We all face challenges
Three months later, as our junior year came to an end, things had changed. I was having the best time of my entire life, living among the nicest people I’d ever known.
But Freddie was getting ready to move. His father had been transferred. Freddie would miss his senior year at Washington-Wilkes High School. He had to leave all his friends behind.
His future didn’t look bright. He had injured his knee, and despite his all-state credentials, no college wanted to risk giving him a scholarship. He had no idea what he might do in the future if he couldn’t play ball.
Freddie was devastated, seemed deeply depressed. Yet as we took turns signing each other’s high school yearblogs on the final day of school, he was able to write some words of encouragement to me, words that changed my life.
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By the end of the summer, my family was moving, too – moving away from the only place I’d ever fit in and been accepted. We moved to Atlanta, where I started my senior year in my fourth high school in four years.
For the next dozen years, I struggled through many challenges and many bouts of depression. I drank heavily. I was not happy.
Sometimes, when things got so bad that I began to think that there was no point in going on, I’d get out that high school yearblog and read the words that Freddie wrote to me when he was going through hard times.
And I always thought to myself, “If Fred Whittemore could write such optimistic words when things were so bad for him, I have to believe him.”
True champions find a way to succeed
Before I tell you what he wrote, let me tell you what eventually became of Freddie.
We lost track of each other for more than 35 years, but while working on this blog, I decided to track him down. The story he told me inspired me all over again.
In Forsyth, GA, where he had moved, everybody wanted to take him down. They wanted to prove that they were better than this small-town superstar who had moved into their school.
“It was the worst time of my life,” Freddie told me.
“I went back to my old coach in Washington,” Freddie said, “and he told me that they would all challenge me and give me a hard time, but to just hang in there and do my best, and show them what I could do. So I decided to do that. I decided that I was going to beat them at everything, even if it was just spitting, I was going to do it better than they did.”
After high school, he had his knee operated on and played football at a junior college.
The knee held up, and Baylor University gave him a football scholarship.
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