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By Randy York
Astronaut Clayton Anderson made a triple play Thursday, addressing nearly 700 Nebraska student-athletes and coaches before breakfast, talking to founders and contributors of Tom and Nancy Osborne's TeamMates organization at lunch and then delivering the keynote address to mentors and mentees at TeamMates' annual recognition dinner that night. Count Neil Dufford a junior from Texas on Nebraska's golf team, and Hayley Martin a junior from Wisconsin on the Huskers' swimming and diving team, as among those inspired by Anderson's first speech of the day.
Dufford said Anderson's speech had "a big impact" on him. "Being from Texas and hearing a guy living in Houston talk about the incredible journey he took and the job he has, and then realize how it all started here in Nebraska while he was growing up was really cool," Dufford said. "Coming from Texas to Nebraska to live my dream and play golf collegiately, I could really relate. What really knocked my socks off was hearing how he started working in 1981, and it took him 15 years before he actually became an astronaut. He talked about how he almost quit after 13 years, and I would say that really hit home because we all go through tough times in whatever we feel what we want to achieve. Listening to him describe how he persevered through it and achieved his dream was a good lesson for us all to hear."
Martin related equally well to Anderson's message. "Since we were little, my mom took us to Kennedy Space Center in Florida," she said. "We went there several times, and my brother, Henry, actually got to attend a shuttle launch on his 10th birthday. He wanted to be an astronaut when he was little, but he's a marketing guru now in Chicago after swimming collegiately in Wisconsin. My dream has always been to swim at a Division I school. Nebraska's given me that chance, and I went after it."
Martin listened intently to Anderson's motivational delivery and thought about her mom giving her a "De-Motivational Poster" a couple weeks ago that said: Get to work! You aren't being paid to believe in the power of your dream. "I kind of like that because dreams only go so far," she said, pointing out how Anderson kept reinforcing the same message. "Being an astronaut is a tough job. You really have to put in a lot of work," Martin said. "When he (Anderson) got turned down so much, it reminded me of high school when I was seeded in the Top 5 four times at the state swimming meet, and it took me until the fifth time to actually win a state championship. That's what you have to do. You can't give up. He was ready to quit, but stayed with it and ended up living his dream."
The value of persistence is a never-ending message. "I'm sure every athlete in that room has been denied something many times, but just kept working at it and finally got it," Martin said, adding: "Or they're still working at it and still trying to get it."
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