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What Does it Take to Be Number One?

Since our game last Friday, I really gave a lot of thought to this. I did truthfully, probably more than I normally do. Usually, I start thinking about this speech on like a Monday or Tuesday and then get my thoughts collected. Wednesday, I start typing it out. Thursday, put on the finishing touches throughout the day.

This one took me a long time to think about. The way in which we won, the way in which we did not show up like we needed to early on. But the resiliency of our team and the response later on in the game, is what made the difference.

coach-marshall-intense-with-radio (1)Lord knows how much longer I have left coaching. It's been 18 years. But if I had to leave today, here's what I would say, and I think this rings true not just today but hopefully every day in your life. It's really two quotes. One, I'm not familiar with who said it, but I've heard it before. I've even said it myself. 

But I'll start with this: "Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times."

So I thought of this as I go ahead and think about not only our season but previous seasons, the last six seasons that I've been the head coach. And we have had hard times. We came from hard times, to be honest with you. If you know the history of the program, and it's those hard times that have created the strong men of the program. And then the strong men of that program have made good times. And then the good times have maybe created some weak men. And those weak men have created hard times throughout the program.

Because when you win and you win consistently, everybody thinks it's expected.

Everybody thinks, "Oh, it's just going to happen because we show up, and we're Valpo. That's how it is." And that's not the case.

Notice I didn't say "weak men" as in all of you.

But you see it, you hear it, you know that even amongst us right now, as we are in line to go ahead after another sectional championship, you know that there are people amongst us that are not fully bought in.

That people think they just show up and, "Hey, guess what, I'm going to end up getting a ring, and that's how it works, or I'm going to end up getting my picture taken with a nice big trophy, and that's how it works."

Okay, now some people think that way throughout life too. Some people think that, "Well, you know what, it's just been that way, so it's always going to be that way."

vince-lombardiAnd I want to leave you with this message from one of the most well-renowned coaches in football, Vince Lombardi, that hopefully you carry with you because it's not going to be that way. And that is "What does it take to be number one?" And this is Vince Lombardi's quote.

It's a long one, so bear with me.

He starts out by saying, "You have got to pay the price." 

You've got to pay the price. In our sport, it's that hard offseason. It is those dark and dreary days when you're sitting in the weight room, and it's crunch time, and you've been doing it monotonously again and again and again and again for days at a time every week in the offseason. It's all that hard time spent, all that hard coaching, that discipline that it takes. You've got to pay the price.

He goes on to say, "Winning is not a sometimes thing; it's an all the time thing." I go back to a book that I read, "Extreme Ownership." Jocko Willink, a former Navy SEAL, is quoted as saying, "Listen, discipline equals freedom." Discipline in life, I go back to it, a Navy Admiral, and again, I listen to these things on podcasts and everything else. Like, you want to accomplish something, get up and make your bed because that task finished starts your day of tasks accomplished throughout the course of the day.

And again, it all ties in with what Vince Lombardi said. He goes, "You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit." It's like anything else, for winners, it's almost as easy as sitting there and not even thinking about it and biting your nails, which is a habit. Winners, they wake up winning, and it starts as simple as possibly making that bed or doing what you need to do or helping out around the house or being that figurehead of your future family.

But at the same time, as he says, unfortunately, much like winning is a habit, so is losing. And we've all experienced that. We've experienced it in other people; we've experienced it maybe in our own lives, in our own families. We've experienced people who will just sitting there and make an excuse and a complaint, and a cry for help when they haven't even tried to help themselves. There is no room, as Vince Lombardi said, for second place. And he doesn't mean in losing a game, please understand that.

"There is only one place in my game and that is first place." He's talking about life.

"I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don't ever want to finish second. There is a second-place bowl game, but it's a game for losers played by losers."

He's not referencing a football game anymore; he's back to real life, back to excuse-makers. "It has always been the American zeal to be the first in anything we do, and to win, and to win" 

i-sq7tWfj-X3[1]Now he's back into the game of football. "Every time a football player goes out to ply his trade, he's got to play from the ground up, from the soles of his feet right up to his head." As much as this is a physical sport, it is a mental game, and some of us are having a hard time with that mental game in life. Some of you are having a hard time with the mental game.

Some guys play with their heads, meaning that's all they play with; they're very analytical. They just use their heads, and that's okay. You have to be smart to be number one in any business. Now he's way off; he's not even talking about football anymore. He's talking about business. But more importantly, you've got to play with your heart, with every single fiber of your body. If you are lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a whole lot of heart, he is never going to come off the field or in life second.

Running a football team, as Vince Lombardi said, is no different from running any other kind of organization, an army, a political party, even a business. The principles are the same, and the object is to win.

A lot of times, as athletes, we get ingrained in our head that all we worry about is winning, all we care about is winning. You're damn right because if you're not winning, you're losing.

If you're losing, that means that you're losing hope, you're losing motivation, you're losing the aptitude for wanting to be there and the desire. The object is to win; the object will always be to beat the other guy.

Sometimes that other guy may be the guy staring back at you in the mirror, the guy telling you, "You can't, you won't, it's not possible." But you've got to beat that other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel, as Vince Lombardi says, but I don't think it is. It's a reality of life that men are competitive, and the most competitive game draws the most competitive men.

There's a reason why none of you have stepped into a UFC octagon before because you're not at that level of competitiveness, not yet. Maybe someday you will if that's what you aspire to do. But you have decided to step into our rectangle, which is that field of play. It's a reality, again, I'm sorry, I repeat myself; he says that's why they are there to compete. They know the rules and the objectives, and when they get in the game, the objective is to win fairly, squarely, decently, but playing by the rules. But make no mistake, they play it to win.

In truth, I have never known a man worth his salt who is in the long run, deep down in his heart, who did not appreciate the grind or the discipline that it took to be number one. There is something in good men that really yearns for and needs discipline.

As I mentioned, discipline equals freedom, and the harsh reality is that life and football are sometimes head-to-head combat. I don't say these things Vince Lombardi goes on because I believe in the brute nature of man or that men must be brutalized to go ahead and be in combat.

He says, "I believe in God and I believe in human decency, but I firmly believe that a man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle, victorious."

That's Vince Lombardi. That is winning in life, that is being number one in sport, that is waking up every day as if you have something to prove.

Make no mistake, whether it be tomorrow or beyond, you have something to prove. You have already learned; nothing will be handed to you.

Some of you may have not learned it as hard as others, but make no mistake; you will learn to put things into perspective.

i-5Tg4XWj-XL[1]If we are fortunate enough to come away with the win tomorrow, to give you an idea of how quick this timeline is counting down, you only have 12 more practices total if we were to go ahead and continue to win.

12 practices, I know many of you look back on that schedule on the board in there, the digital countdown clock that's days total days in a calendar.

I can remember when it said 300 on it, I can remember Matt Hofer writing in the weight room in January a countdown that still had 300, 200, and 100. You have right now one more day that is guaranteed with the possibility of 12 more practices and three more competitions.

What does it take, as he said, to be number one?

Go Vikings!