Dear OSU football players,
Thank you. Thank you for coming to play against the ducks, for giving everything you have, and for shrugging off the negativity from the week before. I know that you all heard more than your fill about the state of your program. I am sure your families have heard and read even more than you from people whose ankles are still sore from how quickly they jumped from the bandwagon. Thankfully, you came in and showed us all your heart, character, and talent.
I never talk much about effort or heart because I think it is very hard to quantify those things. I am sure that as you sat in the training room, icing your limbs or taking a freezing whirlpool bath after playing to exhaustion against the Huskies, you didn’t feel like you lacked heart or effort. But fans have no control over anything you do, yet love your team to an almost creepy extent. We cannot call plays and cannot recruit, so we just try and figure out what is wrong the best we can, in order to satiate our helpless desires for you to win and for us to taunt your rivals. And often, it puts you as the target during our quest for answers.
Regardless of the pressure or pain you got from fans, classmates, and friends back home, you did what men do and what strong-willed players do, and you came out on Friday and competed like it was the national championship game. There are many reasons why the game came up short for being a win for you on Friday, but none of them involved your effort, your heart or your resolve to do your best. That was evident, and I thank you.
While I am not innocent of pointing fingers at coaches, and I still will this off season, I think as you players look back at the last 12 weeks, you will recognize and understand opportunities that were missed. I don’t bring those up to you to make you sad or to kick you when you are down, but to offer you this bit of what I hope is wisdom:
You, individually, need to compete against yourself and no one else.
Every play, every down and every off season repetition has to be against you in your last play or last lift. You never look forward if you are always playing against you and you never get by with OK when you are the one giving out your grades. That is how you get through championship seasons. You compete against yourself, and you compete hard. A bad taste in the mouth from this game or that game are great for firing you up. Unfortunately, they are not good for getting you to perform with precision. And that perfection you seek, play in and play out, off-season rep in and off-season rep out, will be what keeps some of those bad things from happening.
The only reason I bring this up, and you probably already know it, is that watching you play Stanford or watching you play the ducks reveals who you are. A team capable of playing in the Rose Bowl. This isn’t 1983 where you have a blip of a whisper of a good game and hope it means you can compete. This is a talented group of Pac-12 players who are just getting going. I think something special can happen, and Friday you showed me it can.
Thank you for that. Thank you for doing your best in the game that matters the most to me and many of us fans. Thank you for making my trip to work on Monday a little more tolerable. But mostly, thank you for returning hope to me that this team can be a championship team.
Now go do it, and find out what Beaver Nation can really be for you. We cannot play for you, but we can build up the school you play for, in hopes that generations of students will remember your hard work and the foundation you have laid here at Oregon State.