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Daron Roberts: “Shape the game that you play”

Daron Roberts delivered a powerful speech on campus as a keynote speaker at the BRLI Leadership in Athletics Conference on September 7th. A former NFL coach and dedicated promoter of leadership through athletics, Daron shared his incredible road to the NFL.

Stuck on the fast track, Daron Roberts was a Harvard Law School student whose future in law was all but guaranteed. Already fielding offers from leading law firms, he only had to decide which he preferred. Entirely by chance, Roberts was asked to help at a summer football camp at the University of South Carolina that he was attending with a friend. He stepped up to coach when one of the staff members failed to show and head coach Steve Spurrier inquired for volunteers. Roberts identified this special time as the best 48 hours of his life. His whole future outlook was changed while teaching football to six-year-olds and watching them bond over their mutual passion. Roberts’ experience with football did not extend beyond high school, but he realized that he wanted to be a part of the coaching world. Rather than falling prey to the fear and social stigmas that trap the most driven people within expected spheres, he decided to follow his passion and make it a career.

The first thing Roberts did with his new resolve was turn down the law firm offers and their $160,000. He understood that the path he had chosen wasn’t an easy one, and he would have to accept many rejections. By removing any other options, he ensured that his future would be solely focused on the world of coaching. After sending out hundreds of letters to NFL personnel, Roberts finally received just one call from former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards, who offered him a training camp internship with no pay and zero benefits.

Roberts accepted the proposal and served the organization with unwavering commitment and dedication. Continuing as a champion of hard work, he would prove his devotion to his new life by being first in the office and last to leave. Roberts would apply this mentality of always adapting and preparing for new responsibilities to all aspects of his life. After enjoying a year of promotion to a real coaching job with Kansas City, Edwards was fired in 2009, and Roberts left the franchise to join the Detroit Lions as an assistant to the secondary coach.

Roberts would eventually leave the NFL to work at the University of Texas following other coaching jobs with the Cleveland Browns and the University of West Virginia. This new position would allow him to continue to push himself while spending more time with his wife and kids. In addition to teaching courses on sports leadership and innovation, he founded the Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation at the university. A true testament to the power of will and hard work, he applied passion and discipline to every aspect of his life to find and excel at something he loves. In conclusion, he imparted four points to live by:

  1.     Don’t play the game that you find, shape the game that you play

  2.     Purpose over position

  3.     Put feet on your prayers

  4.     Seek out investors, not encouragers

Each point encourages taking personal initiative and creating your own future, while surrounding yourself with people who are going to have a positive influence on you and will help you realize the future you are shaping. Daron Roberts was lucky enough to find his dream and disciplined enough to realize it. He is constantly pushing the limits of what he can achieve. Through his leadership initiatives, he is spreading what he has learned — that it all comes down to what you want and how much you want it.

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