Hall of Fame advice: Aim (not TOO) high, love your mistakes & more

Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway from the Denver Broncos tells LSY! sports editor Hailey Rose Gattuso that he wouldn't change any mistakes he made.

Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway from the Denver Broncos tells LSY! sports editor Hailey Rose Gattuso that he wouldn’t change any mistakes he made.

Live! Starring … You! is dedicated to helping our fans discover what it takes to reach the top. At the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions in Canton, Ohio, we learned from the best of the best how to succeed as an athlete and as a person. What these superstars stressed most was the importance of pushing yourself on a daily basis to reach your goals, learn from your failures, and love what you do.

None of these athletes became Hall of Famers overnight. There is no exact formula for success but they shared some tips to help:

• Goals that aren’t reasonable aren’t reachable. It is important for your goals to be high, but still realistic. After you reach them you should set more.

“Some people set goals so high that they can dream about it and then never reach it,” said former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker/ defensive end Bobby Bell.

He told me about his outlook on goal setting, which is to set reasonable objectives and tackle them one at a time.

“I tried to set goals high enough that I can reach it,” he said, adding that once he hit a goal, he’d start aiming even higher.

“Once I got to that plateau,” he said, “I wanted to reach up higher and just keep building.”

Even as a Hall of Famer, Bobby still challenges himself.

“In my age now I learn every day,” he said. “I’m coachable. I’m willing to make a change and learn.”

Bob St. Clair tells Hailey Rose Gattuso that you should follow your goals ... even if you break your nose or lose your teeth!

Bob St. Clair tells Hailey Rose Gattuso that you should follow your goals … even if you break your nose or lose your teeth!

• You are the only person who can prevent yourself from getting a task done. Chase any goal, and you’ll encounter setbacks. It’s up to you whether you let those setbacks become excuses for avoiding the task at hand. Hall of Famer Bob St. Clair, a former offensive tackle for San Francisco, learned this.

“Never give up on a task,” he told me. “Never quit. Keep it going and trudge it out, one way or the other.”

He offered an example: “When I was playing, we had only 12 teams in the league and the first three years, we didn’t wear face masks. I broke my nose three years in a row, playing the whole game with a broken nose each time.”

If you’re impressed by that level of commitment, you’ll be amazed to hear this: “One game, I got five of my teeth knocked out blocking a punt. They shot Novocain in it, and I kept playing the rest of the game.”

In other words, the only time you can’t do something is when you aren’t willing to do it.

• Don’t waste time worrying about things you could have done differently. Every success story has its mistakes and failures along the way. When I asked former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway if there was any advice he wished he could have given himself at the beginning of his career, he immediately said, “No.”

Hailey Rose Gattuso went up close with football's best-ever players to get advice for LSY! fans.

Hailey Rose Gattuso went up close with football’s best-ever players to get advice for LSY! fans.

Then he offered an explanation.

“I think you go through growing pains and the maturity process when you come out of college and get in the NFL,” he said. “So I think there is a growing process, and obviously you look back and say there are certain things you would have handled differently. But I think for me, looking back, I did everything the best I could when I was going through it.”

Sometimes we look at mistakes we’ve made and relive them over and over in our mind, thinking about what we could have done differently. Doing this won’t change anything — plus, in the big picture, our mistakes may actually help us.

John Elway wasn’t the only Hall of Famer to say he wouldn’t change the past. Cris Carter, a former wide receiver-turned-ESPN commentator and 2013 inductee, told me, “Because I see the results, I wouldn’t change one thing. I would maybe change some of the heartache I caused my momma, but if you tell me this is going to be the end – as bad as stuff looked when I was in it – but now I’m on the other side of it, I’m going to take this route…

“I’ll go back and do it the same way.”

Cris Carter, a 2013 inductee, says humility takes on a different meaning in sports.

Cris Carter, a 2013 inductee, says humility takes on a different meaning in sports.

• Humility takes on a different meaning in the sports world. Humility in sports is just as important as in anything else in life. But in sports, humility is shown in a different way. Every great athlete has talent, but if you aren’t flaunting it, you aren’t maximizing it. You have to give your all every opportunity you get.

“Playing pro sports, you have to have a lot of intangibles,” Cris Carter said. “You can’t teach kids to be passive and to be an elite athlete. It’s a hard mix.”

Cris explained that “humble” is not a word he likes to use around athletes. But if you treat it as an honor to play your sport, you will learn humility as an athlete.

“What I try to tell kids is be appreciative of what they have,” he said. “A player has to understand an appreciation for who they are and the game they play, and the opportunities. Then, their overall characteristics will be humble.”

• It’s important to set goals that mean a lot to you personally. I asked former Cowboys guard Larry Allen how he measured his personal success. Did he compare it to others or to his own personal standards?

“It’s how I achieve my own personal goals,” he said. “I just wanted to give my family a better living. The better I did, the better it would be for them.”

• Don’t let failure kill your desire. Giving up is easy. I think it’s fair to say most people have a big fear of failure. Well, everyone fails at some point, as many athletes have shared. But the athletes who stand out are the ones who get up from those failures and work even harder.

“Probably the most underestimated characteristic is desire, because at some point, the person failed,” Hall of Fame wide receiver James Lofton told me. “I think that the first time you fail, and then the way you rebound, and the failures after that — the desire to want to excel is probably the most important thing.”

Hailey Rose Gattuso, LSY! sports editor, Mount St. Mary Academy

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