THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, APRIL 11, 2019
SCOT BRANTLEY’S 10 PILLARS OF BEING A GOOD TEAMMATE
Friday night in Ocala the first Scot Brantley Trophy will be awarded to Florida football signee Trent Whittemore at a gala at The Reilly Arts Center (a few tickets remain at tickets.vendini.com) that features four-time Super Bowl quarterback, Fox Sports NFL analyst and star of both the big and small screens, Terry Bradshaw. The trophy is a big deal, given to the best player in a six-county area but it is more than just production on a football field. It’s as much about being a good student and a good teammate as it is about being a good football player. In other words, it’s about being all the things Scot Brantley was in abundance.
On the Saturday the Gators played Auburn in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament, I spent a few hours with Scot at his Ocala home. We talked a lot of football, everything from his days at Ocala Forest to his NFL days with the Tampa Bay Bucs. If you never saw Scot Brantley play, then you missed something. He was sideline-to-sideline, a regular tackling machine (31 UNASSISTED tackles in the only game Ocala Forest lost his senior year; Forest won the state championship in 1974 and again in 1975). In his three years and a little more than one game of his University of Florida career, Scot was in on 469 tackles. David Little was an outstanding football player at UF but he needed four full seasons to accumulate 475. If Scot had stayed healthy his senior year in 1979 there are two things you can count on: (1) the Gators wouldn’t have gone 0-10-1 and (2) Scot probably would have finished his UF career with 550-600 tackles.
As that well-spent time with Scot Brantley progressed, the conversation got serious. Scot has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, probably caused in part by the number of concussions and hard hits he endured during his football playing days. While he still has good memories, I wanted him to talk about some things that go far beyond playing linebacker, things like what it takes to be a great teammate. If you ask the guys who played with him, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who will say Scot Brantley wasn’t the consummate teammate who wanted everyone on any team he played on to be the best he could possibly be. So in the course of our conversation, Scot gave me what I will call “Scot Brantley’s 10 Pillars of Being a Good Teammate.”
(1) “NOT EVERYONE CAN BE A STAR BUT EVERYONE CAN BE A GOOD TEAMMATE. You only have 11 guys on the field at a time and not all 11 of them are going to be great football players. I played linebacker and I wanted to make every single tackle. I was driven to get to the ball carrier and bring him down, but I couldn’t have made all those tackles if my teammates weren’t doing their jobs. People say I was the star on our high school team (Ocala Forest won back-to-back state championships in 1974-75) but would I have been as good as I was if I didn’t have teammates who did their job? Would I have been as good as I was if my teammates didn’t play hard and do their assignments? Would I have been as good or would my team won two state championships if we didn’t have a lot of guys who were dedicated to winning. And we had a lot of guys who hardly played but they were there every day to practice and they did their best every day. They knew they were just as important to our success as the guys who did play. So I’d tell any kid today: maybe you can’t be a star. Maybe you can’t even play a lot. Maybe all you’ll ever be is a kid who shows up every day and practices. Maybe all you can do is say something encouraging to your teammates. Those things are important. Be a good teammate and you’ll make your teammates better and you’ll make your team better.”
(2) “WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY TO GET BETTER? Every single day you’ve got a chance to get better. That’s true whether it’s football, basketball, baseball or any other sport. You get better by playing as hard as you can every day. You get better by practicing as hard as you can every play. You don’t take a day off. You don’t take a play off. You don’t fool around in the weight room or in your conditioning. You want to be as strong as you can be, as in shape as you can be. If football ended today for you and you had spent all day loafing at practice, what would you feel like? I always knew it would end someday and I didn’t want it to end with me feeling I hadn’t done my best. I thought every day was a chance to get better. Each day you can get better even if it’s only a little bit.”
(3) “FOOTBALL IS ABOUT MIND, BODY AND SOUL. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MAKE YOUR MIND BODY AND SOUL THE BEST THEY CAN BE? Are you studying film? Are you studying the game plan? Are you learning the plays so you can’t forget them? If you’re just a practice player are you studying that guy ahead of you and figuring out what you can do to make him better? Are you taking your conditioning and the weight room seriously? How about your soul? Are you at peace with God? Are you praying for your teammates? I prayed for my teammates even in between plays. I’d pray they’d do their best and they wouldn’t get hurt. You got to have your mind, body and soul right if you’re going to be the best you can be.”
(4) “HAVE YOU TALKED TO YOUR COACHES AND ASKED THEM WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP THE TEAM? If that coach isn’t paying any attention to you, maybe it’s because he thinks you don’t care and that’s one of the worst things that can happen. Why don’t you go ask your coach what can you do to get better? If a coach is worth anything, he’ll be happy you asked and he’ll help you. If you’re already a good player and you ask your coach what you can do to get better, that coach will coach you a little harder. I think it’s a two-way street. Coaches can only do s much. They need you to show you’re willing to be coached.”
(5) “WHEN YOUKNOCK SOMEBODY DOWN DO YOU HOLD A HAND OUT TO HELP THEM UP? Whether it’s your teammate in practice or the guy you just knocked down during a game, hold that hand out and help him up. People call it being a good sport, but it’s more than that. It’s showing respect. If you respect the other guy enough to help him up, he’ll respect you, too. One thing about respect is if you want it you better give some of it and the more you give the more you’ll get. I’ll go back to being a star. Maybe you can’t be a star, but maybe you can be the most respected guy on your team. Maybe you can set a good example so you’ll have the team everyone respects the most.”
(6) “FORGET THE LAST PLAY. YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO GET YOUR MIND RIGHT FOR THE NEXT PLAY? There is time to think about all the things you did wrong when the game is over, but once a play is over, there is only so much time before the next snap. So where is your head? Are you thinking so much about what you did on the last play that you aren’t remembering this is a team game? Are you getting your head right for the next play because there’s going to be a next snap and if you’re still thinking about the last play, you might make the mistake that costs your team. Maybe it will be just one big play. Maybe it’s the one big play that the other team scores the winning touchdown. Get your head right. The only way you can do that is forget the last play and start thinking about what you have to do on the next one.”
(7) “RESPECT THE MANAGERS AND TRAINERS AND EQUIPMENT GUYS. They are as important to the team as you are. Are you saying thank you to them? Are you encouraging them? They’ve got a tough job. You think it’s easy to get you Gatorade or make sure you’ve got a clean towel and a clean uniform? You think it’s easy to deal with all the sweat and dirt and stink they have to deal with? You think it’s easy to tape your ankles or help you rehab when you’re hurt? You think it’s easy making sure your equipment is working? You see where I’m going with this? Those guys have a tough job and they need encouragement and thank you just like the guys who are out on the field with you. Show them some respect. Appreciate what they do. Say thank you. They’ll make your job easier to do if you do it.”
(8) “DID YOU SAY THANK YOU TO YOUR COACHES? When is the last time you walked up to your coach and told him thanks for all he does for you? Your coaches want you to succeed and they want to find out what makes you tick. With me, I wanted my coaches yelling at me. When my coaches were yelling at me, I knew they cared about me but some guys can’t handle that. Good coaches will find out what makes you tick and they’ll do whatever it takes to get you playing hard and practicing hard and trying hard all the time. You say thank you to them and they’ll be proud of you and make it a point to help you out.”
(9) “DID YOU SAY THANK YOU TO YOUR TEACHERS FOR HELPING YOU LEARN STUFF SO YOU CAN STAY ELIGIBLE TO PLAY? If you’re having trouble in a class, have you asked your teacher for some help? If you’re thankful to your teachers and if you show them some respect, you’d be pretty surprised at how much help they’ll be willing to give you. Maybe you’re trying to get a scholarship and your grades are so-so. If you haven’t said thank you to your teachers and if you never asked them for some help, then why do you expect them to help you now? And if you’ve already got that scholarship locked up or even if you’re just a practice player, go thank your teachers. Show them some respect and some thanks and maybe when you need a break, they’ll give you one.”
(10) “VINCE LOMBARDI ONCE TOLD HIS TEAM, ‘YOUR PRIORITIES ARE GOD, FAMILY AND THE GREEN PAY PACKERS IN THAT ORDER.’ THAT ALWAYS STUCK WITH ME SO I ASK YOU WHERE ARE YOUR PRIORITIES? What’s important to you? I think God ought to be first for you. You got to be humble enough to ask God to help you. You got to love your family. They love you when no one else but God loves you. After that, what’s important to you? If you don’t know what’s important to you then you’ll never be as good as you can be in anything in life whether it’s football or just your job. Football won’t last forever but your priorities will.”