The power of sports has transformed the world. And 17 years ago, I learned that on a global stage for the first time. It was September 11th and after waking up in my apartment at the University of Pittsburgh I opened my bedroom door to the news being on television.
The next few hours were a haze — the 9/11 attacks were transforming the world on so many levels. Our game that week was canceled but less than two weeks later we stood on the grass at Heinz Field looking across to the opposing sideline.
There stood the Miami Hurricanes, and every player on both teams was holding the American flag. I truly felt like the game was a backdrop for the 65,000 fans at the stadium and millions more watching on TV to focus on healing. That day will always be in my heart.
Sports are still a vehicle of unity in America today. Nike was in the news this week after placing Colin Kaepernick at the center of it’s 30th annual “Just Do It” campaign. Whether or not you agree with Kaepernick’s form of protest, the power that sports – and athletes – have in sparking conversation and bringing people together is undeniable. And if we all speak our minds in a respectful way, and listen to those speaking theirs, our collective actions will push society forward.
This past week was special in college football, too. Here’s my three main takeaways:
After calling the UW game this past weekend, I’m convinced the Huskies have the best secondary in the nation. I spoke with Jimmy Lake, their Defensive Coordinator, and while he didn’t give me all of “the secret sauce,” he did tell me that the one of the main things they look for when recruiting players is toughness. Sure, a player can be talented, but what happens from the moment they’re offered a scholarship to the moment they sign their letter of intent? How are they behaving as their recruiting ramps up? What are they producing on social media? The University of Washington recruits student athletes they’re confident in, not just guys that can play. And it’s obviously working as they have the deepest and most talented secondary in the country.
Being able to share Ajene Harris’ story on the Pac-12 Networks was a gift. Coming out of HS in South Central Los Angeles as a QB he had minimal offers. Once USC offered him a full scholarship – his dream school – he was in. From that day on his work ethic was obvious. In fact, Harris would take the local bus to USC Campus and work out with then-USC QB Max Browne prior to his freshman season. Now playing a key role as a defensive back, his grit and love for the craft is evident when you watch him play. Learning about his mother helped me understand the “Why” behind his development. You can see the feature, produced by Annie Gottlieb for Our Stories, a show in its second year, on the Pac-12 Networks.
Texas-USC is going to be a special game. I was 23 years old at the Rose Bowl in 2005 when the two historic programs met for the National championship. I can remember looking up to the stands, taking a breath and actually thinking I would coach in a national championship game every year for the rest of my life. (How things change!) What happened next was the greatest game in the history of college football. I’ve never been able to rewatch that game, but I think about it often. That’s why getting to catch up with legendary Texas head coach Mack Brown earlier this week was so special. Listen to our conversation on iTunes or on www.YogiRoth.com.