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Chapter 10: Post Game

Straight from Our Hearts

Transcending the Game of Football — Life Lessons from the Kardiac Kids

The game is over. The glitz, glamour and prestige of becoming and belonging to a select few called NFL players and coaches have long passed.

For the team known as the Kardiac Kids, 1980 was the final season for a few. Others played on or continued coaching for awhile. Today, for the Kardiac Kids, professional football is only a memory. Most are no longer recognized if seen walking down the street or sitting in the stands at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The game goes on, but the players and coaches continually change.

In the Post Game section, the Kardiac Kids present lessons from life when they discuss the importance of faith and family in their football careers and in their lives today. Top: Clarence Scott. Bottom (l-r): Brian Sipe, Jerry Sherk and Sam Rutigliano.

As they say, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away." However, when someone mentions the name of Rutigliano, Sipe, Pruitt, Newsome, Rucker, Dieken, Alzado, Bradley, Matthews, Bolton, Darden, Hall, Wright or any of the others, the smiles come immediately and the memories start to flow.

Very few players or coaches, whether they’re in the NFL for two years or a decade, ever live through what was experienced by the Browns’ players and coaches during the 1980 season.

The Kardiac Kids — Our Untold Stories recaptures the games, the plays and the extraordinary moments that made the 1980 season so special. It tells the story of how each player and coach made a vital contribution to the team’s success. And it shares memories from you, the fan, about this unforgettable season.

Is that all there is? The answer is NO. There is much, much more. The game of football and the Kardiac Kids represent far more than winning or losing games and the memories created along the way.

What matters for a lifetime, for eternity, are the individual lives of the players, the coaches and staff that are featured in this book-and you. It is how each life touches the lives of others in unique and meaningful ways.

In Coaches Corner, the Kardiac Kids' coaching staff, along with players who later became coaches, offer advice and pearls of wisdom to fellow coaches. Top: Keith Wright. Bottom (l-r): John Petercuskie, Marty Schottenheimer and Dave Logan.

A season of destiny ended in a moment of despair with Red Right 88, but the true destiny of the 1980 Kardiac Kids is not yet realized. For each player and coach living today, the journey continues, and the memories live on.

Writer and poet Edwin Markham penned these words:

There is a destiny that makes us brothers;
None goes his way alone:
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own.

In Straight from Our Hearts, the Kardiac Kids share life-altering events and lessons learned from personal experience and from playing or coaching football-lessons that transcend the game. You will see into the hearts of each player and coach and gain a clearer understanding of what motivates and defines him as he lives his life today. Topics include:

Faith, Family and Football: The Kardiac Kids discuss the importance of support and encouragement from family in achieving success on and off the field, and in dealing with the difficulties and tragedies of life. Many discuss openly and boldly their faith and trust in a higher being, in God and in Jesus Christ. Some share quotes, poems and Bible verses that have had a profound impact on their lives.

Dealing with the Fear of Failure: What motivates people to success? For many it is the fear of failure. Is the fear of failure a good thing or is it bad? The players and coaches share their thoughts on this seldom discussed but important issue.

Advice to Coaches, Parents & Young People: Wise counsel is offered to coaches and to parents of young athletes from the Kardiac Kids' coaches and from the players, many of whom became coaches following retirement from pro football. Pearls of wisdom are offered by the Kardiac Kids to aspiring athletes and to anyone wishing to succeed-in athletics, education, business or life. You will read why never quitting or giving up is critical to success, not only in athletics, but in any aspect of life. Players and coaches discuss the significance of having someone believe in you, whether you are a freshman in high school or a 10-year NFL veteran.

The Kardiac Kids share their thoughts and opinions on how a fear of failure impacts the success or demise of an athlete’s performance or career.

You will read why never quitting or giving up is critical to success, not only in athletics, but in any aspect of life.

In addition, they discuss the significance of having someone believe in you, whether you’re a freshman in high school or a 10-year NFL veteran.

The Kardiac Kids draw upon their football careers and life experiences to offer advice to young people of all ages, whether they are in athletics or in other endeavors. Top (l-r): Ozzie Newsome and Joe DeLamielleure. Center: Robert E. Jackson. Bottom: Thom Darden.

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Faith, Family and Football

"When I got the diagnosis of colon cancer, it wasn’t devastating to me at all because I was strong spiritually and I said, ‘Lord, whatever you want from me at this point in time, I’m ready for it no matter what it is.’"

— Clarence Scott

"I gave myself a lot of credit for what we were able to do. That’s changed now. I realize that we were created and put on this earth with a purpose-that we were given different abilities and skills to carry out that purpose.

"I was just plain lucky to be the athlete that I was. I gave myself credit for all of that when we were playing. Now, I better understand how that was a gift from God."

— Brian Sipe

"The people who really strike me as spiritual and faithful people are the people who are living their faith-whose lives show it. A lot of people from the church talk about what they believe and that is fine, but I am fortunate to be out in the world where there are people who are helping others in their need and who are living their faith."

— Jerry Sherk

"The single most important thing in my life is God. The second most important thing in my life is my family and the third thing is the great profession that I chose. I chose to do something that I love. I never had to work a day in my life."

— Sam Rutigliano

"Actually, the most important thing in my life, even back then, was family-my mother and my brothers at that time. But now my family is my wife and my three kids."

— Dino Hall

"Proverbs 3:5-6 is what I would call one of my life verses. It is ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.’ That has been sort of a guiding principle for me . . . He has directed my steps-step by step by step."

— Johnny Evans

"I had Jesus in my life at a young age. As a Christian, I was saved. Some kind of way, I got off the track, crossed the field and boom. It's about grace and mercy. It is abundant that you, if you believe in Jesus, He will set you free. I’m free. I would be dead by now. He brought me back."

— Elvis Franks

"You always want to have faith in yourself and faith in God, He’s always in control. All you’ve got to do is go out there and do the best you can do. God knows what’s best for all of us."

— Oliver Davis

"The most inspirational person in my life is Jesus Christ."

— Clay Matthews

"Of course, spiritually, you need to focus to have a relationship with God. Some people, of course. have different gods, but a spiritual relationship would be that inner peace that you need during those times of trial and tribulations. When you’re involved in sports, when you’re involved in anything, you’re going to go through those down times, so you need to be prepared for that."

— Henry Bradley

Coaches Corner

"You help turn kids around who may not have been the best player or gotten to play as much. If it hadn’t been for you as a coach, they might have fallen through the cracks. Now, that’s rewarding."

— Keith Wright, high school football coach

"You’ve got to know what’s happening in the player’s family because, a lot of times, the problems that a kid has are at home. You’ve got to do your job, do your homework and know the player totally."

— John Petercuskie, NFL assistant coach

"You have to motivate your kids. It has to be fun for them. If you are real with them and you know what you are talking about, then they will buy in. You have a pretty good chance to be successful if you believe in what you are doing."

— Dave Logan, high school football coach

Advice to Young People

"You can accomplish a lot of things when the team is the number-one focus. The second thing is that, in any situation, you never quit and we never quit. The other part of it is that you can accomplish a lot and have fun doing it. You can affect a lot of people’s lives."

— Ozzie Newsome

"Be truthful to yourself and enjoy the game. Just have fun playing. My college coach always said you gotta have three bones to win-a backbone, a wishbone and a funny bone."

— Joe DeLamielleure

"Anything you go into, go into with enthusiasm. Do the best you can and don’t worry about instant gratification for yourself. That all takes care of itself further on down the road."

— Robert E. Jackson

"I think if I had anything to say to a young guy, it is ‘Make sure that my play is in line with the type of man that I am.’ My play on the field and off the field is something that people would respect and admire."

— Thom Darden

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