University of Texas (UT) football senior Connor Huffman posted a heart-warming open letter to Coach Charlie Strong on his personal blog. With a three season, 16-21 record, UT released Strong on Nov. 26 with a contract buyout of $10.2 million for his remaining 2 years.
“You created an environment where you challenged us to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually. I know that I, personally, am a dramatically different person than the one I was when I showed up for my first workout almost three years ago, and I hope you know that you have played a part in that transformation by the environment you have built for our team,” Huffman wrote.
And he further stated, “Football has never just been about wins and losses to you, it’s always been more about the life lessons we can learn from this sport.”
Even more powerful than the words in the letter is the subtle nuance that these words come from a walk-on player. In the hierarchy of Division 1 Sports, most walk-on athletes occupy the rung just above the low-level interns on the team.
What starts here changes the world.
If Coach Strong had such a major impact with a walk-on athlete who comes from what appears to be a stable background (3rd generation longhorn), just imagine the impact he had on the other young men on the team who came from less fortunate backgrounds and could benefit the most from having an exemplar male role model to learn from.
The three memories Connor focuses on from his interactions with Coach Strong are all prime examples of the wisdom of truly judging someone by what kind of person they are when the world is not watching.
The sadness and irony in the handling of Coach Strong’s dismissal is that the UT tagline is “What starts here changes the world.” From all accounts (even from those most adamant he had to go), Coach Strong was focused on doing just that: instilling the discipline and habits to turn teenagers into productive and functioning men in society.
The longhorns most famous fan and alum Matthew McConaughey shares his thoughts with a local ABC Reporter regarding Coach Strong’s legacy.
Perhaps the treatment of Coach Strong would be easier to stomach if the collegiate system gave up the obvious hypocrisy between the University’s motto and the removal of a coach that believed and taught it. How refreshing it would be if the school would just admit that wins and losses, revenues, and major boosters’ support are the prime motivators behind college athletics. At least we’d have honesty if major athletic programs would just acknowledge that the long-term emotional and mental development of the athletes is a very distant priority.
You can read Connor’s full post on his personal blog.