One is just a game; the other, is where our purpose lay.
Today Oregon fans were greeted with news of a decommitment from the class of 2014. This one was different than just about any other, though, as the talented player, Jordan Hoiem, had decided that his zeal for the sport of football was gone.
Vanished. But not into thin air. Hoiem has struggled for quite some time with this decision as has been reported by several outlets. The thing is, though, football, like any athletic endeavor, requires a commitment beyond what most normal people ever experience. This wasn't "tee-ball" he was preparing for, it was Pac-12 football; at one of the elite schools in the nation; big boy football.
The amount of dedication that must be given to the sport is immeasurable. Yes, there are rules about how much practice time an athlete can spend, but that does not change the nature of a nearly full time job playing football... oh, yeah, and they have to go to school full time while playing.
The dedication goes beyond the mere practices themselves; football is a physical sport that takes a toll on the body. It is a very mental sport that requires the kind of laser focus that can wear many young men down quickly. Again, all while going to school.
And, if a college football player dares to speak his mind in a non politically correct way? well, take a look at Colt Lyerla and Johnny Manziel for examples of how they are treated. Essentially, the players are told to keep any opinion that is too strong one way or the other to themselves. They are ridiculed not just for mistakes on the field, but for those things that they say in what little free time they possess.
That's a lot of pressure. And it takes uniquely talented and determined young men to become the best of the best.
Many years ago, I too was faced with a decision. As a kid, I had spent much of my youth playing all sports including football. As a sophomore, I transferred to a different high school two weeks into the school year. Knowing we were moving I had not practiced with my original school. When I arrived at Churchill, there I was ready to play, but practice requirements had me ruled out for all but the final game.
I was recruited to run cross country and decided I did not want to spend my time practicing if I was not going to play, so I switched. But that decision wasn't really difficult. The difficult decisions would come later.
It turns out that I had a lot of natural talent for distance running and I took it very seriously. I gave up all other sports to focus. I trained hard; up to 100 miles per week in the summer. At the end of my junior season, though, I took a trip to California. One morning while on a light 6 mile training run, I just stopped. I realized I was running not for love of being a distance runner, but because it was something I was good at... that was my last moment as a distance runner.
That decision was difficult.
Any sport that you choose requires a dedication beyond compare to become one of the best. As a powerlifter, I sacrifice a lot to be one of the best. I have given up a lot of pleasures to be in the gym. Food? That is not meant for flavor, but as fuel for the body.
I was once asked if it was nice to not be sore after workouts. The person assumed that world class lifters no longer suffer muscle soreness because they are "training adapted." Oh how I wish that were the case! In order to get better I am constantly pushing my body to its limits. Lifting is a lifestyle.
Without passion or dedication, you cannot be successful at anything. Oh, there may be what others define as success, but you cannot be the best without that passion.
The physical and mental aspects of football are daunting. Without the passion and commitment to the sport, well, all of the physical gifts in the world will not matter.
Hoiem lost a very close family friend and that has taken a toll on his mind; as it would for any 17 year old kid. Death is a very difficult topic for the young. Once that aura of invincibility is gone, the mind begins to play tricks.
Jordan Hoiem is a very talented football player. He has left open the possibility of taking up football at a later point.
No matter where his life takes him, I personally applaud him for making this difficult decision now and doing so for the right reasons. Despite his loss of passion for the game, he had enough respect for the Oregon program and their coaches to announce this decision.
This allows the Oregon coaches to move on as needed. I imagine it also helps Jordan.
I remember interviewing him shortly after his commitment. I was impressed by his maturity over the phone that night. Nothing today changes that impression.
Good luck to Jordan Hoiem. May he find that path in life where passion and happiness become intertwined.