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Lessons I Learned as a Pro Football Player’s Math Tutor

I’m a little disappointed that Neon Deion made it to the hall of fame and didn’t thank me in his acceptance speech.  I never had a doubt in my mind that this day would come…for that matter he never doubted it either.  But when I saw him give his speech, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Let me back up a few years (and no my sweet son, I am not old enough to be Deion Sanders’ mother, he is actually 3 years older than me!)  I was a young freshman, just starting college when I was asked to tutor some football player who was in my math class. He was a junior and from the little bit I had heard about him, he was considered a pretty good player.  I will never forget the first time I met him to begin our tutoring sessions.  He was the most confident person I had ever met in my life.  We opened up the book and started working on the first problem. He looked at me with dead seriousness and said, “You know, I don’t need to know how to do this math because I’m going to have someone counting my money for me.”  I told him just in the off chance that he didn’t, we should work on the math.  Funny thing is that he was right; he does have someone counting his money for him.

He was his own biggest fan and he wore his confidence with pride.  He was not cocky at all but just very matter of fact that he was very talented and he was going to do what he loved and be successful at it.  He just knew he had a talent and he was determined to make the most out of it.  And he did.  Sometimes I would listen to him talk and think “I need some of that confidence.”  Every once in a while I have a Neon Deion moment, like the day I went to the radio station and auditioned for the morning show with no experience but with a real confidence that I could do it.  And I did.

I will never forget when he found a company to make his name in neon lights.  He had them everywhere!  Those neon lights were on all the time.  Neon Deion had arrived and he was living it.  My little brother was a huge fan of Deion’s and one day I took him to go meet him.  Deion was so kind to him, warm and engaging.  He genuinely loved having fans.  Again, there wasn’t an arrogance about it, he knew that in his life he was going to be a big player with tons of fans and the fans would be a part of what kept him pumped up.

The fair came to town with a photo booth that would take your picture and put it on a Wheaties box.  Guess what?  We had to get one.  I remember thinking that getting your picture on a cereal box was a little over the top and while watching him cheese it up for the camera I thought maybe a box of Fruit Loops was more appropriate.  But that Wheaties box had a special place on his counter for everyone to see.  Was it over the top? Maybe.  But it was part of his dream, his vision and what he was working so hard for.  It was a constant reminder to him that he was going to be that big someday, famous enough for a Wheaties box.  And he is.

The following year he left to play for the NFL and my tutoring days were over.  A few years later after I had graduated and was working in Boston, I read a story of how he had a great hit in the World Series, even with a broken foot.  When I read the story I chuckled to myself.  One day while we were supposed to be doing math, we talked about baseball.  I told him about my softball days and how I hit a home run with a broken foot.  Maybe Neon Deion was having a Blythe moment.

I have earned major cool points in my son’s eyes since I told him the story of my Neon Deion tutoring days.  I may not have taught Deion a whole lot about math since he does in fact have someone counting his money, but he taught me a lot about having confidence and believing that you can do anything, even if seems over the top.  Congrats Deion on making it to the Hall of Fame!  I knew you could do it, but more importantly you knew you would do it!

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