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Guest Angler IV: "A Higher Purpose"

We all love sports, and based on TV ratings our country especially loves football. The drama and excitement of a game captures our imagination and certainly provides an entertainment value rivaled by few mediums.

However, the value of football extends far beyond a form of entertainment, and this is where the National Football Foundation finds its purpose.

There are powerful parallels between winning on the field and success later in life, and the National Football Foundation has worked hard for the past 60 years to ensure that the young people who play our game see that connection. We believe that football is the ultimate tool for teaching young people the values of leadership, teamwork, and the drive to compete in all aspects of their lives, not just on the field and especially in the classroom.

All of our programs carry these objectives forward. The College Football Hall of Fame holds out the greatest players and coaches as a source of inspiration for future generations. Our chapters annually distribute $1.1 million in scholarships to approximately 3,300 student-athletes at awards banquets nationwide. Our coaching clinics ensure that coaches who work with our young people are not only well versed in football skills but the game’s character building attributes. The list continues with more than 1,000 annual events that celebrate the game and its unique ability to teach America’s young people the values that make our country strong.

We recently renamed our top scholar-athlete award the William V. Campbell Trophy in honor of the former player and coach at Columbia who has gone on to be one of our country’s top business leaders with key roles at Apple, Google and Intuit. Bill Campbell, the longest serving NFF Board member, summed up the value of football in accepting the NFF Gold Medal, the organization’s highest honor, in 2004.

“Football is the ultimate team game. There is no sport that requires so complete an understanding of your role: starters, subs, special teams, skill position, alignment, your gap, and your zone. The team doesn’t function unless everyone does his job,” said Campbell. “I believe in selflessness and ensuring that the group, the unit, the business, the team succeeds. I have learned that from this game, and I so desperately want others to have the opportunity to learn that as well.”

Bill’s feelings echo the sentiments of the millions of people who have played the game and gone on to be great leaders in their chosen fields, and the National Football Foundation provides them a way to stay involved and give back. Campbell’s accomplishments also send a poignant message to our young people that rather than seeing their sports experiences as a way to become the next Bret Favre, Michael Jordan, or Tiger Woods, the skill set that they gained on the field can provide them the tools to be great leaders later in life.

Athletics are so deeply ingrained in the fabric of our society that they present a potent means for reaching multiple objectives. Corporations get it. They spend billions of dollars each year to reach fans and market their products. The media gets it, making sports a centerpiece of their content offerings. Politicians get it, utilizing sports metaphors in their daily lexicon. Military leaders get it, inspiring their troops with stories from “the fields of friendly strife.” The opportunity to utilize sports as a marketing vehicle is probably endless, but from our perspective there is probably no better marketing objective for football than selling a young person on the value of an education.

Our challenge at the National Football Foundation is to capture America’s passion for football and channel it to ensure that the true value of the game remains front and center. With more and more young people playing football and more and more fans tuning in to watch games each week, the role of the National Football Foundation has never been more relevant and the opportunity for us to impact more young people has never been greater.

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