Half Time Adjustments

TRANSFORMATION / Like many of my friends in the NFL, my career ended sooner than I planned. After a gut check, I knew it was time to move on. I retired from the NFL in 1988, after being cut by the Oakland Raiders and did so knowing I would miss it terribly. For thirty years football defined me and my experience developed a toughness, discipline, and fortitude. During NFL off seasons I worked in different occupations to figure out what career to pursue after I retired. I did not find my answer in the search but found my answer during shoulder rehabilitation from an NFL injury. After years breaking bodies, I determined that in my next career I wanted to teach and empower others with skills to rehabilitate themselves, and not only recover, but strengthen their mind, body and spirit. I determined to become a Physical Therapist. This decision would test my family, faith and fortitude.

ROTE MEMORY VS. CRITICAL THINKING Two weeks after I retired, I returned to college. Thankfully I graduated from USC with a bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs but that degree required no science. Ready to attack academic challenges, I sat in Chemistry class taking notes with intensity, and yet, feeling overwhelmed by the foreign language of scientific terminology. Finally, during the lecture my professor asked a question to which I knew the answer to, “What is a mol?” Excited that I knew the meaning, my hand raised high above my 275 pound chiseled frame which barely fit in the seat. Called upon, I proudly proclaimed, “A mole is a furry little creature that lives underground.” When the laughter died down, I reflected and awakened to the reality of how far I had to go. Athletes are trained in rote memory, paying no attention to meaning, but rather training and rehearsing scenarios and when needed, the athlete makes visual and physical adjustments. Science is based in critical thinking which I had never developed. I would have to learn how to construct in my own mind, ideas, principals, and concepts and then effectively apply these ideas, principals and concepts. Worse, I would have to focus on inquiry, readings and activities which would give me ownership of key concepts and principals of science. Panic set in and I looked for a coach to help me make this half-time adjustment. Fortunately, my next course was Micro Biology, though difficult, I had the benefit of Dr Ruth Wrightsmen. Not only was she a brilliant professor; she became my advocate, my coach. After almost failing my first test I went to visit her during office hours where we reviewed my test and she began to teach me how to critically think, like a scientist. Dr. Wrightsmen shared that anyone can build a strong foundation in science if he puts the effort into it. Once I mastered the fundamentals, these fundamentals would become my foundation, then I would become familiar with them, resulting in science becoming easier. Daily I practiced her principals over and over. This proved to be a game changer for me when I realized I could learn to critically think. After overcoming many more academic and financial challenges I finally earned acceptance into the Masters Program of Physical Therapy at Loma Linda University in 1991.

The Loma Linda University Orientation informed our incoming class of 60 that we must successfully complete 8 to 11 courses each semester, maintaining competitive grades (based on a grading curve) in order to remain in the program. Looking around at the 60 young men and women from around the world I gasped thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” The price tag for this venture was $125,000 for the three year program. This provided appropriate stress and magnified the reality that failure was not an option. My journey to earn a Bachelor’s in Health Sciences and Master’s in Physical Therapy would require everything we had financially and as a family. After Nicky learned about the rigor and requirements, she came to me and explained that I had to allow myself the time and space I needed get through the program. She encouraged me to live in the dormitory for the next three years and come home on weekends. She proclaimed with confidence that she could hold down the fort in Capistrano Beach. One week later, like an 18 year old leaving for college, only I was 33, I put the last items in my car and said goodbye. Driving down our street, watching in my rear view mirror, I saw my wife and children waving. I pleaded with God to take care of them. Our son, Beau turned and laid face down on the lawn as I turned the corner. That night I found out that he told my wife, “Mom, I don’t know if I can do this.” There was no turning back now. We all knew what we had to do. The next three years the Lord would bring me to my knees in every dimension, mind, body and spirit. What made me bullet proof was the support of my beloved family and my faith.

3 Replies to Half Time Adjustments

  1. Randy Hammon says:

    Very inspiring story. It’s a bitch to try to replace the passion of what you experienced on the field with education and career. I’m a piss ant in comparison for what you accomplished and experienced– but I’m still a confident piss ant in who I am and Whom I serve!!

    We’re gonna have some fun rekindling our passion and being used by God to continue to bless and encourage those He brings across our paths.

    Randy Hammon

  2. Mary Carrido says:

    You and Nicky are about to be launched from preparation stage of your lives to your actual calling. May the grace of God be with you both. I am so excited for you both.

    Mary Carrido

  3. Frank Lieberman, PhD says:

    Life is a long process. We go through many doors. Some doors seem closed, some partially open, and some wide open. Picking the correct door can be the challenge.

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