It begins as an after-school activity on neighborhood playgrounds across the nation.
Children meet up with their buddies with a pigskin in hand and have at it.
You go all-out, playing your hardest. The next day you feel the wonderful soreness you encountered from the previous day and you ask yourself, "Why?" but you muscle-on the next day to do it all over again.
Why do we go back?
In these pick-up games, two team captains are selected, usually the crown jewels of the playground talent pool. The two best players then draft their team, weeding out the better kids from the ones that are just there because their mother forced them to.
It begins right there—competition, the desire to be among the top kids to get picked on a team.
The desire to be the best.
You are either part of the group that gets picked first, the kids with talent, or you're one of the ones picked last.
There are always kids who stand out above the rest, who can't be caught, catches everything, can't be brought down, or always makes a beautiful toss through the air. Those are the kids that get picked first.
For the kids who get picked last, though, it can be quite an embarrassing situation, as they look around at the other, better athletes.
To avoid that embarrassing situation from ever occurring again, you make a decision
You can either practice your tail off, get better, and show the "better" athletes up at a later date, or frustration sinks in and you decide not to come back and play another game.
My grandfather (may he rest in peace) once told me, "Danny, practice makes perfect," (I played nine years of soccer and seven years of baseball). Those are words that every athlete hears at one point or another in life and they are words to live by.
I started playing sports at an early age of six and began like most others, on the bench waiting for an opportunity. For soccer I could kick the ball very well with a lot of force but it was my juking that needed work.
Every day after school I would go out back of my house, set up some drill cones and spend countless hours trying to perfect my game. A long two years later I was awarded with the "Most Improved Player" award and I can remember the feeling of accomplishment.
I then started playing baseball for the "Shillington Dodgers" back in the late 1980's and started off, again, on the bench instead of on the field.
I knew I wanted to be a pitcher but had a long line of more proven pitchers in front of me. My first season was spent riding the bench and I took my time off to hone in on my skills.
I began working with my coach, my friend's dad, and the three of us spent many afternoons out back of their house with buckets of balls and throwing all day. Many ice packs were used at that time to say the least.
It was, in my eyes, an eternity but I did end up pitching for my team four seasons later with an arsenal of, fastballs, curves, and sinkers. I never became the starting pitcher but I did accomplish what I set out to do and that was to be a pitcher.
What am I getting at?
It's plain as day. Nothing will be handed to you, if you want something you must grab it by the horns and work your butt off to accomplish a goal and there isn't one person who will tell you it is going to be easy. It will require a lot of focus, many hours practicing, and most likely tons of bumps and bruises.
The truth is there are just some kids that are more athletically-gifted than others.
While the gifted kids do tend to end up being the ones drafted in the NFL, many times it is the kids who were picked last, who from then on were determined to work their tails off and become better.
The kids that do come back, we've all seen it, typically begin showing improvements and climb up the "I'm better" ladder. Many of these kids have become NFL players. Once themselves fearful, we all now fear them if they are on the other team.
They have spent their whole lives practicing to become as perfect as they can be, learning the fundamentals of their respective positions. This evening, life-long dreams will be captured for a select few in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Players like QB Sam Bradford, DT Ndamukong Suh, DB Eric Berry, RB C.J. Spiller, and CB Kyle Wilson, among many many others, all hope to be selected in the first round of this year's draft.
Like back on a playground when you select teams, one kid will be selected first, and one kid will be selected last. I have no clue who will end up where, but for many players tonight, all their hard work, starting from childhood straight through college, is about to pay off!