College Athletes Should Not be Paid!

College Athletes Should Not be Paid!

DON’T PAY COLLEGE ATHLETES! I repeat. DON’T PAY COLLEGE ATHLETES! Leave your thoughts as a comment. I’d love to read your opinion.

This week, Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, passed the Fair Pay to Play Act allowing college athletes in California to be paid for their likeness. It’s going to open a Pandora’s Box of problems we can’t even begin to imagine. It’s the beginning of the end of college sports as we know them today. 

Does that sound dramatic? Sure it does. But being a former student-athlete myself, I know first hand what goes on behind closed doors on a college campus. And I know for a fact that scholarship athletes have more than enough provided for them (legally) to have a pretty comfortable life while they help generate billions of dollars in revenue. 

Tim Tebow went off about this topic during a recent interview. While I typically don’t love the guy, I agree with his point of view that collegiate athletes shouldn’t be paid. Jason Gay, sportswriter in the WSJ, has a differing opinion and doesn’t think this new law is a bad idea. Jason writes a decent column and I typically enjoy it, but he’s dead wrong on this one. 

I hear the arguments all the time. “Why should everyone else make millions of dollars and the players can’t?” Another good one is “Athletes are the only students on campus that can’t make money. No other students are forced to pass up being paid.” Those arguments don’t hold water. I stayed on campus all four summers to work out with the team while playing college football. Each summer I got a job and saved as much money as I could to give me spending money I needed for the rest of the year. Nothing was stopping me from getting summer job and earning money. The money I saved, in conjunction with the money I received through my scholarship allowed me to make it through without going into any debt. How many kids coming out of college today can say they have zero debt? Not many. 

After college people enter the capitalistic real world. There’s still a major disparity between people at the top and the bottom. The average CEO made 287 times more than their workers in 2018. Is that right? Maybe not, but college athletics isn’t the only place on earth where the worker bees generate massive wealth for people at the top. Also, we must remember, there is a major value to getting a college education paid for and that value continues to rise. Essentially, as college tuition increases, the value student-athletes are receiving continues to rise as well, at a much higher clip than income percentages.

One major difference between college and the real world is that college is putting athletes in a position to have options, to get to the top, to be that CEO one day. Student-athletes get the opportunity to get their education paid for. Maybe I’m naive, but getting my degree, learning how to save, and working hard during the summer has put me in a much better financial position today as I enter my 40s than a few thousand dollars would have done for me while I was in college. I say a few thousand because I was an offensive lineman. I can’t imagine companies are salivating over spending millions on a bunch of Hoggies. “Sour grapes huh, Jake?” Not really, but I’m sure offensive linemen would love to see their starting QB roll up in BMW while they cruise into camp in their Chevy Corsica.

Even if I did get cash handed to me, I likely would have done something stupid with the money that caused me to miss a class or two. It might have caused me to lose focus on school and sports altogether, thus getting me kicked out of school. Remember…Pandora’s Box. When players start missing classes and practice for a photo shoot, coaches are going to love it!!  

What we might want to consider is some additional investment in classes about financial responsibility. Most college kids are terrible with money. This is yet another reason not to throw more at them. Some might say, “Sure Jake, you were lucky. You had parents that could send you money.” I love my parents dearly, but if you knew them, you know they weren’t throwing money my way. They raised me with a good head on my shoulders and I didn’t go without what I needed. That’s true. But I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My dad was so excited when I got my scholarship, he retired from the fire department at age 52. He has lived just fine ever since, but he wasn’t shipping me his retirement checks. If they never took me out to dinner after a game or sent me a couple dollars when they could afford to now and then, it wouldn’t have been the reason I didn’t make it. 

Part of the right of passage into being a successful adult is struggling a little. It’s ok to not have everything you ever wanted when you’re in college. It’s ok to have to buy Busch Light 30 packs on Saturday before you go out and spend as little as humanly possible at the bar. It’s ok to go to Jimmy John’s and get an extra loaf of day-old. I still do that today!

Yes, being a student-athlete is tough. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  But there are also pretty great benefits to being a student-athlete. While it may not be right, my teammates and I got preferential treatment everywhere we went. On top of getting school paid for, we didn’t have to wait in line anywhere. We got free food and drinks all the time. People, yes mainly girls, were overly nice to us. We literally lived like kings for five years. I don’t see every kid on campus getting treated like that, even the rich kids with their parent’s credit cards.

What I find interesting is that as soon as athletes are out of college, I don’t hear anyone barking about the job a former athlete may or may not have gotten. More than 98% of us don’t go to the next level. Do people really believe the money an athlete can make in college is going to put them on the path of success for the rest of their life? I can assure you it’s not. Even the majority of pro athletes are broke soon after they leave their respective sport. “But Jake, these guys can’t even afford to go to the movies.” I’ll say it again, it’s ok to struggle a little. We need to focus our energy on preparing student-athletes for life and stop worrying about the short window in time that is college. 

I could literally write about this topic for days. I could go into the problems money could bring into the individual locker rooms between different units. I could discuss how this could make the divide in college football have and have-nots even larger than it is today. I could discuss the impact this would have on gender inequality. How would you even begin to think about financial equality across the football team at Ohio State and the figure skating team at Western Michigan? The discussion is endless. I think healthy debate is good and there are definitely actions that can be taken to further invest in our college athletes, but putting money directly into their pockets the way it’s being proposed is going to be a problem. 

Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment. This debate is just getting started. 


Life at the Lake

Life at the Lake

Growing up in Indiana shaped much of who I am today. After leaving at 18 for college, I moved around a bit. I’ve lived in Indiana, Michigan, South Dakota, California and currently in Illinois. Each stop along the way brought about significant change in my life, but there’s always been one place, one constant that holds true, that’s Chicagon Lake in the U.P. of Michigan. It’s God’s country.

My parents bought a piece of property in 1983. I was three years old. Circa 1985, they

Nephews, kids, grand-kids

began to build a small log cabin that would become the single most familiar place in my life for the next 35 years. It became affectionately known as “Gasaway’s Vacation Station.”

When I was little, we’d spend weeks at a time there during the summer. My mom was a teacher and my dad was a fireman; so they were able to schedule their work to be away from for long stretches. It was at the lake I learned how to water ski, tube, cut wood, build a campfire, fish, drive a boat, ride four-wheelers and all the other fun things a kid can get into in the North Woods. There were times I would even complain to my mom that I wanted to go home because we were there too long. If I could go back and smack my younger self in the head for those complaints, I would. I would give anything to be able to spend the kind of time up there I used to. It’s just hard for a young kid to understand how important a place like that can become in a person’s life.

Teaching James how to fish

As I’ve gotten older, I haven’t been able to get up there as much. Life has taken hold. It’s not just as easy as jumping in the car or taking weeks off work to head up to the lake. It takes a lot more planning and effort, but it’s well worth it to take my kids up there to help them gain all those experiences I did.

For over 20 years now, with the exception of a couple here and there, my buddy Josh and I have gone up for the 4th of July. We’ve been going up together since high school. We took our girlfriends, that became our wives, and now we take the kids as well. It’s

Some of the crew on the 4th in 2016

something I look forward to year in and year out. This year is no different. We’re actually getting to go up for bit longer than usual and I cannot wait. Nearly all the kids are old enough now to make the memories I did and hearing the excitement they have when we go out on the boat or when they catch a fish helps me further understand what a place like that can mean for families.

My parents welcome everyone to their cabin and it’s a place people go to come together and enjoy time away from the rat race of “normal” life. I can’t thank them enough for having the forethought to build such a special place we can always visit. It’s become such an important staple for so many people through the years and we continue to make memories that will last for lifetimes to come.

James with his favorite treat

There will certainly be a lot of change in the future and life isn’t going to slow down any time soon, but there’s something that will remain constant for years to come and that’s the cabin on the lake. See you soon!

Drone shot above the pontoon



Priorities Change

Priorities are interesting. Two years ago I set out to blog once a month. Here I am, over a year since my last post, writing for the first time in 2018. #FAIL


Think about it for a second. Is there something you recently wanted to accomplish and you put it at the top of your list to get done? If so, you probably crushed it. If it wasn’t at the top of the list, it’s sitting on a shelf somewhere; figuratively or literally. That’s how it goes. If it’s important to you, it gets done. But there’s only so much time in a day and typically a Netflix binge seems way more important than going to bed early.

I’ve been blessed with two additional children since my very first blog, so there’s that. You see what I did there? I gave a not-so-subtle reason for why I haven’t blogged as much as I planned. Some might call children a legitimate reason for re-prioritizing. Some might call using them as a reason, an excuse. I can boil it down to prioritization. I just flat out haven’t prioritized writing highly enough to get it done. In other words, writing is not that important to me at this point in my life. I have to be honest with myself when things change. The next time someone tells you they don’t have time, go ahead and substitute their statement with, “It’s not that important to me.”

Take a look at what people do with their time and you’ll clearly see what is important to them. Some people watch sports, work, read, travel, work out, or eat. Some people even eat for sport. However you slice it, what people find important, they focus on. Sometimes that’s a benefit and sometimes, a detriment.

Unfortunately, my health has been more on the detriment side of late. Since my athletic career ended in 2002 and I cut about 50+ lbs from my all-time high playing weight, I’ve found a way to let my weight creep up and my exercise regiment slow down. These days, I consider taking 10K steps a day solid exercise. College Jake would choke if I told him walking was how I stay healthy. He would also consider my weight-room routine laughable. Personally, I needed to revisit my priorities.

My wife and I decided it’s time to prioritize our health. We’ve got three great kids (there won’t be a fourth), so we made a joint decision. It’s time to kick the everyday ice cream habit and really figure out our food and exercise plans.

Fortunately, neither of us are in a dire situation or any health danger. We want to make sure it stays that way before one comes up and smacks us in the face. I’ll be 40 years old next year and I have a lot of life in front of me. Not only do I want to stay healthy for my own sake, but I’m a bit on the older than many dads with super-young kids. I want to be able to run around with them for many years to come.

I’m not a person that jumps at shiny objects or latches onto the latest fads. I realize focusing on health sounds cliche, but priorities do change and we’re about to put health at the top of our list. We’re going to crush it. I’m sure we won’t be perfect with our health focus, and from time to time, we’ll need to pull ourselves back on track, but I’m excited as hell to prioritize our health again.

Amazing goals can be accomplished when they get prioritized. I’m knocking on a 40-year-old-door. I’m not looking to walk through it next year. I’m going to kick it down (queue obligatory Rocky theme song).

More to come on this topic. Stay tuned………

Addiction Can Get Anyone

Recently Tiger Woods, for the first time, made me feel bad for him. Never have I had a hint of sorrow for him in the past. As his life was crumbling around him and his wife and golf game left him, I felt like he deserved it for not living up to the squeaky clean image he always portrayed. Then, when I heard he had been arrested for DUI, my first reaction was….good. He’s a bum.

A couple days later, as the smoke cleared, I found out he wasn’t under the influence of alcohol, but what appeared to be painkillers. I don’t condone the fact that he was out driving around high on anything, but hearing he was on painkillers gave me pause. As a person that deals with back pain every day because of the athlete I used to be, I can understand how someone can get hooked.  

In May, I went to my annual college football alumni golf outing. At the outing, we did what we normally do. We talked about how good we used to be, had a couple too many drinks and played some terrible golf. But this year I heard something I didn’t expect. I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because my closest friends are around 40 now, but several of my buddies have been dealing with addiction in one way or another for a long time. Much of it stems from the early start they got by trying to make it through season after season of pounding on their bodies.

I can only speak for myself when I say this, but I believe the mindset of an athlete that plays at a high level is: “just get me on the field, I’ll worry about the pain later.” This attitude can cause people to take dangerous steps leading to dire consequences in the future, but I don’t think it’s unique to the people I know. I also know the macho mindset of most athletes is they can take on the world themselves and they don’t need help. This is also a slippery slope when it comes to chemical addiction.  

Dave Gove
Dave Gove (Former WMU Hockey Standout)

Of the stories I heard at the outing, one was the most shocking of all. I learned a fellow athlete from Western, from the era when I was playing ball, died of a heroin overdose earlier this year. His name was Dave Gove and he was an outstanding hockey player. Dave was a buddy of mine. We weren’t close, but we ran with the same crowds and frequented the same establishments while we were in college. We hadn’t stayed in touch after graduation as he continued his hockey career, but what I did know of him was that he was a great guy. From what I witnessed, he was a straight arrow and always had a smile on his face. When I heard the news of his death, I couldn’t believe it. Dave was not the guy you would ever expect something like an overdose to happen to.

It’s hard for me to imagine a guy that made it to the top of his profession could struggle with addiction to the extent he would die. It’s hard for me to imagine a person my age overdosed on heroin. And it’s even harder for me to imagine how challenging living with an addiction must be.

I’ve had family members succumb to addiction and their stories seemed to make sense to me, as odd as it sounds. But when I see athletes and former athletes struggle with demons, my assumption isn’t likely dissimilar to theirs. I believe they can beat it. They’re used to winning and beating the odds. They’ve been doing it their entire lives. Unfortunately, they don’t always pull through.

I’ve thought about Dave a lot since the outing. His story is all too common. If there is anything good that can come of it, I hope someone sees it and is inspired to get help when they need it. Dave had a lot of people who cared about him. And I’m guessing that’s the case with most addiction stories.

The idea of my blog is to relate to people that played sports but also to provide young folks a resource for what life can be like after sports end. Hopefully, anyone reading this heavy message can take a moment to understand how serious addiction and drug use can be. We don’t need to ever lose another one like Dave. Rest in peace Bronco Brother. 

I Love My Minivan!

I Love My Minivan!

I love my minivan! That’s right. It’s a phrase I never thought I’d utter while playing football, wearing my over-sized hoop earrings, getting tattooed and partying in college. Some might even say loving a minivan is like waving the white flag. I have to disagree. This ride is amazing. I could write about it for days…I digress. Yes, this post is about my healthy love for a grocery getter on the surface, but it’s more about a stage of life.

When I look back at my teens and early twenty’s, there’s not much else I wanted

My first baby, stolen circa 2011

more than to be a “cool” guy. I was playing ball, then it was onto riding my Harley and working for a tobacco company, both of which were a little edgy. But as time has gone on, the want and need to be cool has waned a bit. Sure, everyone wants to be cool in their own way. It may be to impress friends on Facebook or Snapchat, attract that guy or girl you’ve been trying to date, or even fit in with a group of new people. It may even be just to appease the inner narcissist we have down deep in all of us.

I can honestly say (this is important, so pay attention), the only people I want to think I’m cool at this stage in my life live in my home with me. Interestingly, two of them are under three years of age and think I’m the coolest person on the planet. The other one is in her mid-thirties and I’ll be trying to get her to think I’m cool until I die. Crack on my mini all you want. Unless you can get my kids to do the same, it won’t have much impact.

jamesWhen I walk in the door each evening from work, it doesn’t matter how my day went or what I have to do after they go to bed, James and Stella smile as hard as they can and can’t get enough of their papa. My wife tends to roll her eyes every time I attempt to be cool, but she’s used to me at this point.

Stages in life are a tricky thing. They sneak up on us and then are gone in a flash. I often hear college students say, “I can’t wait to get out of school and start making money.” I also hear some young parents say things like, “Once we get through these early years, we’ll be in the clear.” Those comments make me cringe because every stage in life is going to come and go before we know it. I don’t know one person my parent’s age that hasn’t told me to “cherish these times, because you can’t get them back.” I know I can’t stop the clock and I’m all for change, but there are times I wish I could slow things down.

rsz_1rsz_kidsI’m not naive. I realize a time will come that my kids won’t think I’m the coolest person on Earth and the minivan may not be my ride of choice. When that point comes I’ll be at a different stage in my life. Who knows? The inner narcissist may take over and I might even jump on that Harley again. I guess that’s how the mid-life crisis came to be. For the time being, I’m going to focus on being as cool as I can for my kids as long as they think I am. And if you’re not sold on the minivan, come visit me in the burbs….another phrase I never thought I’d say. 🙂


Facebook, Football, and the Cotton Bowl

Facebook, Football, and the Cotton Bowl

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love it because it’s an unbelievably effective way to stay in touch with friends and see what’s going on with their life. I hate it because much of the time it’s used to show how perfectly wonderful life is when we all know life is not always “Facebook Fun.” It can also keep us from reaching out to our true friends because we have a false sense of knowing what’s going on in their lives due to their recent posts. I can go on for days about the pros and cons, but I’ll hop off the soap box for now.

Western Michigan buses heading to the 81st Cotton Bowl

This post is about how powerful Facebook can be for important events in our lives. On January 2nd, 2017, my alma mater Western Michigan University, played in quite possibly the most important football game in our history. We played against Wisconsin in the 81st annual Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a Super Bowl in the past, but I have to say this game, being a former player for the Broncos, topped the Super Bowl for me.

The Broncos had a magical season. They entered the game a perfect 13-0 and unbeaten in their last 15 games spanning two seasons. It was the typical David vs. Goliath story. The MAC vs. the BIG10. While we lost the game, we showed we deserved to be there and, with the exception of a few major mistakes, just ran out of time. Enough about the loss. I might be sick if I write any more about it. I’m so very proud of the team for many reasons this year. They represented the school and their families extremely well.

This is about Facebook and how it played a role in the event. My entire news feed over the weekend was about the Cotton Bowl. People I haven’t seen in years were so excited to be joining the experience. Sharing their journey with other Broncos really gave the sense that the game and trip were as big as we all felt it was.

Broncos from all over the globe were celebrating in Dallas. Families made the trip. Groups of friends made the trip. Many former players made the trip. Even those that couldn’t make the trip were posting photos from their homes about the game experience they were having with their friends and families.  It was awesome and shows how people can not only rally around a sport but also stay connected through technology in a positive way.

Finally, Facebook sticks out to me above all else over the past weekend because of our Bronco Football group. There are hundreds of former players in the group and many of them were in Dallas for the game. While we all gravitate towards the guys we played with directly, all of us have a bond that transcends generations of players. And we are rarely, if ever, at a single location in the quantity we were on January 2nd, in Dallas.

Former Bronco Football Players at the Cotton Bowl

We used the FB group to post a quick meetup at half time of Jerry’s World to take some photos and catch up for a bit. I was hoping at least a handful of guys would make it for a few minutes. To my surprise, dozens, maybe hundreds showed up. Players from many decades were there to take photos, talk about how great we used to be, and how amazing the Cotton Bowl experience was for not only the current players but for the old guys like us that shared our Bronco playing days together. After halftime, photos and comments exploded even further and the party continued on after the game.

I was talking with one of the guys about how FB helped make the gathering happen in such an easy way. Getting together like that would have been nearly impossible back in our playing days before cell phones and FB were so prevalent in our daily lives. While sometimes I get frustrated about how connected we need to be all the time, there is no question technology has a major positive impact and this was another example.

Kudos to Mr. Zuckerburg for this one. I’m sure his original intention of FB was not to help a bunch of washed up football players get together to laugh and tell lies. But for that moment in time, I’m glad he decided to change the world from his dorm in Harvard a few years back.

Bronco Football Alumni at the Cotton Bowl

Row the Boat!

A New Chapter Begins

A New Chapter Begins

Much has changed since my last post a couple months ago. The biggest news is my wife and I had our second child, Stella Violet. She’s just over two months now and it’s still hard to believe I have two children. While she’s been a bit more challenging as an infant than our first, I’m so excited to have her with us. She’s a sweet little girl and her big brother can use a partner in crime.

Interestingly enough, I’m not a young dad. At the end of November, I’ll officially be in my late 30s and fortunately for me, my wife is a powerhouse with our newest addition. I’m sure I’d be dead in the water if she weren’t. This brings me to my next major announcement. I put the toughest professional decision of my life into play last month and took on a new role at Google. There’s nothing like two major life changes in the span of a couple months, huh?

Google Chicago

The decision to work at Google wasn’t tough. It was actually pretty easy. Google is one of the most innovative and admired companies in the world and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity ahead. The tough part, which was actually beyond tough, was the decision to leave my “first born,” Stitch Labs. I could write for hours about my time at Stitch Labs and what an amazing challenge and opportunity it was to start a business with two outstanding co-founders, but I’ll save those stories for future posts.

People ask me regularly, how could you leave your own company? It boiled down to life changes. My life is in a very different place than it was nearly six years ago when we started the business. I’m no longer living in San Francisco, I’ve got two little kiddos to consider and I’ve been living the startup life for a long time. I know it’s hard for people to comprehend, but if there were one person that understands more than anyone in the world, it was my cofounder, Brandon.

Startups take every ounce of your being. I’m not saying I won’t give my all to Google, because I give my all in every position I’ve ever had. But it’s different when it’s your name on the door. I love my new job, but win or lose in my new role and I’m guessing Google will probably be ok. It wasn’t that way for years at Stitch Labs and it’s going to continue to be a major battle for years to come.

When Brandon and I sat down to discuss my departure, it was the most difficult professional conversation of my life. But he, as he does, handled it in a way that made me again realize why I went into business with him in the first place. He’s the ultimate partner and I know he’s going to continue to make Stitch Labs amazing.

The good news is Stitch Labs looks very different today than it did when we began with just three people. The much larger team is outstanding. We brought on more and more A-players and the direction the company is the right one. There’s never a good time to leave an organization, especially one you help build, but if there were, now was the time.

Going forward, I plan to still play a role in the success of the company. I love to be an evangelist, be a resource to any of the employees needing an ear, and stand on the sidelines as their biggest cheerleader. As this new chapter of my life begins as a father of two and new Googler, or Noogler as I’m called, I look back on my past chapter fondly and to my future one with great anticipation.

The reason I started this blog was to share what life is like after time on the athletic field ends. If there is one thing I can share with any young person reading this is that there is no blueprint to life. I always thought there was when I was a young man, but I quickly realized there wasn’t, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I never could have guessed I’d live in South Dakota one day or help start a company in Silicon Valley and go on to work at Google in Chicago. None of those are what a kid from the Region thinks about when they’re little. Make opportunities for yourself and be smart enough to take the information in front of you and make the best decisions possible as they present themselves. Life tends to be more exciting that way.

Finally, a heartfelt thank you to everyone at Stitch Labs for being the great people you are. Best of luck as you continue to do what you do. I’ll be the guy on the sidelines cheering my heart out.

Athletes Will Break Your Heart.

Be smart. That’s a line athletes hear from coaches over and over again. Coaches don’t say it because they think athletes are dumb. They say it because they’re older, and in many cases, wiser. Don’t get me wrong. Some coaches are idiots. But many of them understand the temptation for an athlete to do something stupid and want to do everything they can to make sure players stay out of trouble and eligible. Whatever their motivation, amateur coaches depend on players staying in the game.  

Once an athlete crosses into professional status, they’re on their own. Many pro athletes have too much money and time on their hands, but they’re also adults. Sure, some of them weren’t raised correctly and have no understanding of consequences, but we as a society don’t tend to feel as badly for them when they make a mistake. Maybe I’m speaking for myself, but when a pro messes up, I actually hope they get burned. ARodFor example, I’m pretty confident I wouldn’t lose any sleep if A-Rod woke up tomorrow without a dime to his name. He’s a disgrace.

I almost wrote this blog last year just after J.T. Barrett was arrested for drunk driving. I remember waking up, hearing the news and thinking to myself, how could he do that to his teammates? He’s one of the best players in the country and everyone is watching him. What was he thinking? The Buckeyes didn’t have a game the week it happened yet all the analysts on Gameday could talk about was J.T.’s arrest. It was awful to watch and fortunately no one was hurt in the process, but it was another mark on athletes in general and an Ohio State program that has a coach with a history of players getting into trouble.

I do have to take a step back and remember everyone makes mistakes. This is not a holier than thou post. I wasn’t an angel in college and many of my teammates weren’t either. We had our share of run-ins with authority and many of the instances could have been much worse than they were. Luckily, nothing “major” ever happened.

Unfortunately, when something major does happen it’s too late to take it back. After an amazing story a couple weeks ago about my Broncos and a surprise from Sly Stallone, another story broke on Saturday about two young men on the WMU football team under arrest for armed robbery. Let me write that again….ARMED ROBBERY! This was the story of two 18-year-old young men breaking into a home and robbing an innocent victim at gunpoint. This wasn’t story about a fight getting out of hand or a story about a player drinking too much. This was a story about multiple felony counts wrapped into one.  

When I heard the news, I almost couldn’t believe it. Again, I was thinking to myself, what went wrong here? How could these two young men have made a decision like this to go into a person’s home with a gun and rob her? Why do they have a gun in the first place? I don’t know their background. I have no idea what their socioeconomic status is. We could debate the details for days. What I do know is they were given the opportunity to go to school on a full scholarship, earn a college degree and play a game they loved. They took an amazing opportunity and flushed it in just a few moments on Friday night. Sure, the courts say innocent until proven guilty, but all signs point to guilty in this particular instance. I don’t believe I’m jumping to conclusions here.   

Every freshman enters their first camp and has the opportunity to start fresh. I can say this specifically about WMU because I went there and know the people in charge of both athletics and academics. Sure, not every student-athlete is a great student, but every student-athlete on scholarship is offered the same resources as the next. This was their shot to make a way for themselves and they decided to go out after camp broke and rob someone at gunpoint. These two young men went from preparing for the biggest football season of their lives to facing LIFE in prison. A bigger turn of events I couldn’t imagine.

I don’t feel particularly bad for them because they made a choice. They know right from wrong. They messed up and deserve to face the consequences of their actions. I’m heartbroken. I’m sad they threw away an opportunity many others would do anything for. I’m sad they let their teammates, fans and families down. I’m sad two very talented young men didn’t listen to their coaches and do the right thing. I’m sad a young woman had to be put through the terrible ordeal of having her life threatened in her own home. I’m just sad. I hope all involved can learn from this terrible incident and move forward in a positive way.

While at Western, our Coach, Gary Darnell, had many sayings. Some of them stuck and some didn’t. But one that stuck very well was, “Short-term decisions lead to long-term consequences.” If there were ever a situation where the saying was more spot on, I haven’t seen it yet. Those two young men made a very short term decision and the consequences are going to be dire.  

I’ll be at the opener this weekend when the Broncos take on Northwestern and I’ll be cheering for the team as I always do. I’ll have my two-year-old with me at a game for the first time. As he grows up, I’ll be sure to tell him what so many coaches and my father always told me, be smart.



Time Flies

It’s already August of 2016. We’re one month away from what I consider the greatest time of year, football season. I look forward to opening weekend of college football like a six year old looks forward to Christmas morning. What I’m struggling with this year, more than years past, is I can hardly believe how long it’s been since I was preparing for the season as a player.

Don’t get me wrong, preparing for a season, specifically two-a-days is something I don’t miss for a second. Practice and summer heat were terrible, but a necessary evil. It’s the excitement of the games and hanging out with teammates I miss. I see former teammates a couple times each year at games and I keep up with what they’re doing on Facebook, but it’s a far cry from spending about 40 hours a week with someone for five years. I see their successes and hear about some failures and can’t help but think back to a time when beating the Chumps from Central was all that mattered.

Just last week, a former teammate of mine (Greg Jennings) retired from the NFL after an


amazing 10-year pro-bowl career. 10 years went by in a flash and it’s hard to overstate what an accomplishment it was, especially since the average NFL career is only 3.3 years. Greg was a special talent. He joined the team when I was in my fourth season, but once they lifted his redshirt and he was competing against live bullets in his second year, we all knew he was a superstar. Congratulations to Greg on an outstanding career. He is an example of what a pro should be both on and off the field.

This season, when the Broncos take the field, I’ll be watching young men that were toddlers when I was playing. Now, I have a toddler of my own and another baby on the way, it’s hard to remember what life was like when football and getting to class was all I had to worry about. Today, when I watch athletes from all sports, I can visibly see they’re younger than I am. It’s an odd experience for someone that grew up idolizing college and pro athletes and thinking about how much older they all looked. If someone is a pro athlete and older than I am now, they’re considered ancient! Most athletes don’t even make it into their 30s while playing.

Life has a funny way of happening without us noticing. This year I’m entering my late 30’s. I can almost remember my parents at this age yet I don’t feel like I’m getting older, other than some back pain. Days come and they go. We get into routines and don’t always take time to step back and reflect on what’s going on around us or enjoy the here and now (I’m projecting, but I have a feeling it’s more than just me this is happening to). Because of this, I’m going to do my best during the most wonderful time of the year to stop and take a look around, enjoy the birth of my second baby, and watch a little football with a child’s enthusiasm. I’m also going to remember every stage of life is great, I just need to live in the moment a bit more and try to make the game of life slow down, just like I did with football when I was on the field.

Deep Sea Fishing is Like a Startup

A couple weeks ago I went fishing in the ocean for the first time. I grew up fishing on lakes in the Midwest so fishing in the ocean was an extremely different experience for me. My brother-in-law, father-in-law and I chartered a boat for five hours just off the coast of Cape Cod and that’s where the similarities began.

We had a finite amount of time to do something we hadn’t done before and we needed to figure it out fast. The good news was we had help and went out with a gentleman by the name of Captain Ron. He was the Captain of a fishing boat called the Stray Cat and was glad to show us the way.

It may sound odd to compare fishing to a start up and I had no idea it would be similar, but as I was out on the water, it started to feel strangely familiar to me. Here’s what happened.

Iterate and Fail Fast

When we initially made our way out of the harbor, Captain Ron had us get started immediately. He quickly showed us how to troll and jig the lines in order to attract the type of fish we were looking for. We were on the hunt for striped bass and, just as with lake fishing, there’s a method to attracting them while trolling. Once he showed us, we were on our own. He was driving the boat and didn’t have time to hold our hands. He was just there for direction.

Within about 5-10 minutes, Captain Ron had seen enough at the original location we started and was ready to move. Just like a startup, we tested, gathered data quickly and found what we were doing wasn’t going to work and we needed to try something else.

I’ve never given up on a fishing spot that quickly, so it was great how Captain Ron helped expedite the process. This was lesson number one and it was exactly how a successful startup moves. Test quickly, gather data, and if it doesn’t work, move on fast.

Landing the First Fish

After Captain Ron had us quickly try several more locations to no avail, we took off to a location he felt confident we’d find our target. He was right. We found a sandbar a couple miles off the coast and began trolling without moving much due to high winds. Within a few minutes of being near the sandbar, we started slamming striped bass.

Captain Ron had his first mate help us change all our bait over to the same lures. We began catching a fish every couple minutes for about an hour and a half. Sure, many of them were too small, but it was awesome!

Finding that school of fish off the sandbar felt just like finding the first group of customers we found at our startup. We had put in a lot of work and it was starting to pay off. Not all of them were keepers, but just having the validation was a great feeling and it was fun as hell to bring them in the boat.

After we trolled for a couple hours, we moved to a spot where Captain Ron knew we’d catch Sea Bass. He was spot on. We hovered over a shipwreck and caught keeper after keeper. There’s not a chance we could have ever found a location like that without an experienced guide. Forgive the pun, but it was truly like shooting fish in a barrel. We continued to catch over a dozen Sea Bass as we finished our time on the charter.

Experience Makes a Difference

The biggest lesson of the day was how important Captain Ron was to the operation. We couldn’t have possibly had as successful of a day without his guidance. Yes, we could have figured it out over a long period of time, but like a startup, we didn’t have much time. Having him with us crushed the learning curve. I liken him to a venture capitalist or an outstanding advisor. We have several of both at Stitch Labs and they have helped us greatly accelerate our learning there, too.

When we started the day, we were all new to the process and on the clock. We had to test, learn and move on quickly in order to accomplish our goal in five hours. Captain Ron was the linchpin. Because of his help, we were able to have a feast of fish the following evening.

I thought a lot about Captain Ron, his experience and even his age. I thought about how those things can sometimes be viewed in Silicon Valley and beyond. The Valley is an interesting place. At times there are biases toward people having been in the game for “too long” or toward people who are “older.” I personally think those biases are bunk. It’s about finding the right people for the right job. Age has nothing to do with it and the right experience can be a great equalizer no matter what a person’s age may be, young or “old.”

Captain Ron has been fishing with people in the Cape for over 30 years. His experience is invaluable. He was the right guy for the job at the right time. I strive to always work with and hire people that are outstanding at what they do. He was one of those people.


If you’re ever in the Cape, I highly recommend looking him up in Hyannis. He’ll make your day a success! Thanks, Captain Ron.