My love for football and the New England Patriots has always gone beyond what I watch on the football field. There was always a story to be told after each game about how the teammates played and what improvements were made. But, I was more intrigued by the backstories of the players- what their characters were like off the field, where they found their motivations, how they responded to obstacles and adversities, factors that may have contributed to their performances on the field. So, when I learned that I was going to have the chance to chat with Jimmy G, a quarterback for my favorite team, I knew I wanted to approach this from a different perspective. There have been countless website articles, newspapers, and magazines that showcase his stats and greatness on the field, but I wanted something more, something that showcased the story behind the story if you will. Thank you, Jimmy, for this opportunity.
It was no question that this year’s Super Bowl was considered to be the most successful comeback in the history of football to date. With sweaty palms and racing hearts, football fans sat at the edge of their seats, hoping, praying and practicing their superstitious rituals as if they had some control of who would take home the Lombardi trophy. But, amidst all the nail-biting panic that was happening in front of most television screens, the New England Patriots were keeping the faith and creating a storyline that would be the most climactic stories ever told for Patriots fans everywhere with a sweet, sweet ending- another Super Bowl victory.
That night, the team proved to the entire world that, once again, they were the most remarkable team in the NFL. However, the talent the world watched unfold on the field was actually just a fraction of how remarkable these players are off the field. After being involved with the organization for several years now, I came to realize this through the kindness and generosity they have so selflessly displayed in such a way that has positively impacted not just me, but also their community. My time spent as both a fan and friend of this team has inspired me to become a better person, and in feeling this way, I quickly learned that there was a different kind of success embedded in each teammate that didn’t include stats or experience or anything of that nature.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Jimmy Garoppolo, a quarterback for the Patriots, at Gillette Stadium, and I realized that he personified the qualities that go into this idea of success. Of course, we discussed what factors went into being a successful football player and how that contributed to this year’s Super Bowl win. And, in doing so, I was eager to explore this idea deeper because the success and remarkable talent the Patriots have demonstrated were a product of the kind of success that wasn’t often measured- one that required perseverance, passion, and the ability to find meaning in the work that you do whether on or off the field.
The beginning of Jimmy’s successful football career stemmed back to the motivation he received from his family at an early age. Growing up in a town outside of Chicago with three brothers, a mother, and a father, each family member taught one another what it meant to work hard and lead. Because of this family dynamic, Jimmy was able to successfully apply these concepts on the football field during his time at Eastern Illinois, leading him to break the record for career passing touchdowns, yards, and passing touchdowns in a season, previously held by his predecessor and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Tony Romo.
When drafted by the New England Patriots, Jimmy carried what his family taught him over to his new career. And, having the opportunity to play with one of the most successful teams in the league, he was able to strengthen these values even more.
“[The team] really pushes you to go that extra mile,” he marveled when asked about the remarkable nature of his team. He explained how this team isn’t just about going out onto the field and playing to their utmost potential. They’re unique. They’re a group of tight-knit guys. But, most importantly, they are their own kind of family who’s always there to support, encourage, and help one another.
As if being a part of the NFL and living out your dream wasn’t enough motivation to strive for success, Jimmy explained how the impact football has on society and the incredibly rewarding feeling that comes with it is another drive to succeed.
“[Football] brings joy to people,” he grinned as he reflected that he once was that little boy in the football stands who dreamed of getting a player’s autograph or even a sweaty towel after practice. We both shared a good laugh at that one, and I told him that despite how much I admired and looked up to him, I didn’t think I’d be hoping for his sweaty towel anytime soon. But, it was the little things like that, things that brought a smile to people’s faces which made the game of football so rewarding, he reminded me. Football brings people together.
Jimmy continued to express how grateful he has been to be in a position where he can follow his dreams and be given the means to have an impact on society. Whether through the charity work he enjoys doing on a weekly basis or seeing a family gather in the stands to watch America’s most beloved game, he has found meaning in his ability to play football as a profession. And, no matter where his successes take him, Jimmy recounted a simple piece of advice given from his parents that, I believe, is the foundation for success: “always strive to be a good person.”
Success comes in all shapes and forms, and the beauty of living a successful life doesn’t always have to come from measurable outcomes. It doesn’t have to indicate to status or money or power. Instead, success can come from within, from the ability to do what you love and use that passion to create a lasting impact on society- one that brings more goodness into the world. Most importantly, it’s the ability to acknowledge and accept how you, at your very core, have experienced personal growth along the journey.
After having the honor and opportunity to speak with Jimmy and get a glimpse of his admirable character, I realized that, despite winning or losing, this is the kind of success we should all strive to attain.