“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.” John 20:11-18 NIV
As Mary stands outside the tomb, she is overcome with grief. Less than barely 48 hours earlier, she had lost the life of her Messiah, the man who had healed her and shown her compassion that she had never before experienced. She had staked her existence upon WHO HE SAID HE WAS. But now he is gone, and so is the cornerstone of her story.
She came to the tomb today to say goodbye.
She needs this. Just a few more moments with Jesus to honor him. To tell him “Thank You.”
But the body isn’t there. It’s gone. Mary is crushed. By stealing the body, they had also stolen her chance for closure. The cruel blow is the final straw: Mary weeps.
She sees a man approaching.
Who could this be? The gardener, perhaps? Maybe he knows where they took him? PLEASE LET HIM KNOW SOMETHING!!
And so she pleads with him, her voice ridden with desperation. She needs a lifeline, any piece of information that could help her find the body of her Lord.
HE CALLS HER BY NAME AND EVERYTHING CHANGES.
Moments earlier, Mary was overcome with grief, resigned to the reality of Jesus’ death, and terrified to face the future without him.
BUT THEN HE CALLS HER BY NAME.
Now, she sees him for who he really is.
When he calls her by name, she knows that he is Jesus, that he knows and loves her, that he is alive and has conquered death, and that HE IS THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.
Are we not the same? Like Mary, we are looking for Jesus, whether we know it or not. He is always there, yet sometimes we don’t recognize him. But then he calls us by name, and everything changes.
When he calls us by name, we recognize him for who he really is.
When he calls us by name, we realize that he knows us and loves us.
When he calls us by name, we accept that he is the Savior of the world.
Today, I am so grateful for a Savior that calls me by name, comforts me in my grief, and strengthens me for his purpose.
I pray that maybe today, you hear your name for the first time, and that everything changes.
Over the past several years, in the midst of the long hours and frustrations, at times I have questioned whether I made the wrong choice pursuing the coaching profession, which I believe is a question that many people of all ages grapple with. Now, despite still not having had any tangible success (see previous blog EVEN IF), I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is where I am supposed to be, and I hope that my revelation might help someone else that may be dealing with similar lingering uncertainty.
While recently reading Garden City, I realized that “Why I Coach” is really not quite as simple as “To make an impact” or “It’s what I’m passionate about” or “I have a future there.” Coaching is what is right for me because it is my Intersection. Coaching is where the different viewpoints of my calling collide. When I think about how to evaluate what you’re going to do with the rest of your life, I feel that a couple of perspectives/questions emerge that people use to make that decision.
What am I good at?
This could be a useful perspective. At some level, being skilled/talented in an area could/should correlate to future success and maybe even contentment. But what if what you’re really good at just isn’t very useful? What if you’re not passionate about it? What if it doesn’t give you much of a chance to grow?
What do I love?
A ton of people use this question as their filter. If there was a single filter to use, this one might be it. If you’re passionate about something, that should lead to contentment and hopefully success. But what if what you’re passionate about, you’re simply not very good at? What if you have no background/network to get you a start in that field? What if, at best, you can only hope to be average in that area?
Whose lives can I change for the better?
This has been a key part of my identity for a long time. Both on an intimate, emotional level, and on a more broad social level (Change the World). I want to make a difference, both in the lives of individuals and in the world around me. But what if the place where I can make the most impact, I don’t have the requisite skills and abilities to be successful? What if, while attempting to impact others, I would sacrifice my own growth and contentment?
Where can I grow the most?
This has a lot to do with your personal background, experiences, and connections. Everyone is geared more towards certain things than others based on how you grew up, who you know, and how your skills and abilities translate. But there are certain paths that you might be immediately successful in, yet there isn’t much of a ceiling in. You might be challenged and content in that industry for the next 5 years, but what about in 10? 20?
What I am getting at is this: I think the entire direction of one’s life is of far too great of significance to simplify to a single question.
I truly believe that if I was basing my vocation based off of any single one of those questions, I would be doing something else.
Gifting? Business or Sports Admin
Passion? Leadership or Ministry
Impact? Missions or Politics
Potential? Business or Politics
What I have devoted my life to doesn’t make the top 2 in any of those four areas…. WHAT??
Coaching is not the highest point on any of those lines.
Coaching is where those four lines intersect.
Gifting– My intellect, communicative skills, and leadership ability are useful here.
Passion– I love competing. I love watching others grow. I love diagnosing and solving problems. I love getting better.
Impact– I get a chance to impact the lives of individual young men on a daily basis AND I have a chance to use the platform of sports to promote positive social change beyond the field.
Potential– I am a coach’s kid that grew up around the game. I have had a chance to play for and coach with the ABSOLUTE BEST in the industry. I am better suited in this industry than any other to have long-term success.
I believe that our calling is where our GIFTING, PASSION, IMPACT, & POTENTIAL collide.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do believe that I am right where God has called me to be. For that, I am grateful.
When people used to offer me advice about my life path, they would say things like “Just do what you love” or “Well what are you good at?” Inwardly, I would roll my eyes and think If it were only that simple…
This is an admission that it’s not simple, but it is manageable if you look at it the right way. Hopefully, this idea of our calling as an “Intersection” of multiple factors can help give you some direction and peace. If nothing else, I hope it challenges you to evaluate what you do with your life through each of those lenses.
Last night, as I got ready to go to bed, I was kinda kicking myself.
Dammit I didn’t get that Chiefs’ game broken down
I really needed to finish that recruiting presentation
Gosh I was really hoping to get those opponent previews to the offensive staff today
I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to. There were unchecked items on my To Do list—— THE HORROR
So what went wrong? Where did the time go?
I ran an errand for a friend that is stuck out of town
I cooked dinner on FaceTime with my sister Molly and her boyfriend
I called a teammate that I hadn’t talked to in forever and caught up on life
I caught myself
Wait…. What is the implication of this line of thought?
1. The To-Do list is necessary and even crucial to the success of my day.
2. The “Other stuff” was a waste
Am I so conditioned to believing that I have to DO and DO and DO and DO that I am unable to realize that there is value and fulfillment in the investment into relationships?
Maybe I need to re-evaluate what makes a “A Good Day.”
When I start my day with prayer, I ask that God help me live out my mission statement.
Dear Lord, please help me to love others as you do, to be significant rather than successful, and to strive for excellence in all that I undertake
It is by that same criteria (in that same order!!), that I need to judge the quality of my day. Not in percent completion of my never-ending task list, but in accordance with the reasons I believe God has put me on this Earth.
I’m going to start something new. Or restart something that I’ve been missing.
A regrettable casualty in my pursuit of a coaching career is my pursuit of creative authorship in all of its forms.
“I need to focus on football”
“My social accounts need to be reserved for recruiting purposes”
“I represent more than myself. I can’t espouse viewpoints that may not be shared by the program/department”
“There’s nothing I hate more than someone that insists on sharing their opinion that is not informed, and I no longer have time to stay informed”
“I don’t play anymore. People don’t care what I think”
“I need to stay in the background. It’s not my place to clamor for a public presence”
If not else, the Coronavirus has given us ALL time to think. And as I’ve thought and reflected, I’ve realized something— I miss being a Creator. I am an avid learner. A consumer of information. Books. Podcasts. Adapting new skills. Honing old ones. I love growing. I am constantly striving to better myself and the processes around me in incremental ways.
As I’ve thrown myself fully into learning football strategy and culture and team building and Biblical history and quarterback play and leadership and growth psychology and cooking and fasting and so many other things, I’ve consumed and consumed and consumed and consumed without fulfilling the other half of the natural cycle of growth and learning.
I’ve been taking and learning from so many, but I have not contributed much back in the form of ideas, thoughts, and viewpoints. I have not shared my own observations on the world, nor have I engaged others on theirs.
It’s time to change that.
So, right now, with nothing but time on my hands, I’m going to start doing that again. I’m going to start putting thoughts and ideas to paper. I’m going to use 30 minutes every morning to just fire from the hip. No outline. No rough draft. No cute formatting. No proofreading. I am not going to check the view numbers, or synchronize the posting on my social platforms. I am not going to ask others to RT me or help circulate me. I am not going to worry about whether I am right or politically correct or well-informed. I am not going to cater to recruits or football fans. I am just going to write and engage with others.
In Michelangelo’s Coffee shop on Main St in the Fall of 2013, I began to pray Jabez’s Prayer over my life alongside my best friend Trevor Knight and spiritual mentor Adam Barnett. In 2 Chronicles, Jabez asks God to bless him, to protect him, to draw him close, and to expand his territory. At the time, I did not truly understand the significance of that last point: TERRITORY.
More…. More growth. More responsibility. More impact.
In the years that followed, I saw God expand my territory and bless me immensely and consistently. As time went on, my role and my platform grew exponentially, and that expansion of territory manifested itself in a number of highly visible leadership positions and opportunities.
Then, in the Summer of 2017, God called me to coach, and Coach Riley offered me an opportunity to join his support staff. In the three years since, I have been working behind the scenes to do whatever is necessary to help our players and coaches succeed on and off the field. Most of the time, the role of a GA/QC is not very glamorous. Tasks are sometimes time-consuming and monotonous; late nights and early mornings are the norm. Coaching is a grind, and everyone has to start at the bottom rung of the ladder and thirsts for an opportunity to move up and become a position coach.
Over these past three years, I’ve still prayed Jabez’s Prayer every single day.
Blessing. Protection. Intimacy. TERRITORY.
As time passed, I became impatient with God.
“Alright God, I’m ready for MORE!”
“Haven’t I done this long enough?!”
“I DESERVE an opportunity!”
I felt as if, after years of outpouring of blessing and growth, God suddenly shut the spicket off and left me in solitude, toiling tirelessly in anonymity and frustration.
Heading into this past season, I began to pray fervently to God that this would be the year that I would land a job and get an opportunity to show that I am ready. Each day, I prayed that He would show me His favor and grant me an opportunity. As the season went on, I did everything in my power to set myself up to get a job. I picked up the phone. I got on the plane. I solicited advice. I put myself out there again and again.
Most of the time, when we cry out to God, we ask him to change our circumstance. And sometimes he does. But sometimes, instead, He changes our hearts.
That’s what He has done with me.
I was challenged by three heroes of the Bible that were facing a far more dire situation than a fruitless job search. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar and were set to be thrown into the fiery furnace as punishment for their disobedience. In their moment of truth, they said to the king “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
If you are familiar with the story, you remember that God does rescue them from the flames, but they made their intention very clear: Either way, they would be faithful.
THAT is what true faith looks like. I want to pray to my God like He is the Maker of the Universe, not a genie in a lamp.
I hope that you can pray this with me today:
God, I trust that you are ABLE to answer my prayer. If you DO NOT answer, it is not because you are not able or did not hear me, it is because your plan is far superior to my request. It will bring you more glory and draw me much closer to you.
If you give me what I ask, I will praise and obey you. If you do not, I will praise and obey you.
Maybe God’s plan is for me to get that chance I want so desperately want, or maybe His plan is for me to stay right here, serving others and waiting patiently.
Maybe instead of a new job, God wanted to give me a new heart.
Often times, when compared to the lives of Biblical and historical heroes, our lives look to be rather insignificant. It is easy to succumb to the temptation to accept the status quo or be frustrated by the lack of impact that we perceive ourselves to be making in our day to day lives. We behold the magnificent, daring accomplishments of those that shaped the world we live in, and then proceed to ask ourselves, “Who am I to think that I can make THAT kind of difference?”
I myself have been tempted to accept that line of thought. Gone are the days of promise of college, where it seemed as if the opportunities to dream were endless and the chances to impact were innumerable, replaced by the reality of the (long before)9- (way past) 5 of the professional world. This is real life man… And the grind is not often glamorous nor exciting.
I am currently studying the book of Daniel alongside the infamous 2017 Holder of the Year Connor McGinnis (@ConnorMcG15), and I recently read an excerpt that had a profound effect on my perspective.
Daniel has his own book of the Bible. He is a legend of the faith. Daniel and the Lion’s den… Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego… Daniel was SIGNIFICANT. Daniel was IMPACTFUL. Daniel had a seventy plus year run in Babylon, which is recorded in the book of his namesake. In those SEVENTY years that Daniel served God faithfully, how many events were recorded in those pages?
Nine moments of courage, faith, and wisdom. Nine times were Daniel was called to stand up for the Lord and fulfill his purpose. For those of you that may not be math geniuses, that’s only about one event of impact every eight years.
So what did Daniel do in the margins? In the THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of “normal” days in between his incredible moments of courage and triumph? He was FAITHFUL to God on a daily basis. He lived a normal life with life’s ordinary ebbs and flows, struggles and joys, trials and accomplishments. He didn’t change the world every day, but when the moments arose for him to stand the test of faith and make his impact on eternity, he was READY. In the accumulation of ordinary moments, God prepared Daniel for the extraordinary, and this is a theme that is repeated throughout the Bible. I believe that by studying the lives of our Biblical heroes, we are able to see a testament to the faithfulness of God in how He takes ordinary, normal, boring people like you and me, and He prepares them over time to do something impactful for His Kingdom.
In the moment, we frail human beings, with our incredibly limited reach of foresight, do not typically realize when God is using the ordinary to prepare us for the extraordinary. Therefore, we cannot afford to only be faithful in the important things, because we are unable to discern which normal things right now will prove to be CRUCIAL later on.
I use David as an example. Long before David was called “a man after God’s own heart”, long before He was crowned King of Israel, and long before He killed Goliath and saved his nation, David was just a simple shepherd boy. His responsibility was to watch livestock. To watch them eat, sleep, and poop. To walk with them through pasture after pasture, over hill after rolling hill. I can’t imagine David found his assignment to be overly stimulating or significant. From what we know about David’s character from his later exploits, it’s safe to say that he was a man of passion and adventure. I personally believe David may have been frustrated with his role, which was mired in the mundane and boring. Little known to David, God was using his role as the protector of a flock of sheep to prepare him for his time as The Protector of the Flock of God’s chosen people. In his time as a shepherd, David became an expert with a slingshot. He learned how to defend his sheep, and God instilled in him a courageous and protective heart. In defense of his flock, David killed both a lion and a bear. In those individual moments, David did not perceive the eternal significance of those actions. He was simply doing the job that his earthly father had commanded him to do. He protected his sheep to the very best of his ability, for no other reason than because it was his personal responsibility. But then a moment arose when David was called off the bench, plucked from a life of the boring and ordinary and thrust into a battle for the fate of a nation. And when his number was called, he picked up his sling and his stone as he had done so many times before, and the menace of the Israelite people fell at his feet, just as the lion and the bear had. Israel was saved. The nation rejoiced. The legend of King David was born.
David himself had not intentionally prepared for that fight. This was not Mayweather v McGregor, with months upon months of training, press conferences, and advertisements leading up to a 9 pm bell. David’s training had occurred unbeknownst to him, at the hands of God. Would David have been able to defeat Goliath if he had not first defeated the lion and the bear? I do not think so. In days upon days of the ordinary, God had prepared David to be extraordinary. If David had not been the faithful protector alone in the field, he would not have been the courageous challenger with the whole world watching.
In our lifetimes, you and I are destined for moments of significance, mixed in amongst countless days of inconsequence. We do not know the number. We do not know the time. We do not know the form. But your moment is coming. It may not be to save a nation. It may not be to conquer a giant as David or to walk amongst lions as Daniel. It may be to give someone hope who has none. It may be to show someone love who regards themselves as unlovable.
Be ready for your next moment.
I encourage you to prepare to be significant by drawing near to God, by showing His love to those around you, and by being faithful in the ordinary. I will do my best to do the same.
I leave you with this:
For thirty years, Jesus Christ lived a normal life. In three years of ministry, he drastically altered the course of human history. In one moment of sacrifice, He changed our eternity.
Just the two latest headlines in a year that seemed to feature every bitter flavor of human malice.
It seems as if we cannot go a month without hearing of yet another act of ignorance, prejudice, or hatred. When I hear the words “Hate is winning”, I get it. I really do. I understand why you might feel that way. At times, I begin to feel that way too. It feels as if we are drowning in a self-created sea of ignorance and anger, struggling to briefly surface for a breath, only to be plunged into its icy depths once again.
But Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
It may seem that Hate is winning, but trust me…I promise you… Love wins!
I refuse to succumb to a worldview that assumes the worst of us all. I instead truly believe that the bigotry and hatred displayed in Charlottesville, Barcelona, and elsewhere were perpetrated by a small minority of our global population and DO NOT represent humanity as a whole.
The events of the past week are without a doubt disastrous, horrifying, and saddening. But I passionately believe that they have created an opportunity… A Chance to Love.
As ghastly as the acts of racism and terrorism are, I have been moved by the outpouring of love, and encouraged by the outrage of the people. Though the loss and the hurt cannot be atoned for, the ugliness that was the root of it was brought into the limelight for all of the world to see. For everyone that thought that racism was dead, take a look. It’s still here, just under the surface. But by bringing it to the surface, Charlottesville has given us all a chance to address Hate. To deal with the issue as a nation. As a community. As families. It opens the door for difficult, necessary conversations to take place, and to continue to take place long after the flames have been extinguished, the public demonstrations have ceased, and the news cameras have moved on.
But there is a great danger wrapped in the midst of this opportunity. There is a temptation to assign blame for America’s racism and prejudice issues to a radical fringe group of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. It would be rather convenient to make a small, extremist minority the scapegoat for a much larger issue. Explicit, overt prejudice does not frighten me. Charlottesville itself is a demonstration in the societal backlash of such ignorant acts. It is no longer socially acceptable to be admittedly prejudiced. The root of the weed of prejudice is much harder to detect and more difficult to eliminate. Covert, implicit prejudice is still alive and well, and it is what this next generation will struggle to exterminate.
I am much more interested in the things that we do not perceive to be offensive than the things that obviously are. Most all of us can agree that Hitler was a bad guy and that the white skin doesn’t make you inherently superior to everyone else. Those are the no brainers. Evil men pushing evil agendas is nothing new and it should neither surprise nor intimidate us. There will always be evil men in this world. What is truly terrifying is the thought of good men tolerating hateful, ignorant ideologies. When good men allow evil to coexist in the presence of their families and their communities, then we will have lost our grip on progress.
Amidst the horror of the calamity, the clashing of political agendas, and my own internal angst, I will admit that I am tempted resign myself to our fate and remove myself from the arena.
“The task is simply too insurmountable…The problem is too complex… I really can’t make much of a difference… I’m too mentally and emotionally exhausted…and after all, I’M TOO BUSY ANYWAYS.”
But I am moved to action by a quote:
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing
So I have no choice. Indifference is equal to irresponsibility, Silence the brother of Approval.
But where to start? The question is quite overwhelming, but then I am drawn back to the words…
…when good men do NOTHING
So I believe the answer is…. DO SOMETHING!!
As for me? That Something will be a Someone.
I will love Someone today.
That’s where I’ll start.
Hate is not winning. Love is just getting started.
It wasn’t a possible outcome… At least not in my mind.
But God had other plans. And in typical God-fashion, His Plan ended up being far better for me than any path I could have plotted for myself.
So where do I start this convoluted tale?
Well, let’s pick up where I left off. After my short-lived foray into the land of the NFL, many of you know that I returned to OU, where I have worked in the Student-Athlete Development department for the past year, while simultaneously dipping my toe into TV/radio analysis with Sooner Sports TV and The Franchise. What many of you do not know is that this arrangement was never intended to be long-term.
At its conception, the design of this plan was to get experience in Athletic Administration on an interim basis before moving onto another university to start a graduate assistantship on the football side. For years, I had dreamed of pursuing such an opportunity at a particular university to the west.
As a high school junior, my college decision came down to OU and Stanford. Though Stanford appeared to be an ideal fit for my personality and interests, my heart was truly in Norman, Oklahoma, for I had dreamt of donning the Crimson and Cream my entire life. So off to Norman I went, and I consider that decision to be possibly the most pivotal of my life. Nearly five years later, I saw an opportunity to still obtain the Stanford Experience as a Graduate Assistant, and I pursued that opportunity relentlessly. Unfortunately, I found out in mid-March that the position I had been counting on would not be available. I was crushed… For all of 12 hours.
Undeterred, I looked at this unforeseen development as a simple redirection. Rather than start as GA, I would apply to the Stanford MBA program, which is one of the best in the world. The idea had been planted in my head months prior, and had grown into a dream of its own. To garner business expertise and cultivate myself as a person was an alluring notion to a part of me that was becoming increasingly restless and hungry to grow. So I devoted everything in me to the application process, pouring countless hours into the perfection of my resume, essays, and recommendations. My Stanford GSB application was to be my crowning achievement, immaculate in presentation and impeccable in detail. With superb confidence, I submitted my crown jewel and waited for my acceptance email.
The following weeks were positively nauseating. I went about my daily routine on the most jagged of edges, waiting for an email that could change my life. Every time my phone vibrated, my heart jumped and my breathing quickened.
“Could that be it?”
In the midst of the yearly mission trip to Haiti, I finally received notice of my fate…
Dear Tyler Darlington,
Thank you for applying to the Stanford MBA Program. We have completed the review of applications, and I am sorry that we cannot offer you admission.
Dictionary.com doesn’t have enough words to accurately define how I felt in that moment. Thankfully, at the time, I was so immersed in Haiti that I didn’t have the time to dwell on my rejection.
I’ll remember the moment for the rest of my life. I walked into the house from Memorial Day at the lake, and for the first time in a long time, I was truly alone. All of my roommates and friends had moved out and moved on, and my family was a thousand miles away in Florida. My lease was up on Sunday and I did not know where I was going to live. The job I wanted had fallen through. My MBA application had been denied. My various back-up plans had failed one by one.
I sat on my couch by myself with tears running down my face, crumbling under the weight of the fear and uncertainty of adulthood, wallowing in self-pity and disbelief.
No job. No house. No future.
I am aware that this situation is not an isolated phenomenon. It’s an experience a great many people endure at the outset of adulthood.
But not me. I’m not that guy. I can’t be… right? I’m supposed to be the guy with a list of awards and accolades a mile long. The guy with the plan. The guy that has it all together. The Captain. The Senator.
Yet there I was, with no better prospects for the future than anyone else.
God humbled me and broke me down.
But He had a plan. A plan to give me a hope and a future. A plan that was far greater than anything I could have architected on my own.
I just didn’t know it yet.
BREAKING: BOB STOOPS RETIRES, LINCOLN RILEY TAKES OVER AS HEAD COACH OF THE SOONERS
Did you see that coming???
Neither did I.
Or anyone else.
The moment shocked Sooner Nation and the entire college football world.
Like the rest of Oklahoma, my head was swimming in the endless sea of possible reasons and eventual ramifications. Though I was sad and surprised to see Coach Stoops step away, I was simultaneously overjoyed to see Coach Riley be named the new HBC. It is no secret that I am a HUGE believer in Coach Riley as a coach and as a person. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would be a successful head coach at some place in the near future, but I never once thought that place would be here.
My initial enthusiasm transformed to curiosity when I focused inward: What does this mean for me?
Over the next 6 weeks or so, I had several conversations with Coach Riley that eventually concluded with me being offered a Quality Control position on the offensive side of the ball. Of course, the immediate answer was a resounding “YESSSSS!!”
I could not be more excited about this opportunity for several reasons.
It’s a tremendous growth opportunity
Personal and professional growth is of utmost importance to me. I want to be constantly uncomfortable, and that is what this position promises me: Discomfort. Though I am an offensive lineman and have a thorough knowledge of OL schemes and techniques, I will be working primarily with the skill groups. This gives me a chance to be exposed to a side of the game that I have never been previously immersed in. I will have a chance to learn from one of the preeminent offensive minds in the country, and I plan on taking full advantage of that privilege.
I love Oklahoma football
Sooner born and Sooner bred. I’ve loved Sooner football my entire life, and I am thrilled to be a part of what will prove to be a pivotal transition time. I truly believe that we are heading into a special time. The class and wisdom that Coach Stoops displayed by handing things off to Coach Riley the way he did has set us up for a special run, and I want to be a part of it. I believe that I can be of value, and that this entire program is about to ascend to an even greater level. That’s not a recruiting pitch. That’s not me politicking. That’s what I believe regardless of my affiliation with the team. This is a special place to be, and it’s only getting better.
I want to coach
For quite some time, I’ve felt some type of vague obligation to do something “more important” than coaching. From the time I was young, I’ve had countless teachers and others adults encourage me to be a doctor, lawyer, businessman, politician, etc. Yet, football is where my heart is. I can’t think of many occupations that are truly “more important” than coaching. More financially lucrative? Yes. More prestigious? Absolutely. But what could be that much more important than shaping young men? That’s what this is about for me: Impacting the lives of young people. A coach has a tremendous platform and responsibility to mold the youth of our society, and I fully intend to fulfill that responsibility to the absolute fullest.
In a way only he could, God placed an opportunity in my lap that is far more rewarding and challenging than anything I could’ve contrived myself. I am so extremely blessed and grateful to be joining what is already an incredible group of men on the Oklahoma Sooners Football Staff.
Apopka High School is churning out Darlingtons at an accelerated pace. One every two years to be exact. The same teachers are used to seeing similar faces paired with different variations of their father’s iconic sarcasm. We’ve had the same classes, the same teachers, and even some of the same assignments.
One such as assignment is what has my restless mind buzzing today. An assignment from AP Psychology that my sister Gracie recently completed and shared with me. It is called “Soundtrack of my Life.” The basic premise is the tell the story of your life through songs. In the good old days, we made a CD. In this innovative technological netherworld, the yungins now just create Spotify playlists.
It’s been six years since I last compiled my soundtrack, and a heck of a lot of life has happened in that time, so it’s time for an update! The following is a list of songs that have made me laugh and made me cry, that have molded me and shaped me, that have given purpose and direction to my life.
This reflective exercise can be both enjoyable and therapeutic! I urge you to sit down and write down the songs on your soundtrack. Feel free to tweet them at me! I’d love to listen to the story of your life.
The right way to do this is to listen to each song as you read/write. So grab a pair of headphones, click on the link below, sit back, and enjoy the story!
I don’t have roots in country music, but man did I love this song as a little kid. My mom has videos of me with my boots and cowboy hat singing every single word! It is one of my earliest memories, and a no brainer as the leading song on my soundtrack.
Fly Away- Lenny Kravitz
I want to get away, I want to flyyyyyyyy awayyyyyyyy…Yeahhhhh… Yeahhh…. Yeahh
I am a coach’s kid, and I grew up transitioning from one role to the next within my dad’s program. WaterboyàBallboyàManageràPlayer. I went to sleep at night watching my dad’s team’s highlight films, and I will forever associate those songs with my football-obsessed childhood. For whatever reason, this particular highlight film song seemed to be more emblematic than the others.
*For Connor Knight- This is off the 2000 Apopka Highlight Film. Offensive section.
The World’s Greatest- R Kelly
I’m that star up in the sky, I’m that mountain peak up high… Yeah I made it…. I’m the world’s greatest
I look back at how I was as a kid, and I truly believe I was a little bit crazy. I tagged along to workouts by 2nd grade. In 4th grade, I started waking up at 4:30 AM in the winter to participate in the high school winter workouts. By 5th grade, I fully participated in the entire spring football and summer conditioning programs with my dad’s players. In 7th grade, I was painting dot drills and hexagons for footwork drills in my garage. I would even do pass sets on trees in my front yard. I was starving to be great. It possessed my thoughts. During those late night and early morning sessions of solitude, this song drove me. At the time, I truly believed I could be the best football player to ever play the game. Now, that same mindset is applied to whatever it is I am undertaking at the moment.
Lose Yourself- Eminem
If you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted… one moment… Would you capture it? Or just let it slip?
The lyrics rattled around my head in the period of life where I hunted down my dreams. I had always dreamed of playing college football, but through my sophomore year I was very undersized and my chances weren’t looking great. Then a spring growth spurt put me in realm of consideration for scholarships. When spring football came around, I fully understood the value of the opportunity, for each day college coaches would be watching practice. I approached each of those practices with the focus and intensity of a game, and after the final bell sounded, I walked from the classroom to the locker room with my headphones in and Eminem’s anthem ringing in my ears. The first week after school got out, I listened to this song in the grass parking lot of the intramural fields at the University of Oklahoma. Following that practice, Coach Bob Stoops offered me the scholarship I had been pursuing my entire life.
Mr. Brightside- The Killers
I’m going out of my cage and I’ve been doing JUST FINE, Gotta gotta be down, because I want it all!
You simply cannot “sing” this song. You have to scream it! The Killers were a favorite of my closest friends in high school. We jokingly referred to ourselves as “The Wolfpack”, and Mr. Brightside was our howl.
Just a Kiss- Lady Antebellum
But baby I’m alright with just a kiss goodnight
Oh yes, this is exactly what you think it is- A high school love song. I look back now and laugh/cringe that we had “our song”, but I also smile because it’s a good memory and an invaluable experience. It was my first love, and I learned so much about love and myself in that relationship.
Superman- Five for Fighting
It may sound absurd, but don’t be naïve. Even heroes have the right to bleed.
Expectation…. The weight of expectation can be absolutely unbearable at times. Early on in my college years, I struggled with the expectations placed on me by myself and others. My traits and previous accolades immediately drew the attention of teammates, classmates, and coaches. I had built up a certain reputation and persona that led to the expectation for me to fulfill my vast potential as a player, person, and student. Others expected great things from me. I expected greater things from myself. As I wrestled with those expectations in my mind, the words of this song were my retort to the world. I am not Superman. I have the right to bleed. I have the right to mess up. I am only a man.
Preach- Young Dolph
Out here in these streets there aint no such thing as love- PREACH
The 2015 team loved every minute we got to spend with each other. That year, Coach Stoops decided to start practicing at 6:45 in the morning on Fridays. It would have been very understandable for us to come out to these practices a little groggy and lackadaisical, but Young Dolph had other plans. I have no idea how it came about, but this song became the anthem of Friday morning practices. We cranked it up as loud as it would go, and then everybody would dance until the stretch whistle blew. I’ll forever remember how much fun we had that year.
Unwritten- Natasha Bedingfield
….REACHING for something in the DISTANCE, so close you can almost TASTE IT, release your inhibitions, feel the rain on your SKIN!
Wait what? What’s this one doing on here? All credit goes to Mr. Joseph “Fingaz” Palange, who guided this tune to infamy with his choreographed hand motions. If you ever attended a social gathering at 1315 Ann Arbor Dr., chances are you screamed this too.
Dixieland Delight- Alabama
Spend my dollar- ON BEER- Parked in a holler in the mountain blue light- ROLL TIDE
The Alabama Football version. I’m sorry for saying Roll Tide, but it’s just too much fun. We’ve belted this one out in multiple states.
The Boys of Fall- Kenny Chesney
I’ve got your number, I’ve got your back, when your back’s against the wall
The only song that can bring to summation all the feelings I had at the end of my playing career. Out of sheer nostalgia, I listened to it on the flight back to OKC from Nashville after being cut. Kenny put words to the feelings left unsaid by every man who’s ever picked up a pigskin.
Pieces- Rob Thomas
Not quite ready to explain this one yet, but I assure you it’s spot is well-deserved.
Clear the Stage- Jimmy Needham
Anything I put before my God… Is an idol. Anything I want with all my heart… Is an idol. Anything I can’t stop thinking of…. Is an idol
A few months ago, as I was on a flight to California, I heard this song for the first time, and it pierced my heart and convicted me immediately. I love the Lord, but I realized that I had idols in my life. Too often, we think of idols in the ancient Biblical sense, as statues made of gold and silver that are physically bowed to. But in this day and age, idols take much less blatantly sacrilegious forms. I have made an idol out of football in my life. I have made idols out of certain people in my life. I have spent more time, energy, and attention on worldly desires than on my spiritual needs. This song convicted me of this fact, and led to a major spiritual revival that is still alive in my heart.
I’m Still Here- John Rzeznik
How can the world want me to change? They’re the ones that stay the same. They don’t know me, cause I’m not here!
Yes, this from the Treasure Planet soundtrack*
From a very young age, I have believed that I am different. Honestly, that belief is one of the pillars of my existence. Some might perceive this as arrogance, and that’s ok. When I say I’m “different from everybody else”, others translate that as “better than everyone else.” I don’t believe that to be true. But for quite some time, I have wrestled with this feeling of guilt because of my gifts. At times, I have felt a compulsion to hide some of my considerable talents so as to not intimidate others or cause other to feel insecure. A variety of things have pushed me to completely disavow this notion with disgust and step into who I am with confidence and without shame. The first is my belief that God created me this way, and that I am obligated to maximize my talents to bring him glory. Of smaller influence have been secular works, such as this song, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and a quote from Marianne Williamson. In part, it reads “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others do not feel insecure around you.” Yes, I do believe that I am different. No, I do not apologize for that belief…. And you shouldn’t either.
Here Am I- MercyMe
Whom shall I send? Who will go for me? To the ends of the Earth, who will rise up for the King? HERE AM I! SEND ME!
This song is based upon a passage of scripture in Isaiah 6 in which Isaiah has this conversation with the Lord. I want this song to be the attitude of my heart at all times. “Send me, Lord!” I want to be ready and available to be used by God. Send me where you want me, Lord. But I do not just think about this in a geographic sense. Yes, I want to go into all the world spreading the Gospel. Haiti, Belize, and wherever else God sends me. But I also want to be willing to “go” into broken situations, to “go” to hurting people, and to “go” to insurmountable tasks.
Bless Me Indeed- MercyMe
Bless me indeed, open wide my horizons, to sing your praise. Bless me indeed, may your hand keep me from harm and pain.
Bless Me Indeed draws directly from Jabez’s prayer in 2 Chronicles. Jabez asked the Lord to bless him, protect him, draw him close to God, and expand his territory. God granted his request. In the summer of 2013, my spiritual mentor Adam Barnett began praying this prayer over the lives of myself and Trevor Knight. God has answered it in every way, and we continue to pray this prayer today. I am confident that God will continue to honor our prayer, because He does not change.
Who Am I- Casting Crowns
Who am I, that the Lord of all the Earth would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt?
This is my life’s song. This is the paradox. A lot of the songs on this list are indicative of my confidence in myself and my drive to succeed. These lyrics humble my heart and bring my pride to its knees. Who am I? Even with the awards, successes, gifts, and ambitions. They amount to nothing in the eyes of an Almighty God. I am but a man. A sinful, prideful, imperfect man. A flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow. A wave tossed in the ocean. A vapor in the wind. Nothing I have done or ever will do impress God. My righteousness is filthy rags in his eyes. I try to stack up my works and accolades, yet still fall so woefully short. BUT STILL. You hear me when I’m calling. You catch me when I’m falling. You tell me who I am. It blows my mind and pierces my heart to realize that I am not even close to good enough, but He loves me anyways. He blesses me anyways. He wants to have a relationship with me? ME?? This song will forever remind me of my own worthlessness next to God’s righteousness, and also of God’s irrational grace and reckless mercy.
Thank you so much for making it this far! Tweet me your soundtrack and I’ll give it a listen!
The following is a piece I wrote for The Football Brainiacs in January. With Coach Riley taking over the reins, it is now more relevant than it was even then.
SIXTY-EIGHT pass attempts for ECU QB Shane Carden in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl against Florida in a 28-20 LOSS.
Watching from my couch in Norman, Oklahoma, I was petrified. ECU Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley had emerged as a leading candidate for the vacant OU Offensive Coordinator position, and, as an offensive lineman, I was not a fan. The thought of pass setting 68 times in one times was nauseating… UNFATHOMABLE. When he was hired, my first thought was “Well there goes the run game” and my second “Samaje Perine is doomed.”
Two seasons later, the Sooners have rushed for over 220 YPG in both seasons, Samaje Perine is OU’s all-time leading rusher, and the Oklahoma Sooners are the nation’s premier offense.
The key to it all is Lincoln Riley.
Mentality > Scheme
“Cars can’t fly, Zack.”
That’s what I used to tell me little brother when I was four years old and he was two. He would try to fly his Matchbox cars through the air, and I would ground him immediately, because it simply was unrealistic and impossible.
That’s how I am by nature: A realist, concerned mostly with factual, tangible components that will help me accomplish my goal.
An offense moves the football down the field and puts it in the end zone through innovative schemes, superior athletes, and brilliant play-calling.
Or so I thought.
The greatest thing I learned from my year playing under Lincoln Riley is that mentality is more important than scheme. The play call is irrelevant unless every guy in that huddle BELIEVES that we are going to score every single time we get the ball. This is the attitude Coach Riley instituted from Day One: Aggressive, fearless, confident. The guys on that offense truly believe that they are unstoppable, and that is why they are.
He takes it a step farther because he coaches the intangibles as well as anyone I’ve been around. Every coach will preach the importance of intangible concepts like mentality, unselfishness, and togetherness. But for most coaches, when push comes to shove and points are not being put on the scoreboard, the investment of time and energy isn’t put into those areas, it’s put into on-field skill development and execution. At every point of adversity for the 2015 offense, from spring practice through the final whistle of the Orange bowl, the solution always included activities concentrated on the intangibles, such as meetings with the leaders of each position group, a full on lesson (with handouts) on the power of unselfishness, and offensive meetings in which plays were not discussed and film was not watched.
That’s the mentality that he coaches with, but how is that manifested in the offense itself?
Simplicity = Confidence
I have a reputation for being a brainiac (pun intended), and I tend to be attracted to intricate offensive schemes, rife with checks and audibles, predicated on finding the absolute PERFECT play for that particular defense.
So when I opened the new playbook, I felt almost insulted. It’s brutally simple. Sure, there are a variety of tweaks and tricks, but the base system is not difficult to understand whatsoever.
But here’s what that does.
Simplicity breeds confidence. For a guy that may not be as intelligent as I am, a complex offensive system often times leads to doubt, hesitancy, and then underperformance. By focusing on doing the simple things incredible well, Riley allows his players to gain confidence in their assignments. Confidence is the foundation of The Mentality. When a player is confident, he can play aggressively and he can play fast. The system itself, with its simple concepts and aggressive, big-play schemes, is designed to develop the same mentality on the field that he works so hard to cultivate off the field.
A Player’s Coach
You can’t fool the players. They know.
They know whether you really care about them as people, or if first and foremost you want to win, no matter the cost.
There is no doubt in my mind that Coach Riley cares. Lincoln relates to the players extremely well. Some coaches just have that “It” factor that makes players comfortable around them, and Riley has “It.”
Every player on that offense and in that locker room knows that Coach Riley genuinely cares about them. He doesn’t have to say it (even though he does); it’s just understood. Though this isn’t strategic on his part, I believe it is crucial to understand the effect that this has on the offense. The knowledge that Coach Riley genuinely cares about the players develops trust. Trust contributes to confidence, which fuels The Mentality. No one weaves together intangible qualities and on-field excellence better than Lincoln Riley.
I think it’s obvious that he’s converted me into a believer. Not every coordinator is meant to be a head coach, but Lincoln Riley is. Sooner Nation has been lucky to hold onto him as long as we have, and I’m excited to see what year three has in store!
Fast forward 6 months…
Bob Stoops has just retired as the head football coach of the Oklahoma Sooners.
Lincoln Riley has been named the new coach.
A lot has happened in Soonerland over the past week. But when I go back and read what I wrote 6 months ago, I am more confident than ever in the future of the Sooner football program. Coach Stoops left Coach Riley in a nearly perfect situation. The transition will be seamless, and I couldn’t be more excited for what the future has in store. A new facility. A renovated stadium. A new head coach. The same tradition. The same dedication to excellence. The same expectation for championships.