The Love for the Game that Never Died
The article below first appeared on former Auburn player LaDarius Owens’ personal blog. It is an inspirational story that we at Track ‘Em Tigers are pleased to share with our readers.
I guess I should set the tone right now seeing how this is my first blog post. I am LaDarius Owens, but you can call or refer to me as “LO”. I’m sure my life is no different than many of you who are reading this, especially those of you who have played college sports or even those of you who may not have. The story is usually the same right? Go to college, make good grades, get your degree and then get a good job. Well I did all that and then some. The “and some” is playing football for a nationally ranked D-1 university.
You would think that there’s no doubt that I have this great job right? That’s not necessarily true. Like many other former college student athletes and normal students alike, being in the real world is nothing like college life. When you are a college athlete there is so much structure involved from coaches, professors, mentors and advisors that it is almost impossible to get off task and fail.
Once you have used up that last year of eligibility, you are no longer under that type of structure. You no longer have anyone telling you where to be or when to be there. After you have been practically spoon-fed during the four or five years of being a student athlete, it’s almost like you are thrown to the wolves and you have to learn to survive on your own. The wolf, in this case, is corporate America. Now you have to find a job, a place to live and your own food. You no longer have those scholarship checks coming to you, no more student housing and no more meal plan cards.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “But you have your college degree right?” Well actually I have my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, but the lesson you quickly learn out in the jungle of corporate America is that it takes more than a piece of paper to get a decent paying job or find a career. The name of the game is how much do you know and more importantly “who” do you know. The truth is if you apply for a job that the manager or boss has already promised or saved for one of their family members or friends who do you think most likely gets that job? That’s just the world we live in, can’t sit around and cry about it. You’re have to scratch and claw for everything you get out here just like you had to in your perspective sport.
For example, and in my case I was invited to rookie mini camp with the Atlanta Falcons on a tryout basis. Even though tryout guys are long shots of making the team, I still had a great showing during camp. Coach Quinn gave me praise after day 1 as we watched film the next day. Rookie camp was only for a few days and on the last day you find out if the team is going to keep you for fall camp and pre-season or not. I felt sure on the last day that without a doubt I would be one of the rare tryout guys who gets a shot at coming back to make the team. Unfortunately that’s not how it played out. I was cut from the team. Yes, I was devastated, and I thought my 20+ year dream was burned to hell, or so I thought.
I cried and felt sorry for myself for all of one day, not because I’m just this tough guy, but because I didn’t have time to keep crying. I knew I had to find a job, I knew my situation. I didn’t have much money in the bank and no income in sight for the foreseeable future, my stomach started growling really fast. So I had to get up and job search the very next day after my life-long dreams had been crushed. I was fortunate enough to get hired by Liberty Mutual Insurance. Things were looking up for me. Little did I know that life had a stronger right hook than Mike Tyson, and after two months, the person who hired me left for a better job, which left our office in a spot where we had to merge with another Liberty Mutual office, and basically I was left without a job because of the merger.
I was in Atlanta with a new apartment and lease without a job in less than a few months after moving there. Again, I had no time to sit around and feel sorry for myself or panic; I prayed and had faith that God would make a way. After about two or three weeks I got a job with this “marketing” company, or so I thought, but in reality it was a sales job and I mean a real sales job, like door -to -door sales job. I had never had any experience in sales, but I had to pay the bills and rent somehow.
At this particular business we were authorized business dealers for T-Mobile, in layman’s terms we sold cell phone plans. My job was to go in to any and every business in a given territory and try to talk to business owners and managers to convince them to switch over from their current carriers to T-Mobile. Talk about hard work, I believe this was one of the most challenging jobs in the world one could have. Who would’ve thought an Auburn graduate with two degrees would be struggling like this, right? I literally drove around every part of Atlanta all day from 8 until whenever and walked into every business I saw and basically pitched everyone in the building. I encountered attack dogs, racists and just people who were pure evil and didn’t want to talk to me.
However, I must admit I was pretty good for the couple months I did the job. I even won a few of the companies sales records and made some good money while doing it. One day while out in the field, I got a call from my mom and we were just talking and she told me about her taking a title loan on her car and it instantly ticked me off. I was upset because I was making enough money to take care and keep a roof over my head doing a job I hated, but I wasn’t able to help my mom. In that moment, I decided to get back on the football field.
I parked my car and found an email that I had received months ago from a Canadian Football League (CFL) team and called the number in the email. I spoke with the Assistant General manager of the Ottawa Redblacks and asked him if they were still interested in me and if there was anything I could do in order to get another shot at being on their team. I honestly didn’t even expect an answer back because I had rejected their offer back when, I got cut by the Falcons; I thank God he called me back and offered me a future deal. At that moment I felt a familiar feeling in my heart and gut, it was that same passionate feeling and love for the game of football I had had before the devastating encounter in the Falcon’s mini camp. I have found my first love again.
Readers can follow LaDarius’ journey as he goes through making it in professional football by checking out his lionfaith site. There you will find his own story of overcoming adversity as he gives an, “up close and personal look into the world of a former collegiate athlete and NFL free agent who has a dream and is running with it. [His] story is one of perseverance, humility, courage and faith.”