  Sep 5

Thanks @Eagles and Coach Kelly for giving me the opportunity to play the game I love! Romans 8:28 #Blessed

10,327 retweets 21,305 favorites

https://twitter.com/TimT/strong/emebow/status/640245053194117120http://

It’s Tim Tebow Time in Philly!

tebow-eagles

Timmy Tebow is an Eagle. A Philadelphia Eagle. As of this writing, he’s (apparently) made the team and now he’s the third string quarterback on the squad coached by Chip Kelly, a man who’s not afraid to make bold decisions (just ask DeSean Jackson and Shady McCoy).  Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah — Tim Tebow’s an Eagle!

Tebow has played well at times this preseason and finished well in the fourth preseason game against the New York Jets. It has been speculated that he could be a two-point conversion specialist, and Eagles coach Chip Kelly used him in that role early in the third preseason game.

Tebow’s history is an up and down and all around affair. He’s bounced from team to team and from town to town and he’s taken a lickin – but he keeps on tickin. If Tebow does make it back to the NFL, and apparently he has, it would be a remarkable, comeback story. 

Tebow played college football for the University of Florida, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and appearing on BCS National Championship-winning teams during the 2006 and 2008 seasons. Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

As a member of the Denver Broncos, he started the last three games of his rookie season and became the team’s full-time starting quarterback beginning in the sixth game of 2011. The Broncos were 1–4 before he became the starter, but began winning with him on the field, often coming from behind late in the fourth quarter, until they won their first AFC West title and first playoff game since 2005, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime.

Tebow was traded to the New York Jets during the offseason after the Broncos acquired free agent quarterback Peyton Manning. Tebow received little playing time for the Jets and on April 29, 2013, the Jets released Tebow after drafting quarterback Geno Smith. He signed a two-year, non-guaranteed contract with the New England Patriots on June 11, 2013. But then he was cut by the New England Patriots at the end of the 2013 preseason. He was a free agent for a long time before the Patriots signed him, and spent the 2013 regular season out of football. That’s right, OUT OF FOOTBALL! (Hear that RGIII?) He joined ESPN’s SEC Network and it looked like his football career was over.

After two seasons away from the game, Tebow signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on April 20, 2015. The Eagles, with a coach who thinks differently about a lot of things, gave him a shot this year. Tebow played a significant amount through the preseason and Kelly defended mistakes he seemed to make. Reports indicated the Eagles wanted to keep Tebow on the roster. The news seemed positive on Tebow; it was just hard to figure out if they would keep him instead of Barkley, the presumptive third string QB on the team, who played ahead of him all preseason.

And this just in: The Eagles just TRADED Matt Barkley to Arizona. Go figure! Without Barkley around anymore, Tebow’s chances of making the roster and completing a really fun story got a lot better.

Tim-Tebow-Eagles

So the moral of the story is this: it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. And it ain’t over till God says it’s over. And that should encourage someone and anyone and everyone out there whose hopes have been hampered and whose dreams have been dampered and whose determination has been derailed. There’s still hope.

Tebow’s not what he used to be, but now, maybe now, he’ll be even better. Not just at football, but at the game of life.