I will NOT let you down.
On Sept. 2, Georgia State University played their first football game. After more than two years of preparation leading up to this historic season, 30,237 fans watched as the Panthers defeated the Shorter College Hawks, 41-7.
The program’s first-ever game capped a preparation period that began in April 2008, when it was first announced that the school would field a football team. In June of that year, it was announced that the coach would be none other than the legendary Bill Curry, the Atlanta native and former head coach at Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky.
The coach was an NFL center, playing in three Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls and was part of three championship teams.
The construction of the team was chronicled by ESPN, in a series called "Building a Program." From choosing their coach, signing their first recruit, through the days leading up to their inaugural game, cameras captured the precision with which Curry built a team from the ground-up.
In his first pre-game with the Panthers, Curry gave one of the most chilling, adrenaline-inducing speeches I have ever heard.
He made his players repeat after him: "I will not let you down. I will NOT let you down."
As I listened to an audio recording of Curry’s speech, I felt the hairs stand on my arms. If you can find audio of it, please listen. What he was saying to his players, was just this: this game, this team, is bigger than just you.
Each of the men on the Georgia State football team has prepared for this game for his entire lives – to step out onto the NCAA stage in front of thousands of fans is something each of them dreamed about since he first picked up a football. But Curry made sure that none of them forgot that this game was not just for them individually, but for their brother on each side of them.
I hate comparing sports to the military, but when I hear a speech like this, I can’t help but thinking of our Soldiers serving our nation overseas – our men and women who bravely lay their lives on the line for the brothers and sisters in arms.
Before each mission, they too must repeat to themselves, "I will not let you down."
Whenever a Soldier acts in some form of heroism, each always has the same reason, "I did it for my brother… I wouldn’t – I couldn’t – let him down."
Now, football is military to the lowest degree – it is also a battle, but one in which lives are not lost. But the battlefield mentality of sports is undeniable. Each game is like each mission – give it all you have, finish, and be done with it. Leave everything you have on the field. Just as our Soldiers do in Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever the mission takes them.
And above all else, they remember their brother next to them – they will not let him down.