Day 64: Coach Steve Roberts



Dear Coach Roberts,

Before writing you this morning I spent time reflecting on your years as head coach here at Arkansas State. I was on academic staff much of your tenure and recall it as a new, refreshing, even glorious eight years. Something definitely felt different with you in charge. Something surely changed.


Then a little quick research into your win-loss record at A-State honestly shocked me. I forgot, by the numbers, you never had a winning season. There was a conference championship, a remarkable program “turnaround,” in fact,  attendance numbers grew, you were a conference coach of the year, and we won at home much more than we lost, but we never had an outright winning season. That can’t be right, but the record speaks for itself. Or does it?

What I recall more about your ASU coaching career than wins and losses is the dynamic you brought to a depressed football town hungry for change – perhaps the kind of change we didn’t even know we needed. And maybe one not so much about football.

You brought us honor and integrity. Success on the football field flowed from things of a higher priority.

We’d lost touch with the things most real, most important, and how success really works.

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-4-47-23-amOur team learned that everything started with who they were in their hearts, who they were created to become, and why. I’m not saying you didn’t know your Xs and Os. You surely did, and I loved the fire in your belly. I’m just saying you had your priorities straight and we hadn’t seen leadership like that in a long time. What’s more, is that over time (and even though you’ve been gone seven years now) you created change with staying power. Your fingerprints are all over this program. We are different, and you did that. That’s what happens in the pursuit of the things most real and when they’re done for all the right reasons.

From the sidelines I watched and learned something important. I learned the value of a mantra you speak out loud. Sometimes we have to say what we believe, so we can hear what we believe, so we really will believe it. Can we speak things into existence? Actually,  I believe we can.

“I will.”

That was the mantra you instilled in your teams.  I will give my all. I will protect my teammates. I will play with honor.

So often now when I find myself challenged or pushed to certain limits, I do the very thing you taught your players. And it’s not an occasional thing. It happens almost every day, coach.

I tell myself, “I will.”

My, oh, my the power of those words.

Thank you for doing something here that really mattered, Coach Roberts.

It’s said we should train up a child (and maybe even one another) in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Thank you for reminding us, and giving us all that legacy. It never was about football, was it?

Your fan,

Steve Watkins



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