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Last Sunday night, Johnny Stanton landed at Lincoln’s airport. Three hours later, Nebraska’s redshirt freshman quarterback was sitting in the Bob Devaney Sports Center, waiting to hear a nationally prominent author deliver a speech designed to motivate more than 600 Husker student-athletes for spring-semester classes beginning the next morning.
“That’s the way to start a new semester,” Stanton said after listening to Jon Gordon speak for an hour and then answer questions from a crowd that represented all 24 Husker varsity sports. “I thought Mr. Gordon’s speech got everyone’s mind on the right track. It inspired me getting ready to go into such an important spring,” Stanton said. “It really gave me some good thoughts to focus in on.”
He Took Notes and Put Post-Its on His Wall
Stanton, you might recall, turned down scholarship offers from the likes of Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, to compete for Nebraska’s starting quarterback job after playing his first season on the Scout Team. He is healthy, humble and hungry to compete with Tommy Armstrong Jr. and others for the honor to start at quarterback next fall. “I took a lot of notes during the speech and put all of them on little post-it notes on my wall at home,” Stanton said. “I really liked the way he (Gordon) explained the importance of being humble and hungry. The idea of quiet confidence really resonated because my one-word mission for 2014 is confidence.”
Gordon challenged all Nebraska student-athletes to analyze their energy levels and come up with a one-word mission for the new year.” “I think it’s a great idea for all of us,” Stanton said. “I also understood what Mr. Gordon meant when he told us not to be an energy vampire and sabotage yourself or the team. I really enjoyed listening to him. He was motivating and made that hour feel more like a conversation than a speech. I think everyone walked out of the Devaney Center Sunday night ready to take a positive approach to everything ahead.”
Stanton could not be more accurate about that. Check out what his fellow student-athletes had to say, including two softball players, who are in the midst of their third consecutive season using a Jon Gordon book as a special motivator:
Ellie Grooters, Senior, Track and Field: “It’s really cool when the university brings in a speaker to start every semester. It helps our student-athletes get started right in our sport, in school and in life in general. As a captain, I like learning how leadership requires individual positivity throughout the team. Creating a culture starts with each and every one of us because we’re all role models. It’s kind of daunting to be a leader for a team as big as track and field is, but Jon gave us plenty of ways to create a positive path. He was encouraging and inspiring. I loved hearing him say that optimism is a competitive advantage, and that’s a great way for all of us to share leadership. When you wake up in the morning, you can feel stressed or blessed. You can think I have to go to class, and I have to go to practice or you can turn it around and say: 'I get to go to class and learn from all of these great professors, and I get to go to practice and be around all of these insightful coaches'. Optimism makes a big difference in a whole day, a whole week, a whole month and the whole year. That one-hour speech put everything in life into perspective for me. I think it was uplifting for all of us.”
Sunny Russell, Senior, Rifle: “As Jon Gordon talked, I couldn’t write fast enough. Every piece of information was incredibly relevant and seemed like exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. The feedback I heard from teammates and fellow athletes was no different. As an athletic department, I’m excited to watch the change that’s taking place. Jon shared that we should be humble and hungry to learn and encouraged a change in our perspective on difficulties and setbacks. He reinforced that every setback is a learning opportunity and asked us to concentrate on how it will benefit us later as long as we remain strong. He encouraged us to have a process-focused mindset that centers our thoughts on becoming champions instead of winning championships. So many of us have a vision of where we want to go but struggle to map out and execute the process needed to reach that goal. By applying these two simple principles, I’m convinced all 24 teams at Nebraska can be unstoppable. Jon also encouraged the principles of leadership and culture. He said a team thrives when it has leaders who expect greatness and a team that contributes to that quest every day. Jon’s perspective has encouraged my fellow senior, ReAnn Wilson.We’re committed to live the example of being on a quest for excellence every day, both on and off of the range. Throughout this week, I’ve heard teammates comment that they’ve been paying attention to their speech and filtering themselves before talking negatively or complaining. Personally, Jon empowered me in so many ways. Of the many, the one I reflect on the most is Jon’s story about the perseverance that he and his family had just to catch a plane when everyone else was telling them they couldn’t do it. After telling us that story, we could relate to it in our own way. We understood what he meant when he said: Keep running, stay positive and never give up. That story has greatly impacted my training this week. I can hear Jon’s words encouraging me to fight through mental fatigue, and that’s what I plan to do every day.”
Kyle Kubat, Junior Pitcher, Baseball: “Jon Gordon gave one of the best motivational speeches I’ve listened to in my time here at Nebraska. Not to take away from the other speakers, but Mr. Gordon’s message is valuable to us as student-athletes because it goes beyond the classroom and the field. It talks about how to approach life. I really took in all of his messages, especially the one that focused on creating a culture at Nebraska and then implementing that culture now and for years to come. I loved his 5 C’s and his idea to create your own ‘one word’ focus for the year. Jon Gordon is definitely part of Husker Nation and in my opinion should be speaking to Nebraska student-athletes for years to come.”
Mattie Fowler, Junior Infielder, Softball: “Jon Gordon’s speech to all of the student-athletes was an incredible way to start 2014. He was extremely motivational and challenged us to be better every day. He emphasized how culture drives everything we do. A culture of excellence is what Nebraska is all about. My favorite phrase he used was to always be humble and hungry. He reminded us that hard work, willpower and optimism can overcome any challenge. Under Coach Revelle’s direction, our softball team has read a Jon Gordon book the last three years. It was an awesome experience to meet and hear directly from him. Jon Gordon has helped us create a vision for the season. We are two practices into the season, and we are definitely focused on being humble and hungry at the same time.
Kiki Stokes, Sophomore Outfielder, Softball: “When I first heard that Jon Gordon was going to speak to all Nebraska student-athletes, I thought, ‘wow this is insane.’ We read his books as a team and our coaches have been in contact with him, so this is going to be awesome and it was! Softball was actually fortunate to hear Jon twice. When he spoke to all the athletes, I saw so many people leaning in and getting inspired by what they were hearing. The biggest thing that stood out to me Sunday night was him saying: ‘Don’t focus on winning a championship; focus on becoming a champion.’ That quote not only applied to me in softball. It was something I could relate to in everyday life as well. We all focus so much on results when we really should be focusing on what needs to be done to get those results. When he suggested that we all create one word to live by for 2014 and told us his word was Pray, I knew why he was so special and why he’s been blessed with such success. Monday morning, after he was done speaking with our team, I felt in my heart to ask Jon if he would pray with us as a team. He was so willing and open about it and it truly was such a special moment for the team, too. We could see someone like Jon in a different way. He wasn’t just the author of a book we lived by last year. He’s now a friend who cares about our journey to success.”
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