Monday, January 12, 2015

Reggie Ho & the 1988 National Championship: Not the Most Important Thing...

Given the revenue generated by tonight's NCAA national championship football game, it can be tough to remember that the men on the field are student-athletes. I once heard someone say we should refer to many of them as "athlete-students." But, as you learn about the hometown, high school alma maters and intended majors of the young men on the field, you might also realize a number of things. For every student-athlete involved, the opportunity to play in AT&T Stadium is much more than the culmination of their season—it is a dream come true. For many it is a step toward a future in football, but for the majority of the players, this is it. They will return to Eugene and Columbus tomorrow. They will be elated or despondent, tired and sore, satisfied or hungry. They will have classes to attend and assignments to complete. 
The spoils will go to the victors, but the Ducks and Buckeyes on the gridiron will hold one thing in common tonight and tomorrow: what they do in Arlington is not the most important thing in their lives.  

You probably think I am in great need of an editor, right? No, this is what Lou Holtz told his team in 1988 when the Fightin' Irish of the University of Notre Dame beat the Mountaineers of West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl. The victory was Holtz's first and only national championship. The Irish haven't had one since.

The 1988 championship season was made possible by an unsuspecting player—a walk-on, a placekicker names, Reggie Ho. The feature of the new "30 for 30 short: Student Athlete" Ho's teammate Tony Rice, the quarterback, said "I have nothing against Rudy. He's an ND guy. But, Reggie deserves more; Reggie's a better story."

Ho said, "Coach Holtz told us, this is not the most important thing in your life. There's a lot of other things that are important. God is important. Your family is important. Remember that! ...And we just won the national championship! For him to get up and say that!? It meant a lot. "
If I lived in Philly, I would go out of my
way to have him be my electro-cardiologist!

To look at the 5'5" 135 lb Hawaiian's (out St. Louis High School in Honolulu, the alma mater of another athlete competing in a national championship game: Marcus Mariota) today, it's easy to see what is the most important thing in his life. It might be being a good husband and raising two sons. Maybe it is serving as a cardiologist who specializes in electrical therapies for the heart at in Jefferson Hospital Philadelphia. As someone with a pacemaker/defibrillator, I say "thank you." And he does all of this without fanfare. There isn't but one sign of his role in the championship game or season in his office. (Again, this is why I will never achieve something on the highest stage. I think I might get an '88 and interlocking ND tattooed on my forehead I would be so pumped). 

He is clearly a student of a great teacher. Coach Holtz told his players every year, and my classmates at the Freshman Convocation to ask of ourselves an important question. "What's Important Now?" W.I.N. What do I need to do today to succeed? Clearly, Reggie Ho as a student-athlete did that to become a doctor. As noted in the video, he would head to the library after many games to study. "It was hard and I was often pretty tired, but it's what I had to do," he said.

Reggie Ho is another example of why we love college football. To hear stories from Lou Holtz, Tony Rice and Reggie consider the odds that were stacked up against both Rice and Ho...and to discover how and where their paths intersected and what it's yielded?! Maybe not the most important things in their lives, but maybe the sweetest. Enjoy

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