Friday, November 13, 2009


American essayist, philosopher, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "Each man has his own vocation; his talent is his call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him."

The substance of this quote can apply to nearly any aspect of life and in any profession. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, barbers, sports whatever the profession, an individual realizes they have some degree of talent and then work to develop their skill set. The athlete who works hard becomes a world famous player and the best in his sport. The doctor who works hard becomes a world renowned surgeon.

Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Johnny Cochran.............. what do they all have in common? All had talent and developed it to be successful. Far more important than developing their talent is the fact that they were fortunate enough to not get in their own way while developing that talent.

What do I mean by this? Far too many times we have witnessed people who have talents one can only dream of; yet they are unable to get out of the way to allow the talent to blossom.

Thunder Collins was a University of Nebraska running back. As a  high school senior he rushed for over 1,110 yards. He was a Junior College All American and was recruited by several large universities.

Today, Thunder Collins is a convicted killer sentenced to life in prison with an additional 110 years for other counts. Thunder Collins provides a prime example of how we get in the way of our talents and close the space that Emerson spoke of.

Thunder Collins (Univ of Nebraska), Lawrence Phillips (Univ of Nebraska), Cecil Collins (LSU), and Maurice Clarett (Ohio State) are all bad exmaples of young black men with endless potential and are all currently incarcerated. Why is this?

If a man’s talent is his calling, why are their life changing obstacles placed before him that prevent him from reaching his calling?


  1. Mel,

    Just like you said,this is one of those things that happen far too often in our community. At the least, I figure the person will realize that they have a free education but somehow, that does not even enter into their minds. Maybe these kids have the wrong mentors or no mentors at all. It is weird to me that these huge college universities don't have tons of volunteers that are looking to mentor and help these athletes. It would be a great thing to put on a resume. Imagine if you were interviewing for a job in Minnesota and you had on your resume, "I mentored Adrian Peterson in college." Man, I don't know. To answer your question though, I think God puts challenges in front of us to make us stronger and to give us a chance to see what path we are going down. The problem is that we react so fast without thinking and when the dust settles, you got Thunder Collins serving life in prison.

  2. Dario,

    I agree that it happens for too often in our community. As mentioned in the piece we can find numerous examples of situations like this taking place.

    I’m kind of torn between why this is though; here’s why.

    On one hand I do think it’s a culmination of things that attribute to this such as lack of mentors, environment we grow up in and company we keep, etc but I agree that mentoring can have a very positive effect on some of these situations. One would think that as much money as the universities make off these athletes mentors should be piling up to help provide guidance. The reality is just the opposite happens.

    On the other hand you can’t let these guys completely off the hook for their actions or for getting in their own way. As an adult you know the difference between right and wrong or what’s good and what’s bad. There also comes a time in life when you make a conscious decision of who you want to be as a person. Once you reach that point you have the power of choice; the choice to choose the path that will allow you to maximize your talent.

  3. Dario and Mel,

    You both bring up interesting points. As much money as these colleges make, their should be mentors on campus 24/7 giving these young adults sound advice as to how to proceed forward and become productive citizens. Too often the talent level far exceeds the maturity level. Some of these athletes have been playing sports since pee-wee and as sad as it is to say...they know nothing but sports. They can dribble a ball or catch a pass like nobody's business, but can't put together a resume.

    It is up to us who have been where these young people are now to give back and offer guidance to these future generations. Not to sound cliche, but words are one thing yet actions speak so much louder. I'm glad that these type of issues are on peoples' minds and are being written about.

    Keep up the good work.