The college football season starts on Saturday (okay, technically Thursday. But I’m saying Saturday because that’s when Oklahoma plays. Boomer Sooner!). I love football. It’s one of the manliest sports. For it is truly the sport closest to combat. Men strategize in their war room, don their armor, and line up against their opponent. Victory is measured in territory gained, in how well one unit outmaneuvers the other. The game involves brute strength and keen physicality; it is a hand to hand, helmet to helmet fight, one man struggling against another. And yet at the same time, finesse, agility, and brilliant strategy are requisites for success and a team lives or dies solely on how well they work together as a team, as a unit.
Playing football in high school helped shape me into the man I am today. As I struggled through another practice in 100 degree heat and sweated through two-a-day practices, I learned to work hard and not quit. I learned that pain is often the only pathway to excellence. At the end of the game, when the scoreboard’s numbers were not as I had wished, I learned how to bounce back from failure and dedicate myself to being better the next time around. I experienced the awesome power of a group of men, striving together for the same goal. The friendships I made while playing football will last a lifetime.
The lessons of all sports carry over from the actual arena to the playing field of life. Rich is the man who, if only for a short time, feels the glory his body in peak condition, the bond of brothers, the sweet joy of victory and the agony of defeat. While the memories of such a time fade as a man grows older, the wisdom he gleans from the experience will echo throughout his life.
So in honor of the opening of the football season, and the great lessons all men can learn from this great game, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most inspiring football locker room speeches from both film and real life. The speeches we chose are not only inspiring for men about to hit the field, they’re motivating for those men who wish to walk out the door each day to school or work, ready to take on the world. Success in football requires heart, pride, and teamwork. Success in life requires the same.
Friday Night Lights
If you played football in high school, you can’t help but think about the young men you played next to while watching this clip. Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) explains to his players what “being perfect” really means. It’s not about the score at the end of the game. It’s about looking your teammate in the eye and being able to say you did all you could. I can’t help but get a little teary eyed when the players say the Lord’s Prayer. My team in high school did the same thing and it instantly transports me back to that locker room in Edmond, OK.
I Am a Champion
Through a series of manly affirmations, this coach pumps the hell out of his players. How can you not get psyched to take down the competition with lines like these:
“I will rip the heart out of my enemy and leave it bleeding on the ground because he cannot stop me.”
The bagpipes in the background of this speech only up the manly vigor quotient.
Any Given Sunday
Warning: Some adult language
Life, like football, is a game of inches. Coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) captures that analogy perfectly in this speech. An inch can make the difference between victory or defeat. And if you want to succeed in football or life, you have to fight for every inch. Never take anything for granted. Always keep fighting, even when everything seems stacked against you.
We’re big fans of Knute Rockne. And how can you not be? As a player he revolutionized the game with the forward pass and as a coach he became almost unstoppable. This is an actual clip from Knute Rockne’s famous “Inside ‘em and Outside ‘em” speech. In this locker room pep talk, Knute rouses his players with his machine gun delivery and excited gestures. The speech was so popular back in the day that young men bought recordings of it by the thousands and listened to it over and over, getting pumped to charge onto the playing field of life.
Remember the Titans
Okay, so technically this isn’t a locker room speech, but it’s still inspiring. It’s 1971, and Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) has the onerous task of bringing together a team of black and white high school students in Virginia. The team isn’t gelling. So, in a stroke of pure rhetorical genius, Coach Boone takes his men on a jog to Gettysburg. In a stirring and solemn bit of oratory, he teaches his men a little about football, and a lot about life.
What would you do if you knew that this day would be your last day? How would you live? If you’re like me, you’d go balls out to make it the best damn day of your life. This coach revs his players up telling them to to play each play as if it was their final one on the field. We can all take a cue from this. Approach what you do in life as if it would be the last time you do it. Kiss your wife like it would be the last time. Play with your kids like it would be the last time. You never know. That kiss and playtime could be your last.
Rudy, Fortune The Facilities Manager
Sometimes we need an honest mentor to give us some perspective on ourselves. Rudy (Sean Austin) spent two years trying to get on the dress team of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. When it didn’t happen, he decides to quit. Thankfully, facilities manager Fortune (Charles S. Dutton) knocks some sense into Rudy and tells him what’s what. Quitting will only bring regret, he tells him. You gotta stay in it, even when things get tough, even when the odds are against you.
Georgia Tech Pre-Game Speech, Derrick Moore, Georgia Tech Chaplin
It’s 2007, and Georgia Tech is in South Bend to take on the Irish in their house. They definitely need to get fired up. Luckily they have this guy, Derrick Moore, to light a fire under ‘em. Moore is pure intensity. He’s the team chaplain (who knew that team’s had one?) and brings an evangelical fervor to his oratory. The best part of the speech is when he quotes the words of his middle school teacher:
“We’re going to fight until we can’t fight no more. Going to lie down and bleed awhile. Going to get up; fight some more.”
Amen, brother. That’s how you win. Tenacity.
If you enjoyed the speech, check out player Tashard Choice quoting it before a game in which GA Tech goes on to upset Clemson. It’ll get you pumped.
And now, just for the heck of it, drop the name of the college team you’ll be cheering on this season in the comments. Show your team pride!