The Dash of Life – N.C. State football style

I had the pleasure and opportunity to speak to the football team at North Carolina State University as part of their “Real World Wednesdays” guest speaker series. This is a cool program that Coach Dave Doeren put together for Wolfpack players to see people from beyond the athletic world.

They have speakers from all walks of life and it was a lot of fun to share some encouraging words with the team.


I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I said to the team. Now, some of that is confidential. We can’t give away all our secrets and strategies for putting another winning team on the field next season. However, I did share with them that what they do between the time they are born and the time that they die is extremely important.

I call it the Dash of Life. You have a birth date and a death date. On most tombstones, there is a long dash in between those dates. You might live 50 years or 100, but there is still that dash in between.

What did you do with the time you were given? How far did you go? Did you give it everything you had? Those are some of the questions I asked the players and coaches at N.C. State.

This past season was interesting for N.C. State football. After starting off 4-1, including a win against Notre Dame on national television, it looked like N.C. State was about pull off its biggest win of the season. They had Clemson, the eventual national champion, on the ropes and just couldn’t close the deal. The game went to overtime and the Tigers won 24-17.

Ouch, ouch, ouch! That loss hurt. I can’t imagine what it was like to be a player after that loss.

That loss started a tailspin that had things going south fast. N.C. State lost four straight games (Clemson, Louisville, Boston College and Florida State) and the adversity was piling up. The Wolfpack was 4-5 and it was going to take a strong finish to even become bowl eligible.

This team was facing adversity to say the least. That’s the thing about college football. Every season is a “dash.” People quickly forget what you did last year. Sometimes, they don’t even want to talk about what you did last week! It’s tough.

The team beat Syracuse, but lost to a good Miami team the following week. N.C. State was 5-6 and needed to beat our biggest rival North Carolina in the last game of the season in Chapel Hill, N.C. to become bowl eligible.

I was at the Carolina game and we came out firing on all cylinders. We got the win and earned a spot in the Camping World Independence Bowl. I took my son, Spencer to that bowl game in Shreveport, La. and the Wolfpack had their best game of the season, beating Vanderbilt 41-17 to close out a 7-6 season in a big way.

So, I’m talking to the same group of players and coaches that I followed closely all season. You can’t make this stuff up. I told them how I was there with them the whole way on the edge of my seat each game. I didn’t go to every game, but I was there for more in person than I missed.

I told the guys that I was proud of what they did with their “dash” this past season. In the middle, things got rough. They decided to overcome it and prove some doubters wrong late in the season.

The coaches never made excuses. They kept working hard and stay focused on what was in front of them. I love that! I can’t wait to see what they will do this season because I think the program has turned the corner and I expect big things from the team this fall.

Another point I stressed to the team was to be good teammates and keep dreaming big. I urged them to make good decisions and encourage each other to be better every single day.

Can you imagine what can happen when every single person is doing what they are supposed to be doing when they are supposed to be doing it, without somebody telling them to do it? That’s what leadership is all about.

The world needs more leaders. Are you doing everything you can today to be a better leader and server of people? If you knew that being a leader would take to you to places and heights you never thought were possible, would you give 100 percent to everything you do?

I believe we can all do more. We can get more accomplished. We can help more people.

When your “dash” is over, what do you want your legacy to be? Will people nod and say, “Job well done,” when they talk about you?

I believe in you. Make this the time when you decide to be a leader and run as far as you can. Don’t just aim for the finish line. Aim for a legacy.

One thought on “The Dash of Life – N.C. State football style

  1. Neal Rabedeaux

    Thank-you for everything you do that keeps us focused and our dash! Great article for a great 2017.

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