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In Football, Love Lasts Longer than Loss

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

The Navy Football brotherhood is like a candle you can’t extinguish. No matter how many decades blow by, or how many setbacks or brothers we lose along the way, the candle remains lit. Through our shared hardship decades ago, we built a lasting fellowship that will never be extinguished.

edhinman@barbarianinyou.com
After Final Navy Home Game, 1998

Wins and Losses


Last Saturday, the Navy Football Team lost in double overtime to Army. Watching the Navy players double over in pain with tears in their eyes reminded me about the agony of a big loss. As if this loss wasn’t tough enough, a few hours later their beloved head coach, Ken Niumatalolo (a man who also coached me 25 years ago at Navy), was fired in the locker room.


Oh man… college football. When you play football (or any sport really) you live for the highest highs and quiver through the lowest lows. As a team, you are measured by your wins and losses. Your weekly mood is influenced by those wins and losses. And for your coaches, their livelihood is determined by those wins and losses.


But now that I’m 46 years old and far removed from the game, I’ll say this: I really don’t give a shit about the wins and losses I experienced 25 years ago. And no one who loves me cares about those wins and losses either. What they do care about is the man those wins and losses helped produce.


Fellowship is Earned


As the text messages from the “USNA ’99 Yard Dogs” group of former teammates pinged my phone last Saturday, my old roommate and teammate, Greg “Griz” Adams, wrote everyone this text after traveling to Philadelphia with his wife and two sons to watch the Army-Navy game.


“I reconnected with some people that I have not seen in decades. People I have experienced some of the greatest highs and the deepest lows with – and through it all, there’s just us – not a win-loss record, just us and our friendship.”


Reading Greg’s words warmed my heart and reminded me that the close friendships he described come with one caveat: they must be earned. And because they’re earned, those friendships last a lifetime.


Think about all the tight-knit teams and friendships you’ve forged in life. Chances are, the more adversity you faced together, the tighter your bond became. Fellowship isn’t free; it requires hardship. Yet, through the toils of hardship blossoms love and lasting friendship.



edhinman@barbarianinyou.com
Matt Harden and #93 Greg Adams at Army-Navy Game, 2022

Rock Bottom

Lasting friendships typically don’t gel when you’re both CEOs of companies; they merge when you’re at the very bottom. And that’s where Greg and I began at Navy Football: rock bottom. And when I say “rock bottom,” I don’t mean the third or fourth string on the posted depth chart in the locker room; I mean tenth string with no eleventh string behind us.

Beginning in the college football equivalent of the corporate mail room, Greg and I spent our entire freshman season on the scout team. Then we spent our entire sophomore season on the scout team. By the end of our sophomore year, we were prime candidates for tenured positions on the Navy Football scout team. And then Greg did something extraordinary: he squatted 650 pounds.

I’ll never forget spring practice at the end of our sophomore year. During warmups, our gruff Defensive Coordinator, who had barely acknowledged Greg’s existence until that moment, began telling anyone who would listen, “Did you hear about Grizzly Adams? He squatted 650! Not a lot of people can do that.”


Around that time, that same defensive coordinator (a real teacher for me, by the way) called me into his office. “Hin,” he said (because coaches hate syllables), “we’re moving you [from defense] to offensive line. We want you to compete for a spot on this football team.” And so off I went… to the land of seven-man sleds and endless pasta dinners at the Olive Garden.


A few months later, Griz and I ran out of the tunnel against San Diego State for the first game of our junior year. By our senior year, we played in every game, Greg as a starting defensive tackle. Just before kickoff of each game, we'd spot each other on the sideline and run towards one another for a giant hug. In full embrace, facemask to facemask, we’d just scream above the roaring crowd, “Can you believe this shit!? I love you!” And off we’d go for some smash mouth football. It was a glorious time.


Hardship and Perseverance = Lasting Brotherhood


Just like any successful person who begins entry level in their career, when you climb the ranks from tenth string to first, you experience a lot of shit along the way. Will you make excuses? Will you quit? Or will you persevere? Through the hard road from scout team to varsity, you learn a lot about yourself along the way. Above all, you learn that how you do things (your focus, effort, and discipline) determines who you will become as a team – and eventually who you become as a man.


Because so many of us on that team persevered, we came together as a brotherhood. Crushing workouts, running gassers, playing through pain, eating every meal, and traveling city to city where we’d celebrate a win or suffer a loss – we did all of it together. As a result, we formed tight friendships that will last a lifetime.


The Navy Football brotherhood is like a candle you can’t extinguish. No matter how many decades blow by, or how many setbacks or brothers we lose along the way, the candle remains lit. Through our shared hardship decades ago, we built a lasting fellowship that will never be extinguished.


To the young men at Navy Football today, the disappointment of losing to Army last week will fade, but the flame you’ve ignited through winter workouts, spring ball, summer conditioning, and fall games will last forever.


When you give your all, you get even more in return.

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