Thursday, February 17, 2011

It Started With A Dream

April 25, 2005

My son-in-law starts a new job Monday and it all started with a dream.  I didn't know Zac when he was a kid, but from what I understand, he was naturally gifted on the football field from the time he was pretty young.  By the time he got to high school it was pretty obvious that he was heading to college on a football scholarship.  He signed with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, broke several records,  and took them to their first bowl game.  After all, he was really good.

Right before the draft his senior year, Zac headed to California for several weeks of intensive training at one of the best sports' facilities in the world.  It paid off.  The Packers picked him up as a free agent and he headed to Green Bay.  We were planning a trip to Tennessee to see him in a preseason game when we got the call that he'd been let go on the final cut.  I imagine that was an especially long trip back from Wisconsin to Alabama.  But he had a dream, and when the call came from the Ravens  he didn't hesitate.  He headed to Baltimore.   We had a house full the Monday night they played the Packers. Every time he was on the field we stood and cheered.  By the way,  Baltimore won that night.  We gloated of course.


Zac married my daughter in the spring that year, and after the honeymoon they headed north.  We were all  disappointed when we got the call several weeks later that he and Fawn were coming back to Alabama.  He'd been cut once again.  They set up housekeeping in Birmingham and he went back to school to finish up his degree.  That's when the next call came, an offer to play football in Germany for a season.  He decided to go, taking his new wife with him.  Things went well.  Not only did they get to see a bit of Europe but they made the championship as well.  Another offer came stateside but things didn't work out, he'd been injured and needed surgery.  It seemed to be the end of the road for Zac and possibly his dream.

Zac in Baltimore

While training back in California Zac had made quite an impression, for not only is he an exceptional  athlete, he is a young man of character. They obviously noticed because Athletes' Performance contacted him, asking if he'd be interested in coming on staff as a strength trainer.  He'd be working with professional athletes and those aspiring to play for the NFL.   He accepted the offer.  He told me once that his favorite time of the year was in the winter when the top college guys from around the country would come in before the draft.  He'd work with these guys for several weeks, helping them to get their bodies conditioned for the challenges ahead.   But more than that, he wanted to influence them in a positive way.  He has a concern for the athlete who is unable to handle the sudden fame that comes with playing professional ball.  So each year after the training was over, he would make reservations at a nice restaurant and invite the players for a free meal sponsored by his church in Los Angeles.  There would sometimes be an inspirational speaker, but the primary objective was to let these guys know that as they entered some of the most intense days of their lives, there would be someone there for them.

The Bible has quite a bit to say about dreams.  Dreaming is not for the fainthearted, and let's face it, dreamers are often misunderstood.  I think the ultimate example has to be Joseph who was a dreamer extraordinaire, and his brothers most certainly misunderstood him.  In fact, they despised him for his dreams.  Maybe they resented the fact that all they saw in their future was herding sheep.  But the day would come many years later when Joseph would see the fulfillment of those dreams.  They hadn't come easily, far from it.  But because God was in the dream and Joseph maintained his integrity, the outcome was certain. 

There are a lot of us who dream, but that's as far as it goes.  Like I said, serious dreaming is not for those who are afraid to go for it.  It takes genuine courage.  Let's face it,  we fear failure or rejection so we settle for the status quo.  I wonder how many people die disappointed,  full of regret that they never took a chance.  At that point, rejection seems pretty insignificant. 

I know people who aren't afraid to dream.  Tony knew extreme poverty as a kid,  raised in a severely dysfunctional home by a single mom.  Today he's working on his doctorate, planning to teach at the university level someday.  And last year he ran the Chicago marathon and finished, the fulfillment of another dream.    My friend Brenda is a grandmother who commutes over two hours a day to get her Masters in Speech Pathology.  She needs that degree to continue working with children who struggle to form words properly.  And then there's Fawn, my own daughter, who invests so much time into the lives of people who are struggling with obesity, helping them to live joyful and productive lives.  She dreams that someday she'll be used to impact many more.

So back to Zac and his dream.  I asked him once if he missed playing ball.  He said it wasn't so much the playing as the camaraderie of the team that he missed, and I could hear in his voice that the dream was still there.  We rarely understand why God permits certain things to transpire in our lives.  I'm pretty certain that my son-in-law didn't understand why he was in Green Bay, so close to being on the roster, then released.  Or why he was training others instead of playing himself.  But when the call came from Green Bay that he was being considered for a position on their coaching staff, somehow it all started coming together. Sure there were five or six guys being considered, all with more experience than him.  But there was a strength coach who saw an extraordinary young man six years ago and stayed in contact with him.  And when the time came to fill a position, he knew who he wanted on staff.

I think I mentioned he starts Monday:  Zac Woodfin,  Assistant Strength Coach of the Green Bay Packers.  And it all started with a dream.

Lambeau Field, Home of the Green Bay Packers
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