This week's blog is written by Baltimore Ravens Director of Media Relations, Chad Steele. I asked him to contribute because his story of becoming a better son, husband and father has been incredible to witness. I have been most impressed with his rapport with people. Be blessed by his journey.
As the son of a Colonel in the Army, moving every few years was part of the deal and something I loved about growing up. I lived overseas for much of my childhood and loved learning about other cultures and experiencing things that most can only read about in books.
As I got older, it got harder and harder to leave my friends and try to make new ones in new cities across the States. One particular move was very hard on me.
I spent my freshman year at Carmel Clay Junior High School in Carmel, IN and moved to Lawrence Central High School for my sophomore year. Playing football at LC was a welcome distraction. Being part of a team helped me with my insecurities and was an easy way to make friends.
Making friends on the team wasn’t the problem. However, it was the kind of friends that I made. Many of my teammates we considered “troublemakers,” and as I was assimilated into the group, I put myself in situations that weren’t beneficial or smart on my part.
As time went by and my ties with my friends grew deeper, I started drifting away from my family a bit. We had always been a VERY close family and were able to share everything with each other. I grew quieter at home and drifted into a selfish place. My family recognized what I was going through and tried to pull me back and help, but as 16-year-olds do, I thought I knew what was best for myself and made decisions that led me down a dark path.
By my junior year in high school, I was getting in more trouble than in my entire 17 years combined. I was in trouble at school, in trouble at home, and then I started losing friends. Some of my friends and teammates passed away, some lost their lives at the hands of a peer at school, and one to a car accident. I was spiraling out of control, and this forced my father to step in and make a tough decision for my family.
My sister had left for college, I was in the middle of my junior year, and my little brother was in middle school. My father got an assignment to work on a project in Fort Leavenworth, KS. He realized where I was headed and made a tough decision to request that he be permanently assigned to Leavenworth to get me out of harm’s way.
This was a decision that affected my whole family, but he knew that if I wasn’t pulled out of that situation, something horrible could happen.
My father and I moved to Leavenworth Oct. 30th of my junior year, while my mother stayed back in Indiana with my brother so he could finish his football season and his semester in school.
Dad and I lived in the BOQ (Bachelor Officers Quarters) with one bed, a pull-out couch, a small bathroom and a shared kitchen for three months until my mom and brother joined us in the middle of January.
During that time, dad and I turned from a close father and son to best friends. The Colonel (that is what everyone calls my dad) told me, “I will be with you 24/7,” and that was exactly what happened. We would switch off sleeping on the bed – my dad would get it one week, while I slept on the couch, and the next week we would change it up. We also switched off cooking and cleaning. If my dad cooked, I had to clean and vice versa.
Due to the timing of the move, I was not able to join the football team, which devastated me. I didn’t want to do anything, but the Colonel let me know in no uncertain terms that I would be doing something after school, I wasn’t just going to be able to “run the streets,” so, my father saw to it that I joined the basketball team.
To insure that I didn’t blow off basketball to get in trouble, my father came to practice every day to make sure I was attending practice and working hard. Even though I was on the team, I struggled with self-esteem and personal pride.
I was a 17-year-old 6’5”, 170-pound biracial child who was constantly teased about my height, weight and skin color. My two best friends were both biracial and military brats like me, and we were dubbed the “half-breed crew” by the “townies” of Leavenworth.
I was constantly told I wasn’t good enough, cool enough or smart enough, which is not an easy thing to deal with at that age. My grades slipped, my play slipped, and I was in a dark place.
I wanted to quit basketball, I wanted to fight the kids that made fun of me, and my father and I had many talks about how to deal with my personal struggles.
The Colonel, who was the first black football player at West Point, and who at 6’6” 250 pounds in the 1960’s was often a target because of his race and size, he talked with me about his struggles and what got him through.
We talked about a certain verse in the West Point Cadet Prayer: “Make us to choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong, and never be content with the half truth when the whole truth can be won.”
I physically carried that verse with me in high school. Anytime I faced a tough situation, I would refer to it and “harder right, instead of the easier wrong” was always at the forefront of my mind.
I went on to become the Player of the Year in my league in high school. My grades improved and I was able to earn a full-ride basketball scholarship to Winthrop University, where I earned Presidential Scholar list honors and left the school as the all-time leading rebounder.
But most importantly, I became a better leader, a better mentor, a better friend and a better son. To this day, when I am faced with a hard situation either at work or in my personal life, I always refer back to: harder right/easier wrong.
Along with my wife, that is what I want to instill in my young daughter. We think about that verse almost every day of our lives. It is easy to do the wrong thing, and it is often times harder to do the right thing. But, I know that as long as I choose the harder right, I will make my wife, my daughter, my parents and my siblings proud.
And there is no better “right” than that.
-Chad Steele, Director of Media Relations for the Baltimore Ravens