SportsLeader is a virtue-based mentoring and motivation program for coaches. This blog shares stories from coaches all over the country transforming lives. For more information contact Lou Judd -

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Getting Up Off The Mat

It is great to see SportsLeader coaches and their teams get such good press.

Chris and his team have shoveled over 100 driveways so far this winter plus helped a driver out of a ditch? How many have you shoveled with your team?

The gauntlet has been laid down! 


Getting Up Off The Mat

When you sign up to wrestle at Winton Woods High School, you best bring a good attitude, toughness, and a willingness to learn something (other than wrestling).

Despite having just recently won their first invitational in recent memory (Bishop Fenwick on Dec. 4) coach Chris Willertz has had his Warriors focused on building non-wrestling bridges.

The third-year coach has his boys focused on the mat, but even more so on the future. Academics, perseverance, community service and the difference between what is right and wrong is just as important for a Winton Woods wrestler as pinning his opponent.

"I didn't want the kids to be great wrestlers when they graduated and then struggle," said Willertz. "I got with my assistants and said, 'I want to do more for the boys than just use them.'"

To hit home with that message, Willertz has made use of activities and responsibilities away from school for his student-athletes. Many schools at different levels take their kids on team-building trips and retreats and Willertz and the Warriors just returned from one in November.

"I worked through an organization called Sports Leader," said Willertz. "Sports Leader's purpose is to help coaches teach their boys more than just the sport. They have a retreat site out in Indiana, about 130 acres. They have some tents and a fishing pond and a swimming pond."

Unfortunately, 25 to 30 degree temperatures didn't allow for much swimming, but within a 24-hour period, Willertz was able to provide his grapplers with some valuable life lessons.

"Moeller High School's wrestling team took 40-50 kids out there and some public schools have used it," said Willertz, who took 15 Warriors with him. "We want to make the kids think that they're roughing it, even though they're really not roughing it. (We) get them out in nature and talk to them about what it means to be a real man and have some fun out there."

Fun included dividing his guys into three groups and seeing who could gather the most firewood for a bonfire. Naturally, for most coaches and athletes, everything's a competition.

It's exactly why Willertz has embraced the concept of combining physical activity with spiritual/mental meaning.

If you happen to live near a Winton Woods wrestler, odds are you have a clean driveway when the snow falls. The Warriors of Willertz wipe the walkways clean on days when most of their classmates are sleeping in.

"That's our community service program," said Willertz. "Last year the people of the community voted in a levy and we wanted to do something to pay them back. With us being a winter sport, it (shoveling) just made sense."

How was the Chris Willertz Wrestling/Shoveling Workout born?

"I went on a retreat and God spoke to me," said Willertz. "Your wrestlers on snow days, you can't force them to come in on because of liability issues. I make our workouts optional on snow days because of road conditions. But I said, 'You need to be working out, it's wrestling season.'"

Much like how Rocky Balboa trained for the Russian Ivan Drago in Siberia for in "Rocky IV", the Winton Woods wrestlers are getting in shape the "old school" way with some good old-fashioned hard work. Besides, lifting and throwing something in a vigorous motion logically can be translated into a wrestling move.

"If you go shovel a driveway, you'll work up a sweat and you'll be able to get a good workout in if you can't make it to practice," said Willertz. "You're also helping out in the neighborhood."

The program has evolved to the point that Willertz has his boys assigned to certain driveways and members of the community are phoning him with requests. The goodwill gesture has landed the program media exposure and shovels have been donated to help the cause.

In return, those benefiting from the clean driveways can also give back.

"People that get their snow shoveled have the option of adopting one of my wrestlers," said Willertz. "They don't have a whole lot of money. It cost $60 to wrestle and their school fees have to be paid. But, if they don't have the money we still put them on the snow tree and do it regardless."

This time of year, it's all in the spirit of giving.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Simple Act Elevates All

Embracing service!

Rudy Favard, 17, cradled Sammy Parker, 8, as he carried him upstairs. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Yvonne Abraham
Globe Columnist

On Tuesday night, Patty and Rick Parker were in their cramped kitchen with their 8-year-old son Ben. Dinner was over. Bedtime was near.

Ben’s twin brother, Sammy, lay on a cot in the narrow hallway just outside the kitchen. Unable to see or speak or control his limbs, he coughed or let out a little moan every now and then. Rick and Patty took turns feeding Sammy, who has cerebral palsy, through a stomach tube. He cooed when they kissed his face or stroked his cheek, and when they cooed back, he opened his mouth into a wide, joyful O.

A few feet away was the narrow, winding stairway that is the family’s biggest burden lately.

Which is where 17-year-old Rudy’s simple, life-changing act of kindness comes in.

Until recently, Rick carried Sammy up those 14 stairs to his bedroom each night. But a few months ago, Rick had major surgery for a life-threatening heart condition, and now he can’t lift much at all, let alone a 75-pound child.

“We thought Rick was going to die, and we were terrified,’’ Patty recalled. “We knew right away he had to stop carrying Sam.’’

Patty couldn’t carry him, either. Desperate, she called her pediatrician, who put her in touch with Elizabeth Paquette, the nurse at Malden Catholic High School. Paquette said she’d take care of it. The boys at Malden Catholic are taught to embrace service: She’d find plenty of students to help.

Rudy Favard was the first kid Paquette came across after that call. At Malden Catholic on a partial scholarship from the Catholic Schools Foundation, this son of Haitian immigrants was one of Paquette’s treasures. The linebacker, cocaptain of the football team and honor roll student was always willing to lend a hand.

The nurse had barely begun telling Rudy about the Parkers before he said he’d help. Another boy would fill in for Rudy on game nights. And a third boy was on standby in case neither of the others could make it.

When Paquette brought the boys to meet the family for the first time, the Parkers cried.

“Just to see this outpouring of people,’’ Rick Parker began, his eyes welling at the memory. “To see that these people were willing to put their hands and feet to what they believed. . .’’

It is profoundly isolating to have a child as severely disabled as Sammy. It’s hard even for well-meaning friends to understand the immense strain of his all-consuming needs. Patty and Rick — who tried for 8 years to get pregnant before Ben and Sam were born — grieve for one son’s lost potential every day, even as they struggle to give the other as normal a life as possible.

“You plan for your child’s future, but it’s hard to do that for Sam,’’ Rick said. “You have this pathway he should have taken, and the pathway he did take, and you don’t want to look at either one.’’

And over it all hangs the certainty that Sammy’s condition will never improve — even as he gets bigger and heavier.

Into this world of love and hurt comes Rudy. Four nights a week, he leaves his homework and makes the 10-minute drive to the Parker house. Around 8 p.m., he carries Sammy upstairs, chats a bit, hugs everybody, and heads home to finish his work. After considerable effort, the Parkers convinced Rudy to take enough money to cover gas, with a little left over.

In the few months the Parkers have known him, Rudy has become not just a help with Sammy, but a salve for their pain. He and Rick talk about football. Patty quizzes him on girls. Ben usually parks himself as close to Rudy as possible, looking up at him adoringly. And most nights, Sam will tremble with excitement as Rudy picks him up.

“It’s like family,’’ said the shy senior. It goes both ways: The Parkers were on the field with Rudy’s mother the night Malden Catholic honored its senior football players.

And so Rudy had barely knocked on the door Tuesday night before Ben was at it, jumping up and down, yelling, “Rudy is here! Rudy is here!’’

He greeted the Parkers, and went over to Sammy, gently lifting the boy’s left arm and sliding his hands under his back, the way Rudy’s father, a professional caregiver, had shown him. He lifted Sammy and held him close to his chest, and as the boy made his joyful O, Rudy carefully maneuvered him around the corners on the narrow stairway.

You couldn’t help but be struck by the painful contrast between the two boys: The robust athlete cradling the pale, helpless child; the young man preparing to go out into the world carrying someone who never will.

It’s a comparison lost on nobody, least of all Rudy himself.

“Can I ask you something?’’ he said, sitting in the Parkers’ living room after Sammy was asleep. “Is it OK if this article is more about Sam than me?’’


“He’s done more for me than I’ve done for him,’’ Rudy said. “There are times when I don’t want to go to practice, and then I look at Sam. By God’s grace, I can do what I’m doing, so I should keep it up. I’ve never been one to complain a lot, but just seeing Sam reaffirms everything, you know?’’

The Parkers won’t have Rudy for long. He’s already been accepted at four colleges, and others are courting him. Where he goes depends on financial aid and football.

The Parkers hope to be out of this cramped house and into a bigger one — with no stairs — before Rudy leaves town in search of his degree.

Until then, Rudy will bound up to the modest, pale green house on Fairmount Street. He’ll carry Sammy up to his cozy room. Then, for a little while, he’ll carry the Parkers somewhere better, too.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

When Your Assistant Coaches Turn the Corner

One of the most rewarding experiences of SportsLeader is watching your assistant coaches "get it". That's when things really start to get fun.

Having a staff moving full speed ahead is a powerful witness for your players. Your actions as a group speak much louder than your words ...


By Dan Duddy
Head Football Coach Toms River NJ Monsignor Donovan HS
Speaker at 2010 and 2011 Character Building Clinics

There is no nicer scenery than looking at our football practice field right after we “close out” our practice.  There are ten separate conversations taking place between an assistant coach and a player. They stand informally anywhere from 20 to 100 yards apart from each other. Some will sit down on the ground as if they are sharing a picnic lunch, while other pairs will walk slowly and aimlessly perhaps while flipping a football lightly up in the air. Couple this with the pastels of the setting of another soft sun, the exhilaration of a good hard practice under our belts, and the lingering haze of airborne dust as the rest of team staggers off the gridiron ...

What’s most exhilarating is the willingness of my assistant coaches to “man-up” to mentoring, amazingly they have become intrigued by it, and I am so pleased with it. I am 54 years old, and most of my staff is close to half my age. I have seen them grow in leaps and bounds as they have “flexed courage”, “crossed lines” and mentor young men to “a resolve to a specific action” daily for about three minutes a day. It has literally changed their lives, and they laugh, literally, at the thought that other coaches like them are hesitant of doing it, or feel that “they are doing enough already”, or they might say “yeah, yeah, we already do that”. But the fact remains though, they started it because I told them, “this is what we do here.” Now, they can’t picture coaching any sport without it.

These coaches, some of them being ex-players of mine, others players that I had the horror of coaching against, could line up today and knock your helmet off. They played the game their way. They were unique individuals and tough competitors. They were typical kids as they got away with whatever they could, and they tested the waters.     Slowly they would find out what was right and wrong, what was compromising, and what a positive catalyst was, and yes they found all this without mentoring. But it took so long to find these things on their own, and some of their team mates are dead.

Dead.  And so are some of your team mates. Either physically or in spirit, and you know that. Maybe you escaped a spiritual death because of a coach. Maybe you chose to not drink one night because of something a coach said. Maybe that car hit a tree that you might have been otherwise driving in.

“Joe” is on my staff, a tough defensive back that played against my team in 2001. He had never mentored a kid in his life. After our very last staff meeting last season, Joe came to me with tears in his eyes thanking me for the opportunity to mentor kids. He said “I found out things about my own manhood that I never would have known otherwise”.
All of my coaches mentor, if it were “something that everyone else does” then trust me, they wouldn’t be doing it. It takes a very unique coach, “a real coach,” to mentor, the kind of guy that would knock a helmet off, the kind of coach that we want our players to be. We want our players to “step out of the box” and be special.

Our players are a reflection of their coaches. Our coaches’ reflections are in their mirrors.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Joy of Receiving a Gift

So much truth here below. I unfortunately witnessed some lack of gratitude these past few days and it was pretty painful. We must be good examples.

I pray that you are at peace with Christ this beautiful season.


By Randy Traeger
Head Football Coach Mt Angel Oregon Kennedy HS
Speaker at 2010 and 2011 Character Building Clinics

In this season of gift giving we need to focus on doing a better job of being thankful for the gifts we are given.  Our overabundance often causes ingratitude.  We don't do it intentionally, but never the less, the effects are the same. We receive a gift and then smugly issue an obligatory "Thanks", or even worse, say nothing at all.

Philosophers as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans cited gratitude as an indispensable human virtue, but social scientists are just beginning to study how it develops and the effects it can have. Recent research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being. Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not. They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.

The attached photo is one of my favorites. The photo depicts a World War II era child receiving a new pair of shoes from the American Red Cross. The expression on is face is priceless. Check out the shoes he is wearing.  I have purchased dozens of high priced Nike shoes for my children and I have never seen an expression of such gratitude on any of their faces!

This year, lets give a heartfelt thanks, a big hug, and show some real "JOY" when we are receiving gifts from friends and relatives.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry CHRISTmas

Merry CHRISTmas! May Baby Jesus bless you and fill your hearts with love, humility, peace and strength. Be assured of our prayers.

Your friend, Lou

On this night, this holy night,
Christ freely chose to join our plight.
His Sacred Heart was burning bright,
Love drove him down from heaven’s heights.
Each Mass is a new Bethelehem,
Christ stoops down to us once again.
With eyes of Faith, we say Amen!
His presence helps our wounds to mend.
He wants your heart, not myrrh or gold,
Don’t put your love for him on hold.
Be humble! Warm hearts that are cold!
He’ll reward you a hundred-fold!
Fr. Michael Sliney, LC

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

HS Football Players Adopt a Family for Christmas / Relieving Christmas Depression

Have a Blessed CHRISTmas. Be assured of our prayers, Lou

Owl football players adopt family for Christmas

Thanks to three Mount Healthy High School football players, three children will have a Christmas that's a little merrier.

Freshman Tyree Elliot, sophomore Greg Green and junior T.J. Green - along with Fighting Owls head football coach Arvie Crouch - adopted a family for Christmas.

"It's a great tool to help our players be humble and grateful for what they've got," Crouch said. "I'm taking some players that are not very fortunate themselves, but I wanted them to see that even though they don't have everything they want, there are still kids out there worse off."

The team raised about $100 at the Mount Healthy football banquet for this endeavor.

Crouch took his players to the Toys "R" Us on Colerain Avenue Dec. 15 to buy toys for three children ages 5, 6 and 10 who live in Mount Healthy.

The adopted family will receive its presents Dec. 21.

Crouch, who adopted families when he taught at Madison Elementary, said he wanted to bring this holiday tradition to Mount Healthy.

"I wanted to do it here and felt it would be a good experience for these guys to be involved in," Crouch said. "I plan on making it a tradition."


By Randy Traeger

We are called to spread Christmas "Joy", but its hard when there are so many people around us who are suffering from the effects of clinical Christmas "Stress and Depression". Most of this stress and depression is caused by:

1. Absence of a beloved family member that creates feelings of loneliness and regret.
2. Family conflicts that have been "stewing" all year come to a head with family gathering.
3. The pressure of gift buying and expectations with tight budgets in poor economic times.
4. Physical exhaustion brought on by holiday shopping, schedule changes, and social obligations.
5. Loneliness for the elderly, isolated, and socially outcast. No family, no friends.
6. Seasonal emotional disorder brought on by winter and the lack of daylight.

How can you help?

Fist of all, we need to be extremely sensitive to these causes of stress and depression in ourselves and others. Recognize the symptoms and see if you cant directly address the pain. Put your entire focus outside yourself and into loving and serving others who are suffering. Ease their pain and you will receive JOY this Christmas

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Coach's Humility

Below is simply put one of the most humble emails I've ever received from a coach. I asked Mark if I could share this ...

Inspiring way to look at life. God is in control. Let's trust Him more this Christmas.


I officially got the axe at our board meeting Monday night.  A newspaper article ran yesterday and had my picture with all of my horrible stats as a head coach.  Very tough blow to the pride.  Since the article ran yesterday I have had an outpouring of support through email and texts from community members, parents, and former players.  It has been encouraging to hear the affirmation that young men's lives have been changed as a result of me being their coach.  Exciting and humbling.  I also had an opportunity to address the team yesterday and show them one last time how to handle adversity.

In the last two weeks I have had two meetings with administrators that I knew were going to be tough and then the meeting with the team.  I have a daily devotional that starts off with a verse.  

My first meeting was to discuss my evaluation from the season and the verse that day was:

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

The next meeting was with the superintendent and I knew he was going to tell me I was done.  The verse that day was:

Hebrews 13:5 – I will never leave you or forsake you.  

When I was meeting with the team my verse was:

Titus 2:6-8 -  Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

It is awesome when you know God is speaking to you through His word!  I know God has my back and I have run a football program that He can be proud of.  I appreciate the tools your program eqiupped me with and I will continue to use SportsLeader to teach that "virtue = strength" wherever I end up next!

Thanks Lou!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Mentoring Freshmen

In many High School sports programs the Freshmen don't get quite as much attention as the Varsity players do when it comes to mentoring and virtue. 

But at Providence Catholic near Chicago, IL this is not the case. They have an outstanding coach, who is also a great friend of mine, who goes out of his way to make sure his players grow as men. 

I did a phone interview with Mike. I hope you find it helpful.

Mike Cemeno
Assistant Football Coach
Providence Catholic High School
New Lennox, IL

9 Time IHSA State Champions: ’87, ’91, ’94, ’95, ’96, ’97, ’01, ’02, 04
3 Time IHSA State Runner-Up: '98, '00, '09


When I mentor the kids I ask them the same questions. The topics are: School, Family, Faith and Football. Each session would be 5-6 minutes. I would mentor during practice. I coached the defensive backs. Whenever the DBs were not really involved I would mentor. It was easy.

* How are you doing in school? What classes you are struggling in?

This year most were struggling with the same class because the teacher is very demanding. In many other classes the kids could get by without "too much sweat" but in his class - you needed to study and study hard or you would bomb. Just doing homework would get you a D. They needed to rise to the occasion and quit being lazy.

* How are things at home? What can you do to help your mom/dad on the weekend?

Kids are dialed in to video games or TV, especially on weekends. During the week, for most it is get home, eat, homework and crash - pretty simple. But the weekends are a different story. Come the weekend they want to "check out". 

I would encourage them to serve.  "Mom, what can I do to help?" Most of the time Mom would ask "what do you want? - favor in return ... because they would catch her off guard.

They would clean the garage, clean their rooms, help with dishes ... By the end of the season most were developing the habit of "looking for ways to help without being asked."

* How are you doing praying - are you going to Church? (I coach at a Catholic School)

Of the players I was mentoring about half were going to Church. The kids not going I would challenge them to ask their parents, find a way to go the end of the season 99% of the kids made the effort to go to Church. I would just talk about why I personally go to Church, why I love Christ in the Eucharist, why I love the peace of Adoration.

NONE of them had ever had a man talk to them about their personal experiences of faith. They loved it. They wanted to hear why my faith was important to me.

I would tell them that they need to ask God for help, 85% of kids were Catholic ... 

The other coaches on my staff would not talk about their faith ... they were not as comfortable but they still did a great job about talking to them about the other issues.

* How are they doing on the field?

This of course is the easiest.

Virtue Themes of the Week?

Every Monday after practice, right there on the field, we would have a 5 minute huddle session where we introduced the virtue-theme of the week. I would give the group talk and then send them off to their mentor groups where their coaches would go over the virtue story sheets with them. They kids loved this. It gave them a chance to talk about how things went last week, what their goals were for the upcoming week, vent a little. It was easier for them because it was a small group of about 10 and only 1 coach instead of trying to say something in front everybody. The small group session would last about 10 minutes.

It is also important to note that this is extremely helpful for Freshmen. These guys are "the bottom of the totem pole" and they know it, so they feel as if they are not important, they few people care about them, etc. 

Wrap-up and Movie Clip

On Fridays after practice I would give a 6 minute talk and then show a movie clip about the theme of the week. This was also very popular with the guys. This kind of wrapped everything up and got us ready for our game. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

5th and 6th Grade Sport of Happiness

It's special when you can "catch" a moment like this - virtue in action. Your players ARE listening and watching. Keep it up coaches, we need you!

God bless, Lou
February 5, 2011 - Character Building Clinic

5th and 6th Grade Sport of Happiness

By Brett Richard
Executive Director
Cypress Heights Academy
Baton Rouge, LA

Some times you teach, coach, remind, hope ... and you don't see the fruits, you don't hear the fruits, you wonder ...

Then there are other days that you will never forget. Days that choke you up just remembering them. I had a day like that recently ...

Even though this was only our 2nd year playing contact football, our 5th and 6th grade football team truly made us proud this year on so many different levels. But there was that one day ...

They played against a team with old, mismatched uniforms. It is an "inner city" team made up of players mostly with no resources or much family life. Their coaches are extremely kind and generous men who do everything they can for them which usually means driving around town to pick up every single player to make sure he gets to practices and games. Keeping them involved in sports is one of few positive experiences in their lives.

After the game, our players - 11 and 12 year old boys - (and coaches) recognized the need and wanted to do something to help that team, "We have really nice uniforms. We're blessed. They need help. Can we do a car wash and raise the money to buy them new uniforms?" Such a faithful team...

Happily agreeing to the request, they tell me even though they haven't raised a penny yet, they were ordering the new uniforms to ensure the other team could shine by their next game.

Speechless, I pondered... "Man, if only I could have had such a team experience and supportive coaches growing up - thinking of something like this at the age of 11 or 12... Amazing!"

So in less than a week our team organizes a car wash, gets our head coach on a radio program to promote the car wash ... They invite the opposing team to come "have fun and wash some cars with us" ... There they were, 2 teams having a blast together, washing cars, high fives, making a memory.

Before the car wash even happened, a man whom I had never met before walked into my office and handed me a check for $500. "Growing up in several foster homes I never had much of a family life. One of the only positive memories I have is sports. I want to help." Many others did the same.

The goal was to reach $1,000. We raised over $2,200.

We met the players and coaches from the other team that Saturday morning to joyfully deliver their new uniforms for their game. What a moment! All I could do was look at the faces of our 5th and 6th grade football players ecstatic that they had truly helped someone - and of course, the joy of the receiving team. That is a moment where you say, "This is why I do what I do!"

But it doesn't end there.

A few days later, a coach from the other team comes back with a really nice basket of goodies. "We just wanted to do something to say thank you. It isn't much but hopefully it can show our appreciation for what you all have done for our team.  And, oh, by the way, this made such an impact on our players that they asked us if they could raise money to help another team in need. They saw the look in your guys' eyes. They had never seen happiness and genuineness like that before. Thank you."

A few weeks later our team won the league championship Super Bowl. As I was walking over to the league director to thank him for the season, he said to me, "I've never given a trophy to a more deserving team before in my life. They are a great football team - not just in talent but in spirit too.  They are a quality football team! But man, they are young men. I'm proud that they are a part of our league."

Needless to say I couldn't say much more after that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

February 5, 2011 - Character Building Clinic

SportsLeader will have our 5th annual Character Building Clinic on Saturday February 5, 2011.

We are still finalizing a few details but I wanted to get the date out. It will be a one day event in the Cincinnati area.


Dean Hood Richmond, KY Eastern Kentucky University
Paul Passafiume Louisville, KY St Agnes
Kent Wright Lebanon, IN Lebanon
Kris Hogan Grapevine, TX Faith Christian
Dan Duddy Toms River, NJ         Monsignor Donovan
Randy Traeger         Mt Angel, OR Kennedy
Todd Naumann Ft Wright, KY Covington Catholic

We will also have numerous athletes giving testimonies of their experiences and small group sessions so you can network with other coaches from around the country.

I hope you can attend with your staff so you can take advantage of this unique opportunity to grow stronger in our commitment to the URGENT NEED of building virtue and character in our young people.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Learning from Alcoholics Anonymous

"Certainly the basic frame is about minimizing selfishness, minimizing grandiosity, giving to others, accepting character flaws, and apologizing when you’re wrong" ...

Sounds like a good recipe for anyone including your team ...

Post by: Elizabeth Landau - Health Writer/Producer
Alcoholics Anonymous as a spiritual experience
Only the first of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous mentions alcohol. The other 11 talk about redemption, restoring moral character, and devotion to God (or other higher power).

From that perspective, it makes sense that a new study finds that Alcoholics Anonymous increases spirituality. But it goes further than that: Spirituality may actually play a role in successful recovery from alcoholism, says research in the journalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The way that Alcoholics Anonymous members share their experiences of suffering is akin to what happens in a military unit or a musical group or a family, where the idea of "we’re all in this together" becomes particularly strong, said Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.

"Someone will say something profound that everyone can connect with beyond themselves, and it can be very moving," said Humphreys, who was not involved in the study but also researches the effects of Alcoholics Anonymous. "That is a spiritual process."

Alcoholics Anonymous has more than 1.2 million members in the United States, encompassing more than 55,000 groups across the country. Founded in 1935, participation in this group has shown to be effective in short-term and long-term outcomes in numerous scientific studies. Since a large body of research has found that this and similar groups work (Narcotics Anonymous for drug use, and other organizations), more studies are turning to a deeper question: Why do they work?

Meetings of 12-step support groups vary according to how "religious" they seem, Humphreys said. Some of them are full of discussion about God; others don't emphasize it as much, but focus more philosophically on the nature of being and existence.

"Certainly the basic frame is about minimizing selfishness, minimizing grandiosity, giving to others, accepting character flaws, and apologizing when you’re wrong," Humphreys said.

Addiction to any substance, be it alcohol or marijuana or harder drugs, raises common issues prompting spiritual questions, Humphreys said. These experiences include loss of control, terror, doing things you’re ashamed of, and being close to death, he said.

The new study looked at data from 1,726 adults randomly assigned to different psychosocial treatments for alcoholism. Researchers asked the participants questions at the beginning of the study and then every three months.

They found that participants in Alcoholics Anonymous said they increased their spiritual beliefs and practices, especially people who were low on those measures when they first began Alcoholics Anonymous. Moreover, spiritual beliefs and behaviors appear to at least partially be responsible for successful recovery from alcoholic behaviors. Perhaps that also relates to findings from a separate study that religion breeds happiness because of personal connections made in a congregregation.

The 12 Steps:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than our  selves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. 
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to im  prove our conscious contact with God as we un  derstood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Army-Navy Game 2010, Some "Manly" Observations

A great note from Coach Dan Duddy. We need more coaches putting their thoughts and experiences on paper. Give it some thought.

I was blessed to attend my 13th (out of the last 14 years) Army-Navy game on Saturday 12/11 with my five sons. It was a fruitful day when it comes to the realities of manhood

These men play football for the love of the game. No one is NFL bound, they are destined for a far greater fight where meniscus tears and contract incentives are laughed at and hand grenades are the subject. The patriotism abounds as we sit with 4 year old boys holding American flags and 85 year old men missing legs and purple hearts.

I can only think of God and prayer in our schools when I see this. I also think of the young man in my homeroom who refuses to stand for the Flag salute because it is "his right" to do so. The man in the wheelchair can't stand; he gave his leg for the young man in my homeroom.

As the players stood together during their traditional singing of the post game "Alma Maters", the large stadium video screens showed the tears of these great warriors while the "20-something" drunkard in the seat next to me fell into me, dumping his beer on my leg.

Being a MAN is a choice and we all need to play a role in inspiring that choice. We need to choose to take on the role of manliness and inject it into others. The world needs us.

Let's give a leg for manliness so that boy with the flag will be on a mission some day, and not sitting next to you wondering where half his beer went.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No Arms, No Legs, No Worries - Nick Vujicic

A note from a friend of mine and a real life example video ...

Several years ago, a Princeton Lacrosse player from the DC area told me, “Fr. Michael, you need to tell all of your High School jocks to get rid of their attitude.  They want to come across as being tough macho men, and some of them think that being a jerk and obnoxious equates with being a real man.  Tell them just to be kind. They need to care about others…this is what matters.”  So true.  Big guys should have big hearts…we certainly need more kindness out there!  
God bless, Fr. Michael Sliney, LC


Nick Vujicic - a man born without arms and legs but has a more powerful HEART than many of us ... He dedicates his life to being kind - to cheering others up.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Every Life has a Story

"Every life has a story if we only bother to read it"

A video Chick-Fil-A created to remind us that everyone we interact with is a chance to create a remarkable experience.

Coaches - as you watch just imagine this is your locker room ...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Season Essays Part 2 - Ask the English Teachers

I was talking with Coach Randy Traeger yesterday and he had a great idea. "I could ask the English teachers to have the boys write the essay for English class ... they write about their season ... and they get graded on it ..."

Maybe this is something you can do as well. Or if you aren't the head coach, or you're a parent, etc ... have your children write about their seasons ... 

More from Toms River NJ Monsignor Donovan HS FB - Coach Dan Duddy


I have succeeded in many of my goals on my goal sheet this year with the help from group mentoring, one on one mentoring and team virtue. I feel that I have accomplished a lot this football season. My last goal was to get time on varsity. At virtue camp when I made this goal I knew I had to practice one-hundred percent at practice and give the best look I could for the starters so they would be prepared. Around the week of the Wall game I decided that I had to try harder and did and since I have not stopped giving it my all at practice. At Freehold I finally got my big chance and the next week with Bishop Eustace. All my had work had finally paid off. I finished that goal.



I have grown as a person in many different ways. I now go to church every Sunday. I have also learned that I am very lucky to have the things that I have. I feel that every school should have a virtue program. It helps kids come closer to God. In our mentoring groups we all made resolutions. Mine was to be in the front of every class. This has helped me every day and it keeps me out of talking to other kids and fooling around in class. This has also help me be more successful in all of my classes. This football season has been one of the best in my life. Before this season I only went to church only on certain Sundays when I felt like it. That is one of the best things that have happen to me throughout this season. I can’t wait till next year to play again and do it all again. I will continue to be a spiritual person everyday in my life.



Before the season started I had D.S. and A.S. move in with me. This change in my life definitely taught me how to keep a tight brotherhood with two kids. It also taught me how to trust someone, and that was a huge factor in how I trust my teammates and all of my coaches. I will conclude with.. my faith has gotten stronger and stronger from this football program and all my teammates and I will keep these memories forever.



Coach Duddy has taught me how to be a man. He showed me sports are about more then just winning. It’s about friendship and being honored to play the game of football. If I never played football I wouldn’t of had felt the way I do or even be who I am today. I remember one game the other team’s running back got hurt. Someone on the side lines said I think we hurt him. Coach Duddy replied I hope not the kids a hell of a football player. That shows how much class Monsignor Donovan’s coaching staff has. The coaches care about us. They are the type of people we all want in our lives. I thank you all for showing me what its like to be a part of such a positive program.



I made a life changing decision by joining the football team. Yes I am so happy I got the opportunity to play football but I am also happy that I discovered my faith. I think the virtue program has helped me grow a lot as a man and has also let me be more out spoken on my opinions.
The virtue program got me back into believing in God. I just feel like I have become a greater person that I would never be without my faith and virtue. The program we do at school really has gotten my life back on track and going in a direction I never thought it would. Coach Duddy you really did start a brotherhood and I couldn’t explain how thankful I am to be a part of this brotherhood.
You taught us as men we need to rise up against the war we have to fight every day. The world we live in now is full of things that can drag us down to a low level and make us boys instead of men. By discovering my faith and virtue it has taught me to be a man of action and take responsibility for what I do.
Sharing my faith and virtue with others has been easy to do now ever since I taken part of it with the team. I enjoy being bold about my faith and talking to others about it. I now know that I will always be like this and I want to take my faith forward by trying to get others involved. I know I have become a better man by being part of this virtue program.
I hope everyone in this brotherhood keeps their faith important in their life and I just wanted to say thank you Coach. By getting my faith close to me you have also helped me get my family and I a little closer. God is great and he looks over all of us, you just never notice he is there until you make the effort to find him. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Reflecting on Your Season

We need to help our athletes slow down for a bit and reflect on the season that has just passed. What did I learn? How am I better person? What goals did I accomplish? ...

Here are a few excerpts from football players from Monsignor Donovan HS in Toms River, NJ. Coach Dan Duddy has his guys write essays. Give it a try.


“To lead, provide, and protect.” That is the quote I first heard before my sophomore year and it has always remained in the back on my mind. It stated that the three responsibilities to a true man are to lead, provide, and protect. It was not until the season started and first being introduced to the Virtue Program that I saw having a devoted and strong faith was necessary to being a real man in today’s society, and once a strong faith was established a man could then lead, provide, and protect with a passion.

Each year I can feel myself grow as a person, and the reason I grow as a person is because I grow in my faith and reliance of God in my life, and the reason I grow in my faith, I believe, is solely from football and the Virtue Program. The Virtue Program gave me the understanding that everyone needs God in there life because they always need that assurance that someone is always there. Just as Mon Don Football and the Braveheart will always be my campfire for me to always go back to, God is the original campfire for all mankind. He will always be there.

Nothing helped build my inner strength more than Virtue Camp. The mix of football, virtue, and the wild each year has built my character as a person. The physical demand it put on my body is like no other. Then waking up early or going later that day to virtue sessions, it helps me understand that I can always be tougher and demand more from my body.



So, I, the incoming junior who had played only four varsity games as a sophomore, thought I was in good standing with where I was in life, and on the game field. This soon changed when it felt as though I was slipping towards the back of the pack, or just taking a back row seat and watching the other MEN around me doing work, like a boy would. Speech after speech I thought I knew what Coach Duddy was talking about, but I finally had realized that I was not understanding the message. The epiphany that was about to come to me in the middle of August at virtue camp was one I could not dream of beforehand. Selected into a cabin with three other players, we grew as men and as athletes in the course of about four days. Through double sessions and virtue talks by our mentors and other coaches, we learned a lot about ourselves and who was really inside us.



I learned this year that football is a lot more than just a game. Playing football requires this desire and work ethic that anyone who doesn’t play wouldn’t understand. It’s like Coach Duddy always tells us, “No one understands what goes on inside these four walls”. I liked having Coach Ford as my mentor, because usually when we do faith it’s either Coach Sig Sr. or Coach Duddy talking to us. So it’s good to hear how someone who isn’t far removed from his high school football career feels about everything. So it’s like hearing from three different generations.  Playing football has changed me, it has made physically and spiritually stronger.



The things I like about virtue camp is we don’t need to worried about cell phones, electricity and the outside world, until we get back at school. When we go, the camp reminds me of the television show Man vs. Wild. It has made me tougher thru out the years here at mondon high school.  When we where in the woods we wrote letters to our mothers which was hard for me cause we didn’t have a good relationship with each other. The relationship with my parents was really only with my father, but now with my mom it is becoming a lot better.

Monday, December 6, 2010

First Team Wrestling Championship in School History

Coach Willertz is a great example of a man who selflessly gives to the young men of his team. Many of them have never wrestled before ... have no idea what the sport even entails ... and he uses it to build them into great men.

Congrats Coach! We need you.

PS - If you would like to help support Chris and his wrestling team please let me know.

What a weekend!!  The Winton Woods Wrestling Team of 2010-11 started the season off with a bang on Saturday, December 4th.  Of 18 teams, we came in 1st (really tied for 1st with Withrow) 

The kids did a great job!!  From top to bottom, beginning to end, they wrestled hard, so hard.  

I believe this is the first invitiational wrestling championship in Winton Woods school history (since 1992), so we all made history.  As always.....we couldn't have done this without you!  We are all a part of this victory.  Thanks so much for everything you have done... and are doing.... and what you will do in the future.  Hopefully this is the start of much more success to come.

We have started our Monday-Thursday study hall, mentoring and teacher help sessions to help the kids with their grades and our snow shoveling campaign.  Keep pulling for the kids, they are starting to believe!

Coach Willertz
Winton Woods Wrestling-Skill X Will X Drill = Win!!

Skill x Will x Drill = Win
                                Colonel Dandridge Malone- “Mike Malone”

The above quote is one of our new additions in the Winton Woods Wrestling room.  I like it for many reasons, probably most of all is the simplicity of the quote and how simple the ingredients to success are. Obviously, Colonel Malone was a soldier and the goal was to kill the enemy.  As a wrestling team we are not looking to kill the enemy but to defeat him in “battle” in the wrestling ring.  For us this is the equivalent.  Winning in whatever mission God has commissioned you is equivalent. For this reason,  I believe the quote applies to all of us.

Skill.  In three short years coaching wrestling it has not taken me long to figure out that you can be as big, strong and conditioned as you want to be but if you don’t have any wrestling skills you will lose more than you win.  Wrestling skills are essential to being successful.  As a coach, we must teach our players skills.  As a teacher we must teach our students skills.  As a parent we must teach our children skills.  Inspirational quotes and speeches are great.  Getting the kids in shape is great.  Mentoring and talking to your kids is great but you can’t leave out the most important thing……you must teach them something.  You must give them a skill so they can be successful.  Ultimately if you don’t do this, you are failing them.

Will.  You have probably heard the clique, winning is not everything but having the will to win is everything.  To develop one’s willpower, their will, is just as essential to success.  Skills are a part of the equation according to Colonel Malone, but so is will.  One has to have a developed will.  I want to win.  I want to wrestle well.  I want to do the right thing.  I will do whatever it takes no matter the obstacles to win.  Not until your players believe in the importance of the goal, really believe, you won’t win.  Of course even when they do believe, their willpower to resist and to work hard both still have to be developed.  Fostering the will is your job as well.  This will has the power of magic.  Our War of Independence is a great example of this, as many of you know; the British did not realize the power of our will and it led to their defeat.  Ironically, it led to our defeat in the Vietnam War when we didn’t realize the willpower of the Vietnamese people.

Drill.  There are so many things we have to do as coaches.  There are so many plays, so many techniques, so many players, and so many additional things a head coach has to do.  As a result we never drill enough. We don’t drill enough also because drilling is boring and it is HARD WORK!  But drilling is essential to our success.  We have to become proficient at the skills needed.  The only way we can become proficient is to do it over and over and over.  Drill and evaluate, drill and make corrections, drill and increase the difficulty level.  It is our responsibility to teach our players skills and to drill them until they are experts.

What do you really want to be great at?  What do you really believe in?  Whether for yourself or for people you love, you must figure out your mission.  Once you have figured out the burning thing in your heart, learn the skills necessary for success, and then drill those skills, over and over and over.  Get it done!  Follow this simple equation and God will bless you with your hearts’ desire.  I know we plan on taking this plan of action this wrestling season at Winton Woods, in wrestling, academics, virtue and community service.  And because we follow it…….we will WIN!  May you have the same success in your battles!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sacrifice - To Make Holy

I had the pleasure of having lunch with Kim, Mr and Mrs Traeger earlier this year. I'm sure you have all had similar experiences where you leave a visit feeling like your life was just en-riched by the people you were with.

May we strive to be and do this for others with our lives.

By Randy Traeger
The word sacrifice is made up of “sacri” and “ficio”, which means “to make holy”. The greatest example in my life of sacrifice is how my parents Joe and Kathy Traeger have cared for my handicapped sister Kimberlee. Their sacrifices have made her handicap “holy” and form the miraculous foundations of our extended families.

In 1972 Kimberlee Jo Traeger was born eight of nine children into our family of four boys and five girls. At less than one year, Kim was diagnosed with Rett syndrome. Rett syndrome is a neuro-developmental disorder of the grey matter of the brain that affects girls almost exclusively. The clinical features include small hands and feet and a deceleration of the rate of head growth (including microcephaly in some). Repetitive hand movements, such as wringing and/or repeatedly putting hands into the mouth, are also noted. Girls with Rett syndrome are prone to gastrointestinal disorders and up to 80% have seizures. They typically have no verbal skills, and about 50% of females are not ambulatory. Scoliosis and growth failure are very common and can be problematic. Kim was in and out of hospitals most of her childhood.  At the age of 15 Kim nearly lost her life to pneumonia. Kim could have easily been institutionalized, but from that time on, and for the past 23 years, Mom and Dad have cared for her at home, tending to her every need.

Mom and Dad have always viewed Kim’s handicap as having been chosen by God to receive a special blessing.

They understand the extraordinary purpose for being blessed with Kim. They know exactly what He meant when asked by His disciples about whose sin caused a man's blindness, Jesus told his disciples that the blind mans condition was for God's glory (see John 9). Kim’s handicap is for God’s glory.

Kim has touched so many lives that Mom and Dad have lost count. She has softened hardened hearts, caused smiles where there were frowns, and brought joy to those who have been joyless. The loving tenderness that my sisters use when helping Mom and Dad care for Kim inspires me. Personally I have been most humbled when Kim, having faced and endured excruciating physical pain from her handicap, literally puts her four big tough football playing brothers to shame. In our family the answer to the question “Who is the toughest Traeger?”… is an easy one….”It’s Kim”.

Kim has become the cornerstone of our family.  The unconditional love that Mom and Dad render to Kim sets the standard for how we siblings love our own children. Mom and Dad’s 8 other children, 37 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren have become the beneficiaries of this shining example of unconditional love. Sacrifice has taken on a new meaning for us. As parents we all know that we will have to sacrifice some things for our kids. Financial sacrifices, sacrifices of our time, sacrificing the ability to sleep late on Saturday mornings! But what about the fact that one special child (like Kim) can literally take over our entire life? Our entire emotional well-being? All of our time and all of our future plans?

Would you be willing to sacrifice your entire life for a child?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Injured Runner Crawls to Finish to Honor Coach

This speaks so much to the love athletes have in their hearts for GOOD coaches - coaches who are demanding yet positive at the same time.


Injured High School Track Star Crawls to Finish Line for Team, Coach
Holland Reynolds, 16, Melted Hearts By Finishing Race on Hands and Knees


The race was supposed to have been a moment of glory for the top runner at a northern California high school and her teammates.

But instead of crossing the finish line in a flash at the head of the pack -- a finish that would have all but guaranteed the team another state championship -- 16-year-old junior Holland Reynoldscollapsed just feet from that line and stunned onlookers by stubbornly crawling to the end, despite being in obvious pain.

The video of her excruciating finish has gone viral, propelling Reynolds' status to something of a high school hero -- she finished the race fast enough to still secure the state championship for her team, and honoring the team's coach who is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

"I just kept on telling myself, 'I need to finish and I need to cross the line,'" Reynolds said. "I don't remember falling, but then I remember crawling across the line."

Reynolds, one of University High School's best runners since she was a freshman, said that she felt good going into the 3.1- mile race, held last weekend.

"By the 2 1/2 mile mark I really didn't feel as great as I should have," she said. "My leg started to feel really, really heavy. I was going to try and get right up behind the girl in first place, but I felt like I couldn't run fast anymore."

Video of the race shows Reynolds slowing to a stop, then staggering for a bit before collapsing into the grass on the side of the track.

A race official, immediately at her side, advised her that if she wanted to finish the race -- the finish line just mere feet in front of her -- she could crawl enough to get one foot over the line. But if she received assistance, she'd be disqualified and the points would not count toward her team's total.

Reynolds kept crawling. As soon as her foot went over the finish line she was scooped up and loaded into an ambulance. Though blood tests are still out, Reynolds said she was diagnosed with dehydration and light hypothermia after running in the cold, damp weather.

Coach Jim Tracy, who used to be an athlete himself before the degenerative disease robbed him of the ability to run, said he knew something was wrong when the first few runners crossed the finish line without Reynolds. He looked further back and saw her staggering.

"I called out to her. I said, 'Holland are you all right?'' Tracy said. "She just kept going -- staggering and staggering."

The crowd, which had been roaring with cheers, he said, fell quiet.

Reynolds said that as the pain grew worse, she had a feeling that she was still running, even though the video showed she had clearly slowed to an unsteady walk.

"I remember just looking up and seeing Jim," she said.

And when she fell, "I thought, well it's over for her," Tracy said.

But he watched her keep going and said he was in a "complete state of shock" as she crawled across the finish line.

Her team and coach gathered around as she lay in the ambulance, as emergency workers rushed to calm her breathing and hook her up to IV fluids.

Stunned, Tracy checked his numbers -- the times of all the runners he had logged during that day's meet-- and realized they had come out ahead.

"We won," he said. "And it was a great feeling."

Tracy said that despite his illness, his track team has rallied around not only him, but his unwavering goal -- "We must go for the win."

And with the season over, both are looking forward to next year.

Reynolds said she hopes to help her team earn one more championship in her senior year, and then go on to run in college.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Prayers and 300 Sextillion

Prayers are answered. I spoke with Tom yesterday afternoon and he said that he made the call to cancel the divorce. He then sent some flowers to his wife with a note, "I made the call. I want to fight for you." He did not know how she would react ... but then when he got home he finds out the below ...

Thank you for all of your prayers. Many of you sent emails of encouragement. I forwarded those on to him and he said, "those strengthened me and helped embolden me to make that call." 

Please send a thank you to all of the coaches for their prayers. My wife said she did email me to make the call but I never received the prayers did work. My wife is very stressed and unsure, so we have a long road ahead of us, but we took the biggest step. I am now and have been getting to practice what I've always preached about being unselfish. God has also been testing my unconditional love I claimed to have for my wife. I will emerge a better man. I pray we emerge a stronger husband and wife. I will keep you posted.
God bless you,


By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer 

WASHINGTON – The universe may glitter with far more stars than even Carl Sagan imagined when he rhapsodized about billions upon billions. A new study suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion of them, or three times as many as scientists previously calculated. 

That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros. Or 3 trillion times 100 billion.
"It's fun because it gets you thinking about these large numbers," Conroy said. Conroy looked up how many cells are in the average human body — 50 trillion or so — and multiplied that by the 6 billion people on Earth. And he came up with about 300 sextillion.

So the number of stars in the universe "is equal to all the cells in the humans on Earth” a kind of funny coincidence," Conroy said.



Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pray to Stop a Divorce

There is a coach who is in urgent need of prayers TODAY. At 2 PM if his wife does not make a phone call their divorce will be finalized. Please offer up a prayer and/or sacrifice for Coach Tom and his wife today. 

I believe in miracles.

God bless, Lou

I continue to pray asking for God's intervention. Thank you for all of your prayers. I couldn't have gotten this strong without them.
Lou, my best to you,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Drew Brees: Sportsman of the Year

Sports Illustrated named Drew Brees Sportsman of the Year. 

It is encouraging to see Pro athletes like Drew using the platform God gave them to help others.

God bless, Lou

By Tim Layden, Sports Illustrated

For not only leading the New Orleans Saints to the first Super Bowl title in the franchise's history, but also for helping lead the city of New Orleans' rebirth after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, quarterback Drew Brees is the recipient of Sports Illustrated's 57th Sportsman of the Year award. Brees will be honored at a ceremony Tuesday evening in New York City.

The SI award comes as Brees and the Saints have won four consecutive games and, with an 8-3 record, moved solidly into playoff contention in defense of the championship they won a year ago in Miami. Brees, 31, was the MVP of that Super Bowl game, but he wins SI's highest honor for much more than just his ability to play football.

Nearly five years ago, in the early spring of 2006, Brees was a broken player. After surgery to repair a catastrophic shoulder injury, the Saints were the only team that offered to make him their starting quarterback. Meanwhile, New Orleans was a desperate city, trying to find traction after one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. Brees would later say his landing in New Orleans was much more than just an athlete's change of venue. "It was a calling,'' he said. "We were brought here for a reason.''

Brees and his wife, Brittany, showed love for New Orleans when the city felt abandoned by so many others. Not only did Brees help the Saints make the playoffs in his first year in the city and begin the four-year climb to last year's title, but he also threw himself into helping the city recover, and its people to feel like they were not alone. "He symbolizes the people of New Orleans in many, many ways,'' says NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. "Drew believes in that community. He believes in doing what's right. He's one of the most genuine people I've ever met.''

Upon settling in a home in Uptown New Orleans, Drew and Brittany Brees established The Brees Dream Foundation, with the goal of "Advancing research in the fight against cancer and providing care, education and opportunities for children in need.'' In the ensuing years, Brees's foundation has helped raise more than $6 million, primarily in and around New Orleans, but also in San Diego (where Brees began his career and played five seasons with the Chargers) and West Layfayette, Ind. (where Brees played college football at Purdue, and met his wife in 1999).

The steady revival of New Orleans owes to the efforts of many civic leaders, but none are more visible than the quarterback of the city's beloved Saints, so long lovable losers, but now on top of the football world. "You could see it in Drew from the beginning,'' says Billy Miller, who joined the team with Brees in 2006 and played four seasons. "He had this attitude that just said: `If I lead, people will follow.'''

Most poignant of all, Brees has dug deep roots in a city that opened its arms when he was wounded. He and Brittany have two sons: Baylen, who will turn two in January; and Bowen, born Oct. 19. Two weeks ago Brees held Bowen in his arms and said, "Life is a miracle.''
And some would say the same for what has happened since Brees arrived in New Orleans.