Karl Mecklenburg, former Denver Bronco captain and all-pro, spoke Wednesday in Hoag Hall about life lessons learned while playing in the NFL. His speech was part of Wolfpack night at Colorado State University-Pueblo.
A crowd of about 80 people welcomed Mecklenburg by singing “Happy Birthday” as he walked onto the stage. Mecklenburg celebrated his 48th birthday.
Mecklenburg began his speech with the topic of courage because of the changes taking place at CSU-Pueblo, including the new stadium and football team. Those things couldn’t have been possible, Mecklenburg said, unless someone was decisive and said, “I want to see football at CSU-Pueblo and I am going to do something about it and got it done.”
“That is the courage to try new things even though they might go wrong,” Mecklenburg said.
Mecklenburg encouraged students to have the courage to get involved and try something new. “You have opportunities here at the school to get involved through clubs, faith-based groups, outdoor activities, etc.,” he said. “As this community (and) school grow, you are going to get more opportunities. If you take a leadership role, you can influence the growth.”
You will never find out what you are capable of or what your passions are in life unless you have that courage, he said.
He also talked about changes in his life. When the Broncos asked him to change positions on the team, he said he believed in himself and believed in his coaches and looked at it as an opportunity to improve himself and the team, so he took the challenge and moved from a lineman to a linebacker.
He said he views change as an opportunity with his positive outlook on life amongst other things.
He said he doesn’t mind being viewed as a role model. “A lot of guys resent the fact that they are viewed as role models but to me it is an opportunity.”
During his presentation, Mecklenburg talked about the six keys to success. He said those keys include teamwork, courage, dedication, desire, honesty, forgiveness and goal setting. He said these six keys are interrelated and that you need all six to succeed.
Mecklenburg noted that talent is not one of the six keys, and he said that is not a mistake. He believes God has given each and every one of us more talent than they could possibly use.
“Along with that talent, God has given us free will and that means it is up to us to have the courage to try new things, to go out and find what our skills and talents are and then work hard to develop those skills,” Mecklenburg said.
He stressed that with all six keys, you can accomplish anything no matter what obstacles you encounter.
“I have always loved (football) but wasn’t always very good at it,” Mecklenburg said.
He said he developed late and didn’t make the varsity team and had to play junior varsity football as a junior in high school.
“I wasn’t anybody that anyone expected to be a professional athlete but I always loved playing and worked hard at it,” he said.
When he was 10 years old, he said he knew he wanted play football. When his father asked him what he thought about football, he responded, “Dad, I really love to smash guys.”
Instead of sending him to the psychologist, Mecklenburg said his father encouraged him to play football.
He said he had the dedication and desire to be the best football player and didn’t settle for less. He proved that he never gave up when he was the 310th pick in the 12th round of the 1983 NFL draft. He said he grabbed the opportunity to play for the Broncos and ran with it.
Mecklenburg’s advice to students who aren’t sure of what to do with their lives is don’t limit yourself by not doing well; do the best that you can whatever you are doing; and have the courage to try new things even though they may not go right.
If you stay in your little narrow alley of knowledge, you are not going to have the chance to find out what you are good at.
His book, “Heart of a Student Athlete,” talks about the misconceptions of becoming a professional athlete and reaching goals with passion and mission. It will be on shelves in November.
Mecklenburg graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. Mecklenburg rose from being a college walk-on and a 12th round draft pick to a pro career that included six Pro Bowl and three Super Bowl appearances.
Considered the NFL’s most versatile player, Mecklenburg played all seven defensive front positions. In many games, Mecklenburg played all seven positions in the course of a single game.
Since Mecklenburg’s retirement from pro football in 1995, he divides his time between family, motivational speaking and his ongoing charity involvements.
For more information on Karl Mecklenburg, visit www.karlmecklenburg.com