Winning on and off the field

Remarks to the football team

By Nathan O. Hatch

I am here today to say how proud all of us are of you, the Wake Forest football team. I am here to thank all of you, players and coaches alike, for your great contributions to the Wake Forest community — its students, its faculty and staff, its alumni, its fans. We love the smart way you play, the great teamwork you demonstrate, the skill and savvy that you display on the field, and your fierce determination. Week in and week out you leave everything on the field. You bring great pride to this University.

In addition to playing football — which I am sure at times seems like more than a full-time job — you also excel in the classroom, and play other important roles as students and representatives of this university community.

Last Saturday was a bitter loss and all of us feel a touch of the keen disappointment and frustration that must have swept over you, players and coaches alike. It just doesn’t seem fair. You had a brilliant game plan, and you executed it superbly. I cannot tell you how proud I was of how many great plays you made  great blocks and tackles, great passes and receptions, great deflections by defensive backs, great second-effort efforts by tailbacks. Yet through a strange combination of last-minute events, we did not win the game. The disappointment in all of our hearts cannot begin to match your own, but we do identify with your disappointment.

What can we all take from this? Years from now you will look back and see that there are lessons to be learned, how unpleasant they seem now. In this sense, athletics can become a laboratory for life and what we all face as individuals, as families, and as working professionals.

There will be times when, despite heroic effort, events seem to conspire against us. We don’t get a job that our hearts were set on. We burn the midnight oil and write the best proposal, and still don’t get the contract. More personally, there are times when those families most needing peace and harmony suffer loss and tragedies or when important relationships go sour, when illness strikes the young and robust.

Life is not always fair and sometimes our noblest efforts are frustrated.

What are we to learn at such times? First, we need to stick together, to allow the pain to bring us together rather than drive us apart. This is not a time for pointing fingers or assigning blame.

A second lesson is to take heart and renew your strength and resolve. The daughter of President Harry Truman once said of him — “He knew nothing of regret that most enfeebling of emotions.”

To look back at what might have been can easily weaken us and leave us unprepared for the future. Keep your heads up, take the field the same way you always have. Finish the season in the true Demon Deacon form: with intelligence, fierce resolve and great team work.

Let me conclude with a special word to the fifth-year seniors. You and I entered Wake Forest together in the summer of 2005. I recall meeting Riley Skinner’s parents at Graylyn in August just as he and I were moving in.

These have been rich and rewarding years for the University and its football team. An improbable trip to the Orange Bowl, led by a freshmen quarterback, Coach Grobe winning the National Coach of the Year, three bowl games in a row, a spectacular come-from-behind victory over Maryland when we seemed down and out, important victories over Boston College, over Virginia, Clemson, Mississippi, and Stanford. And three consecutive wins over Florida State.

I am deeply grateful for your winning on and off the field and the great credit that all of you bring to Wake Forest. I am also grateful that, in moments of pain and loss, we can stick together. We can renew those bonds of respect and community which for 175 years have made Wake Forest such a special place.

We are grateful, indeed, for your commitment, your character, your courage, your determination. I stand behind you and so do Wake Foresters everywhere.

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