What we can take away from Super Bowl LI

Several years ago, the Super Bowl party ended up at my house. Now we host it. Every year. It’s become a cool tradition, and regardless who’s playing, it’s always a blast with friends & family.

But when the Broncos sent Peyton Manning off into the sunset toting a Lombardi Trophy, I professed, “It would be impossible to top THAT one!”

Until Super Bowl LI.

Many will argue the Patriots-Falcons overtime thriller was hands down the best Super Bowl game ever. And many believe Tom Brady’s come-from-behind charge en route to his 5th ring ended any remaining debates about the best quarterback to ever play.

As I watched Brady and the Pats chip away at the Falcons massive lead, I started thinking how unbelievably heartbreaking it would be for Falcons fans to let this one slip away. In all honesty, their 25-point lead felt very secure. But then they made some interesting coaching decisions and a few questionable play calls which helped fuel a clear momentum shift.

And every time the television camera zoomed in on Brady’s face, you could see in his eyes. He knew exactly what was happening. There is no quit in this guy. No lead is insurmountable. You just knew that he never believed for a second the Pats were out of this ballgame.

What transpired was historical. And that we were able to witness it live was pretty cool, too. But what can we actually take away from this? Sports often provide us parents a platform for teaching our children valuable life lessons. And as I observed both teams that night, I couldn’t help but think about our young athletes today, their dreams, and what they can learn from this event.

So here are my 4 takeaways from Super Bowl LI and how today’s college-bound athlete can apply these now and in the future.

Don’t take your foot off the gas.

In life, it’s easy to become complacent… especially when things are going well. Are you putting up monster stats lately? Scoring well on tests? Life is good for you! And this is when it’s easy to let up. This is when we can become a little too comfortable for our own good. Sort of like the Falcon’s did when they had the Patriots on the ropes 28-3. Instead of staying focused on the end goal, they put too much focus on the lopsided score. They relaxed. Their self-satisfaction caused them to lose sight of their goal, and it cost them a world championship. We can all learn from this.

Champions are calm, cool & collected in the face of adversity.

There’s a great quote by philosopher Thomas Carlyle that speaks directly to this. He said, Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” We’re all going to face challenges in life. And some of these challenges will feel impossible to overcome. But champions stay the course. They never lose sight of their goal. If you have a dream to play in college, remain focused even when all hope appears to be lost. There will be times when college coaches have all but forgotten you. You’ll doubt if you’re good enough to play in college. When your friends are committing to schools while you’re struggling to get attention from any schools, it will be uncomfortable, to say the least. Stay the course. Don’t be shaken. Be like Tom Brady down by 25 points in the biggest game of his life. Never lose sight of your goal.

Surround yourself with a team of people that share your passion & support your dream.

Brady gets much of the credit for the miraculous comeback, but he’ll be the first to tell you he could not have completed the mission without the team of people around him, all fighting together. His teammates, his family, the coaches, the trainers, the owners, the scouts, the front office, the ball boys. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you have people around you who share your passion and work in concert to support you. This is valuable lesson not just for kids, but for parents too.

Learn from our mistakes.

I’m sure the Falcon’s will take a beating for their monumental collapse. As if losing the Super Bowl wasn’t enough, right? But as gut-wrenching a defeat this was for Falcon Nation, it’s hard not to root for them to learn something from it. For kids, it’s a powerful life lesson. We’re all human. Mistakes are inevitable. Even professional athletes aren’t impervious to failure. In fact, no great success was ever achieved without failure. So don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from it. If you’re down, don’t lose sight of your goal.

As the great Michael Jordan once said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

Hope you enjoyed this… Stay proactive!

Rex Grayner
Rex Grayner, SAS President

Rex Grayner


As a published author, public speaker and radio/television guest, Rex is widely considered among the nation’s premier authorities on college athletic recruiting.

Before founding Student-Athlete Showcase LLC in 2003, Rex served as a NCAA Division I Compliance Representative and VP of West Coast Operations for a large college recruiting firm. In 2008, Rex was honored with the prestigious “Forty Under 40” award by the Denver Business Journal.


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