UK quarterback Ryan Mossakowski to Patheos.com's Timothy Dalrymple, Ph.D., on if the injury to his throwing shoulder suffered his senior year in high school has made him a better football player:
"Yes sir, I believe I am. I get up at 5:45 or 6 in the morning. I hear from so many people who complain about how they have to go workout. But I wake up fired up to go workout. I know that so many people would die to be in my shoes."
"Same thing with practice. Some players say they don't want to go to practice today, but it is truly a blessing to go out to practice. That's another thing a lot of people forget. There are so many people in this world who would love to be in a position to practice with this team and get ready for games. You have to have that mentality that everything you can do, enjoy it and be happy, because God can take it away in an instant."
Setting: The Howlett household.
When: March 22, 1986.
The University of Kentucky basketball team, led by All-America Kenny Walker, has just lost 59-57 to LSU in their NCAA Tournament Elite Eight match-up. Twenty-one year old Ken (that's me), distraught at the unexpected and vastly unpleasant outcome, throws a shoe out of frustration and breaks a mirror in the hallway.
Perspective within the sporting community, be it a Little League baseball game, or the BCS title tilt, is more often than not skewed in favor of our own narcissistic needs. That truth is abundantly clear, and ever-present in the lives of fans, players, and coaches. Fans want their team to win to satisfy their need for affirmation that they've picked the right team to root for, either by choice or birthright; players want to win, even more so than the fans, because of the ultra-competitive nature instilled in their DNA at conception; and coaches want to win so they can keep their J.O.B.'s.
Not that there is anything wrong with wanting to win. What was it Adolph Rupp said? If it doesn't matter who wins, then why do they keep score? But, when winning becomes ones all-consuming passion, at the cost of balance in ones life ... does the winning then do more damage than good?
The all-consuming passion to win, which leads some to fracture the rules of the game, is what brought us steroids in baseball and football, cheating scandals in the NFL, and Major League Baseball, as well as college basketball and football. Closer to home, the all-consuming passion to win has gotten the University of Kentucky sports programs in hot water with the NCAA Infractions Committee on numerous occasions, and sadly, even the high schools in Kentucky and around the nation have been caught in the net of the need to win at all costs. The all-consuming passion to win was the motivation for one University of Colorado football player to stab his teammate in the leg in hopes of winning the starting punting position. The all-consuming passion to win was the impetus behind figure skater Tanya Harding giving her approval to her husband for the knee cap job ultimately perpetrated on a competitor.
Some athletes, especially the elite breed (and even coaches and fans), become so consumed with winning, that their single-minded focus is solely on the events that take place between the lines of competition. All else is secondary, and unimportant, which leads to an inflated sense of self-worth for the athlete and coach, and an overzealous (see the shoe throwing incident), unbalanced life of cheering for the home team, for the fan. We've all seen it, and some of us may have lived it, either as a player, fan, or coach.
And then, there is UK redshirt freshmen quarterback, Ryan Mossakowski. Kentucky's 6-4, 220 pound possible quarterback of the (near) future, at a very young age, has mastered the art of putting football where it belongs. Below his faith, and his family. And he isn't indebted to football, he isn't football's slave.
Mossakowski, an All-America high school quarterback out of Frisco, Texas, under the leadership of his parents and high school football coach, has become the epitome of living a balanced life. Not consumed with winning, but wanting to win ... Not consumed with performance, but wanting to perform well ... Not consumed with celebrity, but wanting a platform on which to share his beliefs. Mossakowski truly appreciates his abilities, but he isn't ruled by them.
Mossakowski's perspective, one of football third, might seem to some as inhibiting to his growth as a player. Some might denounce his sense of values as being detrimental to his game, but Mossakowski has 7,433 yards and 51 touchdowns thrown for in his shortened high school career that says otherwise. And sports fans, those numbers were accrued in Texas, where the Friday night lights burn brighter and more intense than anywhere else in the country.
Furthermore, to his great credit, Mossakowski doesn't possess a sense entitlement based on his extraordinary gifts, rather, he feels lucky and blessed to have within his talents the ability to throw a football farther, and more accurately, than nearly anyone else on the planet. Billions of people in this world, and Mossakowski was the recipient of a bolt of lightening, dropping from the sky, and taking up residence in his right arm. And when the golden arm was damaged by a torn labrum in the middle of his senior year at Centennial High School, Mossakowski responded not with a woe is me, instead, his outlook and attitude are clear for all to see in his words to Timothy Dalrymple:
"So I learned not to take for granted so many things in life -- and not just football. There are so many people in this world who can't get up on their own, can't eat, can't talk, can't walk, can't do so many things that everyone else takes for granted each and every day. So I just thank God for giving me the little abilities to do those things. It's a remarkable blessing to play the game of football. God has shown me that through my injury."
No, moms and dads, Mossakowski is not eligible for adoption.
But, Mossakowski is eligible to play football at the University of Kentucky, and one can only hope he is infectious to his teammates, coaches, and fans. And whether Mossakowski wins the starting quarterback job, or not, he will most assuredly be a leader. Players, fans, and even coaches follow the real thing, and Mossakowski is the genuine article. His enlightened perspective will be a magnet to those players searching for leadership, and his authentic appreciation for his talent, should serve as an example to us all.
To read Timothy Dalrymple's article/interview with Ryan Mossakowski, follow this link. I can't articulate how much I recommend the read.
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!