I live in what was once your home town. I have a son who cannot wait to be old enough to proudly sport a Tivy Antlers jersey. I have a son who watched you play high school football and even met you a time or two when you still lived here. This same son quickly broke his mama’s burnt orange heart and converted to an Aggie when you committed to A&M. He has your jersey and still wears it with great pride. And that’s why, even though you’ll likely never see this, I have to write this letter.
My son, and my family, watch every game. Even this burnt orange wearing mom has cheered you on since blue & gold were your Friday Night Lights colors. But besides the games, unfortunately, we’ve also watched the mistakes in the public eye. How can we miss them? Until recently, you paraded them around on social media as if you felt you were untouchable. And that’s led us, and many other parents I’m sure, to have hard conversations with our son. Conversations that talk about character being more important than fame. Conversations about your true worth not being found in your athletic ability, but in your daily actions that define you as a person. Conversations about the responsibility that comes with success and fame. Conversations about how you are a great athlete, but not a great role model.
But here’s the thing. My 6th grade son teaches me a lot about life. And even after today’s game he sees redemption for you. As I sat, as a very frustrated fan and mom, watching you trash talk and wondering if you’ve learned a single lesson lately…as I sat (ok, I don’t sit. I walk around as much as coaches and talk at players like you can hear me) and told you to get the chip off your shoulder and just play…I listened to my son see the good. He still sees (as America does) what a tremendous athlete you are. He still sees that you’re not just good at football, you have a gift. He still sees that Tivy High School Senior that came to his elementary school and worked with some of the kids during PE. And he talked about it today, with a little disappointment in his voice because of the choices you’ve made recently.
Then I remembered something. The day I became a Johnny fan. And football had nothing to do with it. I remembered a high school boy at dinner with his family (at Acapulco’s in Kerrville) and my then elementary age son DYING to go say hi. We wouldn’t let him because we wanted your family to eat in peace. But just days before that you had been at his school. He met you. And was convinced that made you life long friends. As we were leaving, my son made eye contact with you and you said hi. I don’t know if you remembered him or not, but my son was convinced you did. The two of you exchanged a quick conversation and we went on our way. But you left an impression on me. A good one. I saw a kid who, even though you were getting a lot of local press and your star was rising, still took time to talk to my son. You didn’t have to. And that day I became a fan.
I’m still a fan. Because I think you’re still that kid from Tivy High School who can flash that winning smile and make a 4th grader’s day. You’ve beat Alabama, resurrected a storied football program, won a Heisman and a bowl game. But I think at your core, you’re still a good person. Who carries, and has cracked under the weight of, a lot of responsibility and pressure.
But my son is teaching me to see the chance for redemption in everyone. And that’s what he sees in you right now. So, as a mom, I’m choosing to see it, too. I don’t know your parents, but I’m guessing your mom has had some frank talks with you. So as a mom, I’m going to have a frank talk “at” you.
Refocus on your faith. Somewhere in all of this, the faith you’ve talked about has left the forefront. Your faith will ground you, strengthen you, and give you the confidence to walk away from the trash talk that will be there. It will be there. IGNORE it!
Stay away from social media. I think someone else has already gotten that point across though, because you haven’t broadcasted your life in a while. And that’s a good thing. Yes, you have fans that want to “see” your life. But honestly, it’s no one’s business. Allow yourself a private life. You don’t owe anyone pictures. And as you’ve seen, those who don’t want you to succeed will use this all against you.
Remember that little eyes are watching you. Kids look up to you. And as a parent, it’s never fun to have to knock a knight off of his horse. I want my son to look up to you as a person who made mistakes, but found redemption. As a person who acknowledged mistakes and righted the ship. As a person who earned respect, not because of athletic ability but because of character in the face of trial. Stop being a lesson in what not to do. And start living your God-given potential. Notice nothing that I’ve said here has anything to do with football? Because IT DOESN’T MATTER! If you don’t live a life of character and fulfill your God-given potential, NONE OF IT matters.
It’s not too late to right the ship. It’s not too late to sit down with your family, your coaches, your teammates be accountable and be the leader you were created to be. There’s a reason you weren’t voted a Team Captain this year. And it has nothing to do with your age. You have a God-given gift. You could be one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. You have a platform to make a difference, to influence lives, to do good. And I may be in the minority and maybe a little naive, but I believe you want to do it right. But you have to start doing it differently and surround yourself with people who will keep you grounded.
You have a gift. And for now, you still have this family as fans. And we’re looking hard for reasons to stay fans. And we pray for you. Not because we know you, but because we’ll never understand the pressure you feel or the weight of the responsibility you carry. And because we’ve all made our own mistakes. And have found redemption. The same that’s there for you.
Wife, mom, fan
TFND (because Gig ‘em just isn’t in my vocabulary. Have I mentioned I bleed burnt orange?)