Vince Lombardi, Terrance Knighton, and the Meaning of Football

Vince Lombardi, Terrance Knighton, and the Meaning of Football

If you look across I95 from the Vince Lombardi rest stop, you can see MetLife Stadium where the Broncos and Seahawks will play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy Sunday night in the state where Vince Lombardi coached high school football.

I thought it appropriate to ask a number of players at Super Bowl Media Day about one of Lombardi’s most famous observations. The Packers coach held, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” In other words, everyone playing football gets knocked in the dirt. The good players get back up and fight. In that sense, football is a lot like life. Everyone gets knocked to the ground in life. Not everyone gets back up. Isn’t it great to have a sport teach boys this greatest of life lessons?

I asked Terrance Knighton about a time when circumstances knocked him for a loop outside of football, and how he responded to the adversity.

The Broncos defensive lineman recalled coming to a friend’s rescue in a club during his days in Jacksonville, only to have glass shattered in the melee invade his eye. “Doctors told me I wouldn’t see out of that eye again,” Knighton reported. “But through prayer, through God, and through faith, my vision came back.” It was “out of my hands.”

Everyone faces adversity. Not everyone responds to it the same way. It builds character. It breaks some characters. As a Jacksonville Jaguar, Knighton could clearly see out of his good eye how his career had been jeopardized. Less than two years later, the man called Pot Roast plays in his first Super Bowl.

I didn’t talk to every player in the room. But if I had, my sense is I would hear a story from each athlete how he had been down-and-out before he reached this athletic apex. Defeats, and learning from them, is what champions are made from. It’s the struggles of every player on the Broncos and Seahawks roster that brought them to East Rutherford, New Jersey. It’s surely neither the weather nor the scenery. It’s hard for fans to identify with the thrill of Super Bowl victory. We can all identify with the agony of Terrance Knighton’s defeat. We’ve all been there, if not on the deck of a Jacksonville nightclub than on our knees in a church or by a loved one’s hospital bed.

Football is a metaphor for life. We all fall down. We don’t all get up. That’s what separates life’s winners from its losers. Terrance Knighton got up after he got knocked down.

Watch my conversation with Terrance here….




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