I have always been competitive in nature, playing three sports throughout high school—football, baseball, and wrestling. I had to prove to my coaches that I made up for my lack of size with raw determination and hard work. I didn’t break 100 lbs. until my freshman year in high school, but I’ve excelled on every team I’ve been a part of, playing every down, catching every ground ball, and wrestling every match like it was the last time I would ever step onto a football field, baseball field, or wrestling mat.
I use the same adage in my MMA training. I also use my short comings in high school and college wrestling as motivation to never be satisfied until I get the lightweight title and defend it with everything I’ve got.
I get my tireless work effort from my Mom and Dad. They have always instilled in me that hard work will pay off in the long run. I truly believe this, as I have seen the fruits of my labor when my hand is raised after a hard fought battle. I also try to instill this in my teammates, fans, and future MMA fighters when they ask me where I get my cardio, or how do I fight so hard, for so long. I tell them hard work will take you very far in your everyday life, not just sports.
My parents made it possible for my brother Jason, sister Kerm,and myself to compete in sports all our lives. We come from a very middle-class income family, and that drives me even more to be successful, so that one day I can afford to put my parents in their dream house, move them to their dream location, or take them on their dream vacation. Each victory gets my parents one day closer to walking away from their jobs. That is my ultimate motivation, ensuring the people closest to me are taken care of and set to where they can focus on what matters most—family. I figured this out through years of experience, and having family, friends, and team support. I strongly believe that determination and perseverance is the road to happiness.
I also had three amazing football coaches in high school, who pushed and motivated me each day on and off the field. Head Coach Bob Bradshaw was the all-time winningest high school football coach in Illinois history. He coached a few state champion teams before he came to my very small Johnsburg High School. We had around 700 students in the entire school, but we played with such intensity because of him and assistant coaches Kevin Shelton and Chad Hetlet. I have never seen such passion for a team or sport by three men. You would think they were coaching a top-notch college or NFL program. Bob Bradshaw was so intense that during pep rallies, when he didn’t think the school was loud enough, he would actually call them out on it: “You cheerleaders are flat, and you students look like zombies in the stands. We can’t hear you!” It was hilarious, and that lit a fire under the students and faculty in a positive way that motivated our team. You could feel a buzz throughout the school all week long.
I still stay in contact with these men today,as they have moved on to become principals and coach other successful teams throughout Illinois. These men continue to spread a positive outlook to hundreds of young athletes. Never underestimate the motivational power of a great coach.