The need for tough love

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When I was 19 years old, I was arrested for possession and consumption of alcohol by a minor, and the judge threw the book at me. It’s not something that I’m necessarily proud of, but it certainly was a game changer.
Speaking of games, is there a better game on earth than football? One of my favorite players to ever play the game of football is Chris Carter. I have so much respect for him as a man. I didn’t always care for him. At one time, he was one of my most despised players in the league. I really didn’t have a reason to have such disdain for a man I never met other than the fact that he played for Ohio State University.
He had off the field issues dating back to his college days in Columbus, where he remains one of the most prolific players in the Buckeyes’ storied history. He secretly signed with an agent before his senior year. Upon the discovery of the contract, he was ruled ineligible for his senior campaign.
Carter was subsequently drafted in the fourth round of the supplemental draft by the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League. His rookie season, in which he saw limited playing time, was followed by two solid seasons. His star was on the rise when he was abruptly cut by Coach Buddy Ryan. No explanation was given to the media.
Carter later admitted that Ryan released him because of alcohol and drug abuse, including large amounts of ecstasy, cocaine, and marijuana. Most players would resent his coach for such an act, but Chris Carter did not. In fact, he credits his former coach with helping him turn his life around as a result.
The rest is history. The Minnesota Vikings claimed the troubled wide receiver off waivers, and he became an eight-time pro-bowler. Many players, experts, and fans alike agree that he has the greatest hands in the history of the game, and those hands took him all the way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
He’s also a man of God. Chris is an ordained minister.
When I was younger, I held a grudge against the judge who handed down my sentence. I, along with three of my friends, had to perform eight days of community service, which took place on Saturday and Sunday for four weekends. The orange jump suits were attractive. Additionally, there was a $100 fine, a $100 10-hour school, three years of probation, and $44 in court costs. I always chalked the stiff punishment up from not coming from an affluent family. Whether that’s true or not is beside the point.
While my pals were out drinking the very next night and telling war stories from our encounter, I did not have a sip of alcohol for months. Finally, after four months, I had a couple of drinks at a trailer park on the outskirts of town. Later in the night, a fight broke out and bad things happened. Although I was not a part of that fight, I saw the writing on the wall and knew I needed to make a change.
As I was driving to Kroger the next day, I made an inadvertent turn into the armed services recruiting station, and much like Chris Carter’s career after being picked up by Minnesota, the rest is history. Joining the United States Army is the best decision I ever made.  I’m pretty sure Jesus took the wheel that day.
I had a show this past weekend at Saugahatchee Country Club and the judge who handed down my sentence was in the crowd. It was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to address him since the fall of 1991. Some people might hold a grudge but not me—not for someone who impacted my life in such a significant manner. In front of well over a hundred people, I simply thanked him for holding me accountable. I learned my lesson. If not for him, who knows where I’d be. The system worked.
Life is filled with adversity, but most of the time we face it for a reason. How we deal with such adversity defines our legacy. Much like Chris Carter, I want to be a hall of famer.
Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.

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