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Eastern Michigan University

After high school football, I wanted to play college football. Because I didn't have a scholarship or enough money to go to college and I had to take another route. That meant going into the military and getting the G.I. Bill. While I was in the 82nd Airborne Division, the Chaplin in our unit used to be a linebacker for Kansas State. He name was Chaplin Gimble. At the time, he had the biggest arms I had ever seen. About six month before I got out, I had told him that I wanted to play college ball. He said that he get me a walk-on tryout to any college I wanted. Well, he made a few phone calls and next thing you know, I had a private tryout for Notre Dame. I don't know how it happened but he did it. The tryout would happen after I got out in May of 1980. But after thinking about it for a while, he said that it would be better if I went to a smaller school because then I could play sooner. At a bigger school, you might just sit on the bench for a while. He asked if there was any school I liked and I told him, "Eastern Michigan." He ask why and I told him that a guy in my platoon had went to Eastern and said it was a good school. Well, he looked at their record and found out that they had losing one. He said, "It looks like they need some help." And that's how I picked Eastern Michigan.

Well, "walking-on" is pretty tough thing to do. The odds of you ever making the team or even playing are pretty much stacked against you. You're competing against guys who have been scouted and hand picked by the coaching staff. You get no respect and you have to really prove yourself.

I remember my first day in summer camp at Eastern. I was fresh out of the 82nd Airborne Division, standing there with all of these freshmen that had scholarships. Some of the freshmen were staring at me, probably become of the determined look on my face. Well, I turned to one of them and said, "I'm getting a scholarship. Come hell or high-water, I'm getting a scholarship." Another freshman linebackers turned to one of his buddies and said, "Man, I hope he doesn't take mine." But that was my attitude. I was going to get a scholarship.

Well, I made the team and after my freshman year, I didn't get a full scholarship but I got a partial. With the G.I. Bill from the military, it was enough.

By my sophomore year, I made the special teams. I was known on the team as the one who worked hard and could hit the piss out of people. I loved running down on the kickoff and breaking up the wedge. I would just throw my body into these guys who protected the ball carrier. I loved it!

The first game I played in, I had made several tackles on special teams. We had lost the game but I played pretty well. One of the starting senior offensive guards didn't have a great game. So the coaches decided to motivate the guy by telling him that I was replacing him. Well, I was supposed to of made him work harder but what it did was made him quit. Well, that left me starting at guard. Even though I played okay, I was by no means great. I had a lot of work ahead of me.

By the summer before my junior year, I busted my butt and put about on 30 pounds muscle. I worked on me speed and technique.

By my junior year, I was weighing 275lbs and started to play pretty well. I remember getting my first letter from a pro team saying that they were interested in me. I was hard to believe that a pro football team thought I had potential. It was awesome!

By my senior year I was weighting about 290lbs and running the forty-yard dash in 4.8. I was on the pre-season All-American list for the annual Playboy Magazine review and Sporting News Magazine. The team even made me a co-captain. Some of the magazines wrote that if I had a good year, I could go as high as the 4th round in the NFL Draft.

Man, everything was great. I had pros scouts watching me everyday in practice. I was big and strong and ready to have a fantastic year. But it was all to good to be true, two days before our first game, I blew out my knee. We were in shorts and shoulder pads, going through half speed practice, when someone was knocked sideways into my legs. My kneecap was dislocated and the patella tendon was partially torn. Suddenly all of those hopes and dreams went away. I was now considered damage goods. I was devastated.

I had my patella tendon reattached and the kneecap realigned but it wasn't the same. When NFL draft day came around, it didn't get selected. I wasn't that disappointed due what had happened to me. But what did surprise me was that on the night of the draft, at 2:00am, the Dallas Cowboys showed up at my apartment doorsteps wanting me to be a free agent for them. Hell, if I could "walk-on" in college, I could be a free agent with Dallas Cowboys!

At Dallas, when I went to camp, I remember getting off the plane and onto a team bus. Man, I had never seen so many big guys. I thought I was big, but these guys were huge! (Later on, I found out that these guys thought the same thing about me. Pretty funny.) Well, my career in the NFL was very short lived. While in camp, I tweaked my knee again and that was it. Dallas, put me on waivers. I heard from my agent that San Francisco was interested but that was it. I went back to Eastern to finish my degree.
Looking back, my experience playing football at Eastern had a huge affect on my life and it has really paid off for me as an actor. I draw a lot of parallels between the two. Like football, acting is a tough business. There is a lot of rejection and heartbreak that hits you everyday but then again, there are successes too. It's a business where you can easily give up.
Playing football at Eastern from 1980 -1984, we won, I think, maybe 4 games. That's a lot of losing. Anybody weaker in mind and soul would have probably quit. And at one time, because we were so bad, they almost got rid of football program all together. But fortunately, they didn't and we continued to play. No matter what people said or how much they laughed at us, we worked hard; playing every down like it was our last. This experience taught me a valuable lesson. The lesson to "never give up". That if you want it bad enough, you'll do whatever it takes to become successful.

When I started in acting, people told me "Don't quit your day job" or "Thanks and have a nice life". But those comments only made me work harder. I just kept plugging away at, taking acting classes, taking voice and speech classes, working on scenes, doing everything that I could to get better and become successful. And now, after ten years of being in this business I've built a good body of work that I can be proud of. But it's not over; I have a long ways to go. And it's something that I really look forward to, the challenge and the struggle. Because when you do succeed, it's all the sweeter.

People in the past may have thought that we were losers. And according to the statistics we were. But in reality we were becoming winners. We were learning to never give up no matter how tough or impossible the obstacle. That with hard work and dedication you can become successful. I remember one of the coaches telling us, "When it gets tough just put your head down and drive!" I find myself repeating that saying from time to time. I bet a lot of the ball players who played during those years have the same feelings and could probably share the same type of story.

 

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