The Hall of Fame and the Relationships We Build
Just over a week ago, I went back to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time since my own induction in 1986. That was 29 years ago. It reminded me of the powerful bond of a team, and that in whatever we do, it comes down to helping other people and building meaningful relationships.
The thing that finally got me to come back to the Hall was a very special opportunity—the induction of my teammate and center Mick Tingelhoff. But Mick was more than just a teammate; he was my roommate when we traveled, and my best friend. I wasn’t going to miss Mick’s induction, coming 37 years after he retired, for anything.
Not only did I get to attend the ceremony, but I had the privilege to serve as Mick’s presenter, and then to speak on his behalf during the induction ceremony. Mick suffers from short term memory loss, and before the ceremony his family decided he wouldn’t give a speech. When I went up to the podium with him, I asked him if he’d like to say anything. He said no, and asked me to say a few words instead. I didn’t have a script, and just spoke from my heart. In front of the 30,000+ crowd, I began to break down. While I stumbled for the words to honor my friend and teammate, the crowd stood and cheered. They cheered and cheered until I had enough time to gather myself and finish speaking.
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Walking back with Mick down from the podium, I could see all our old teammates who had come, including fellow Hall of Famers and our coach, Bud Grant. That weekend, and that moment in particular, really connected with me.
In all my years playing football, my mission as a quarterback was never about me. It wasn’t about stats or fame or anything like that. My mission was to make my teammates better and help them win, that group of men, including Mick and all the rest. Each one of us contributed our gifts and abilities to help the team, and now, nearly 40 years later, the bond we formed is still so powerful and meaningful. Mick had my back every play during the 12 years we played together in Minnesota, and I would do anything for him now.
That is the same way I have approached my life as a small business entrepreneur. The relationships I build with my partners, employees, mentors, mentees, and everyone else have to be meaningful. I care deeply about the people on my team, and we are all working together every day to help the team succeed. I want to get to know my employees, and talk with them every day. I want to really connect with my partners.
In the end, it’s all about those relationships we build and the people we are able to help. That’s the mark of a true leader, whether it’s a quarterback or an entrepreneur.