We’re creeping into the part of the season when everyone has to be at their best, so let’s look for some midweek motivation. Here’s what we’re talking about today.

1. 17 Star Athletes Who Didn’t Start Until Their Senior Year of High School (Stack)

Are you finding it difficult to motivate the players who aren’t getting much playing time? Here’s a great story for them. It’s a list of NFL players who didn’t start until their senior year of high school, including Carson Wentz, Clay Matthews III, Marcus Mariota, Barry Sanders, Devonta Freeman and Khalil Mack.

“There are athletes who didn’t start until their senior year of high school who went on to do extraordinary things. I’m talking NBA MVP, MLB All-Star, Pro Football Hall of Fame-type things.

The key is being prepared to take full advantage of your opportunity once it presents itself. That means working hard and getting better outside the spotlight.”

Wentz’s story is of particular interest to coaches stressing perseverance and work ethic. He did not get recruited by a major FBS school, redshirted his freshman year at North Dakota State, and did not earn the starting job until his redshirt junior year in college. Luckily, he’d been through a similar situation in high school, so he knew his patience and persistence could pay off.

“The Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro quarterback was a back-up for much of his high school career.

When Wentz entered Century High School (Bismarck, North Dakota) as a freshman, he was rather puny. He stood about 5-foot-8 and weighed 125 pounds. “

More motivation: Do you have a story of a player who waited his turn for a starting role and then became a star?

2. The NFL’s New All-Time Passing Leader Drew Brees Was a ‘B’ Team Backup in High School (MaxPreps)

Here’s one with a similar theme — high school backup turned NFL star. Did you know Drew Brees started his football career as the backup of the “B” team at Westlake (Austin, Texas) in high school?

“Some of his former Westlake coaches were stunned that he’s even playing on Sundays.

“Not a prayer — not then,” said his Westlake varsity offensive coordinator Neal LaHue in 2010. “He had a pretty strong arm but he couldn’t run out of sight in a day.”

Brees lifted his play immensely at Westlake. He never lost a game as a starting quarterback at Westlake, earned All-American honors at Purdue — one of only two Division I schools to offer him a scholarship — and now he’s NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards. He makes up for a lack of arm strength and foot speed through his intangibles..

“Drew was one of the best leaders I’ve ever coached, if not the best,” LaHue told the Austin Statesmen after resigning as head coach from Hays (Buda, Texas) in 2017. “He just had a way with that team, and you can still see it now. He was a great player, a great young man, a great leader.”

It’s a good example of why we should never let our players make excuses out of their God-given skill set. Hard work can overcome a lot of limitations.

Have you ever seen a player you never expected to make it move on to play at the next level?

3. High School Player Died of Cardiac Arrest Stemming From Head Injury, Coroner Says (CNN)

This next one is not an uplifting story, but it’s an important one for high school coaches to consider. Dylan Thomas, the Georgia high school football player who died after a game last month, succumbed to cardiac arrest stemming from a head injury, the Pike County coroner said in a Tuesday statement.

“The 16-year-old’s death has been ruled an accident, the statement said. Specifically, his cardiac arrest was the result of “traumatic brain injury due to or as a consequence of a closed head injury.”

Thomas, a linebacker, fell in the third quarter of a September 28 football game between his Pike County Pirates and Peach County High School.

“Dylan needed assistance standing but was alert and responsive to questions when he told trainers that he had lost feeling in his left leg, the coroner’s statement said.
He was helped off the field and examined by an orthopedic surgeon and the Pike County certified trainer, the Georgia High School Association said.
Dylan’s condition began deteriorating roughly seven minutes after he came off the field, according to the coroner.”

It’s a scary situation, and certainly one we all hope to avoid. It shows the importance of monitoring each impact, having trained professionals on the sideline, and erring on the side of caution at every turn.

Do you have a plan that keeps players safe in practice and in games?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk!

About the author

Dan Guttenplan