Photo Credit – Houston Chronicle

I frequently get asked what it was like to catch a NFL punt. Well, imagine this. There are nearly 70,000 fans cheering all around me. I run onto the field on 4th down and get in position, all the while, listening to the crowd. The ground shakes beneath me  like an earthquake as the stadium rumbles with excitement and noise. There are cameras flashing, sports reporters walking up and down the sidelines and the mascot and cheerleaders are pumping up the crowd. I can see fans at the other end zone screaming for me to run it back to their side. The excitement makes you feel invincible, like you could run through a wall.  No pressure, right?

As a punt/kick returner I’m standing by myself about 45-50 yards from the rest of the players. If I drop the ball, there is no one to blame but myself because it’s just me on an island.  If I drop the ball it could cost me my job or my career in the NFL.  I hear fans chanting, J J—Moses! It all becomes so loud that I can barely hear myself think. I pace back and forth as I wait for the ball to be punted towards me. Now, I must begin to clear my head. I get calm and relaxed. I look at the eleven other football  players from the opposing team, many of which look like Hercules. I can see it in their face and almost hear their prayers, “God, please let me destroy this guy!” And so I begin to pray, “Lord, please let me catch this football and run!”  Typically, my prayer would always get answered.

When the ball is punted, I hear the boom from the sound of the punter’s foot kicking the ball. Everything goes silent and into slow motion.  Like being shot out of a cannon, the ball goes nearly 100 feet in the air in a circular motion. The stadium is pin drop silent and my mind becomes quiet. Cheering fans and pacing reporters are no longer in sight, just a slight view of the opposing players fiercely running towards me. At first, the ball disappears in the air, however, I am so intensely focused I begin to see the laces on the football spinning from left to right. I can’t afford to take my eyes off the ball for one second. Against the vastness of the stadium, the football looks like a small rock in the air but within seconds comes into plain view dropping out of the air. As the ball approaches me in those final seconds, I feel exhilaration and a sense of hurry. I catch the ball and in an instant, like a reverse vacuum everything speeds up 100 times faster, the screams of fans pour back into the air, and the eleven players rushing towards me put the pressure on. Now, it’s up to me to trust my instincts.

Life is similar to catching a punt. You have to remain focused despite what comes your way. Your focus will keep you safe, give you success, and take you to a whole new level. Concentrate on the goal or dream that is within you. Block out distractions that come in the form of people, habits, and behaviors. Put the vision out in front of you so you won’t become easily distracted.

Just like in life, composure in the midst of pressure, allows for better decisions and better outcomes.  Don’t sweat the small stuff – worrying about your challenge does not fix anything. Focus your thoughts and your energy towards solutions and success.

“If you worry or panic about the small, day-to-day events in life, you won’t be prepared for the big ones.” Rudolph Giuliani