January 22, 2012

5 Inspirational Lessons to Take Away from the 2011 College Football Season

Sports Illustrated January

Sports Illustrated Jan. 14, 2012

Sports fan or not, the 2011 college football season contained important life lessons. Michelle Ryan recaps five of them and what they mean for us all.

The 2011 college football season officially ended with the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans Jan. 9. And, much like the entire season, it wasn’t without its controversy. Typically, year-ending and season-ending events make us nostalgic and reflective, but too often the negative gets a nod on best-of, worst-of, most-controversial or top-story lists.

So, in keeping with the hopefulness that’s still fresh (hopefully) for 2012, this list will be slightly different, focusing on what we learned and how we can continue to apply it this year. Here are the top five positive events—and the lessons we can take away from them—from the 2011 college football season:

1. Eric LeGrand Returning to the Field: Rutgers football star Eric LeGrand led his Scarlet Knights onto the field in his wheelchair, almost a year after being paralyzed from the neck down in a 2010 game. Voters tabbed the emotional scene as Sports Illustrated’s 2011 Moment of the Year, and it was featured on the cover of the Dec. 26 issue. LeGrand continues to slowly improve, and just last month was able to sit up.

What It Means: Medicine may explain how the body functions, but it can’t touch how heart and determination can help you overcome the odds.

2. Alabama Winning the National Title: Much like the New Orleans Saints after Hurricane Katrina, the Alabama Crimson Tide brought the championship home, this time a symbol of hope for a town rocked by deadly and destructive tornadoes.

What It Means: When you think you’re at your weakest, your fight and resolve can be at their strongest.

3. BCS Controversy: Had it not been for the controversial rematch between two teams from the same division in the same conference that had already played, do you think the BCS would be considering alternatives right now? Not likely. Detractors of the system have long lobbied against it. Ironic that the very matchup they didn’t want to see may have the power to finally enact the change they wanted.

What It Means: If you don’t like something, you have the power to change it. Just don’t give up. Ever.

4. Alan Moore Making the Team: He wasn’t in the Heisman race, nor was his team battling for the national championship, but there’s much to be learned from Alan Moore. At 61, the Vietnam veteran returned to the football field for Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., to become the oldest kicker in the NAIA.

What It Means: It’s never too late to achieve your dreams, as long as you don’t let them die.

5. New Beginnings: If your team came up a little—or a lot—short, there’s always next year. ESPN announcers got an early start on that the day after the national championship game by naming their way-too-early top five teams for the 2012 season, which doesn’t kick off until September.

What It Means: Don’t go by the calendar or season to get going. Starting over can mean tomorrow or the top of the next hour—or minute.

About the Author

Michelle Ryan
Michelle Ryan
Michelle Ryan is obsessed with good food, great shoes and Alabama football way down South in Savannah, Georgia. She hasn’t met a kitchen gadget she hasn’t at least thought about buying (trying them is another story) and devotes her time to Bikram Yoga, baking and trying to overcome long-held finicky eating habits.