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2017 Blanton Collier
Award Winner:
1964 NFL World Champions Cleveland Browns
Award Celebration at:
The Lexington Opera House
Lexington, KY
June 23, 2017

Character is a Decision


Stories by TD Willhunt

Story 2- Compassion

I was 10 years old and I could sit anywhere on the bus I pleased because my daddy was the bus driver. I didn't have to pay and could ride on as long as I wanted. The rear seat was my favorite, I could stretch out. It irritated me when a passenger chose the rear seat.

It didn't take long to get bored. Some of the riders would talk to me, or I would pass the time listening to them talk to each other. It was mostly chit chat, soon forgotten. But there was one conversation I overheard that I remember to this day.

It was late afternoon when a boy about my age, with his father, boarded at the hospital bus stop. The boy was crying quietly as they took the seat in front of me.

The boy asked his father, “what does character mean?”

The father didn't answer right away. Shortly he said, “Son, it can mean different things. You know how you learned the alphabet when you started to read?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, each letter in the alphabet is called a character. And do you remember when we went to the circus and you laughed at the clowns?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, the clown was a funny character. So you see how the term character can mean different things?”

Then the boy said “why did granny have to die this morning?”

The dad didn't answer.

The boy continued, “Granny said I had character. What did she mean? Was she talking about the alphabet and clowns?”

The dad was wiping tears from his face as he put his arms around his son and chuckled, “No son, she was talking about God's goodness in you. Do you remember when you went to the Kroger store with Granny and found the five dollar bill, and you took it to the manager to find out who lost it?”

“Yes sir.”

“How did you feel when you found that money?”

“I know I would feel really sad if I lost that much money.”

“That feeling of sadness you had for the other person came out of a deep place inside your heart. You could say God put a special alphabet in your heart and the feeling you had for the other person's loss was one of the letters in God's alphabet called compassion. That's what Granny meant when she said you had character. She could already see your life spelling out goodness of character from the letters of God's alphabet in your heart.”

The boy was silent the remainder of their trip.

As they left the bus I heard the boy ask, “Daddy, do you have God's alphabet in your heart?”

“Yes son, God put his alphabet in everyone's heart, but the the letters get scrambled up by life.”

I consider this bus ride one of the most important trips of my youth. I felt the boy and I were kindred spirits. Through the years that have passed I have worked at arranging the letters of God's alphabet in my heart to spell “goodness of character.”

Story 1- Content

It was halftime and we were two touchdowns behind to a team we were favored to beat. It was the last game of the season and the conference championship was on the line with this game.

I was one of the seven seniors on the team and the coach called us to assemble as a group in front of the locker room. He rolled the mobile black board to position it in front of us and motioned for the rest of the team to gather around.

I was expecting to see X's and O's and an explanation of adjustments that needed to be made in our game plan, along with a tongue lashing about our mediocre effort on the field the first half. But I could feel a different mood in the coach's demeanor, and as it turned out there was no tongue lashing, no strategy adjustment, just a heart to heart talk with 7 seniors playing their last high school football game.

He wrote one word on the blackboard . . . C O N T E N T, and underlined the first three letters.

“Boys, this is one of life's special words.”

Place the emphasis here on the first 3 letters and it is CONTENT, which means all of that which is contained within.

Place the emphasis here on the last 4 letters, it is CONTENT, which means satisfied within.

I am not satisfied with your performance so far tonight because I know you can play better. But I am satisfied tonight with what I know about the heart within each of you. This is the last game of organized team competition that most of you will play. You have been together now as a team for four years and all seven of you have unselfishly played your part. You have sacrificed personal gain for the good of the team, and you have played with courage and determination. I have watched you and that's how I know about your heart and that's why I'm satisfied with all that's within. Your time on this team has prepared you for a good start in the game of life which I know each of you will play with full commitment. As we go back on the field to complete this game I want each of you to ask yourself, “am I satisfied with all that's within? Do I have within me the content to overcome the adversity of coming from behind. Do I have within me the will to loose my passion to win?”

The coach stood silent and looked into the eyes of each of us and said, “Gentlemen, the world is waiting for your story”.

I hold Coach in my heart with great affection, and still feel the pride and excitement each time I see the Conference Championship sign which was permanently displayed on the high school front lawn after we won the championship that night.