When I became part of the football team at Florida Atlantic University in 2003 I knew a few things. I knew there were winning, losing, and the next game. I knew there was passing, running, blocking, and tackling. I knew there were touchdowns, field goals, and safeties. I knew I wouldn’t be scoring any of those touchdowns, field goals, or safeties because I was an offensive lineman.
Enter Howard Schnellenburger.
I first met him in his office at FAU’s Tom Oxley Center, the walls were covered with pictures of past success and there were football artifacts all around the office. I, being 17 years old at the time, was completely overwhelmed. I’d never actually spoken to him before then, so when he used his voice to say “Hello” I went from feeling overwhelmed to feeling emasculated. His presence filled the room and he told me to call him Coach, which I do so to this day. Coach offered me a scholarship to attend FAU and play football at the end of that first meeting, I gladly accepted.
Despite all that I knew, what I did not know was the significance of football to life.
My freshman year at FAU was the most challenging time for me, both on the field and in the classroom. After putting on the pads and starting practice I realized that I was mentally and physically not ready to play in a real game. After starting classes I felt challenged and ill-equipped, my ability to get the grades I’d desired was not developed. I considered quitting football during this first year to focus on just classes, it felt like it was all too much to handle for my 18-year-old mind.
Despite what I knew, I’d yet to learn what dedication and perseverance meant for success.
FAU’s football program was fledgling, only having just playing its first ever game in 2001, when I arrived. I’d watch college football on T.V. all my life. There were huge stadiums filled with fans, competitive games, with players and teams celebrated for their success. All FAU had that resembled that was a football, pads, and helmets. There was no history, no games on T.V., and no stadium.
Despite what I knew, Coach had a vision and a dream for FAU.
The years that have passed since 2007, my last as a player for FAU, have allowed me think about what playing for Coach meant. I bought into the team, committing myself to our on the field success, and was rewarded with a conference championship and bowl victory. I devoted myself in the classroom, improved my self-expectations and grades, and have since gone on to graduate with a master’s degree. All this was predicated by the vision and dream of Coach, a man of foresight and armed objectives.
Coach retires from FAU and football two days from today.
His greatest lesson is that to live a life of significance you must be dedicated and have perseverance to achieve the vision and dreams you set forth.
Schnellenberger learned from legends before becoming one. (Sunsentinel.com)