Tony DeMeo

A Champion’s DNA

A player can be a great player but not a champion. How can that be? How can someone be a great player but not a champion? How can a player have record breaking statistics and yet not be a champion? What is that magic ingredient or special trait that allows a player to wear that champion’s crown?

Derek Jeter recently got his number 2 retired at Yankee Stadium. This puts Jeter in very select company. Love them or hate them The New York Yankees are the most successful professional franchise on the planet so to have your jersey retired by The Yankees is very special indeed. But what did Jeter do to earn this honor? His stats were good but there were others who had better. But Jeter brought a champion’s DNA to the dance. Derek Jeter was at his best when only his best would do. Derek Jeter was integral part of 5 World Series Championship teams and did what had to be done to win. Here are some of Derek’s traits that made him a champion:

1. He always gave all he had all the time. He set an example of championship play whether by running out an infield grounder or diving into the stands for a pop foul.
2. Derek showed class both on and off the field. He carried himself like a champion at all times.
3. Jeter sacrificed his individual stats for the good of the team. He could have tried to hit more homers but hitting the ball to right field was what worked for the Yanks
4. Derek played big in big games. The bigger the game, the bigger he played
5. Jeter led by his actions. He played the way he wanted his teammates to play. He added value to the NY Yankees

How does Derek’s traits compare to other great champions?

Bill Russell was the heart & soul of Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics that dominated the NBA from the mid -1950s to the mid-1960s. How dominant? Russell’s teams won 11 championships in 13 years! You can’t be much more dominant than that. Add to the fact that playing against Russell during that time was the reigning Goliath of the NBA Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt was scoring and rebounding at record paces but not against Russell. Only Bill Russell could contain the mighty Chamberlain even though Wilt was bigger, stronger, faster and younger than Russell. What was Big Russ’ secret? What did he have that made Chamberlain wilt? Here is some of Russell’s Championship DNA:

1. He believed in team and always put winning ahead of his own personal stats. Though Bill was a great scorer in college, with the Celtics he focused on defense and rebounding.
2. He did what was required to win championships. The Celtics had other guys that could score but only Russell could defense Chamberlain.
3. He went all out all the time and wore his opponents out.
4. Russell was at his best vs the best.

So while Wilt Chamberlain won scoring titles Bill Russell won championships.

Notice the similarities between Derek Jeter and Bill Russell.

Let’s look at another example, the great Tom Brady. Brady won his fifth Super Bowl leading the Patriots’ comeback from a 28-3 halftime deficit to the Atlanta Falcons to win the Super Bowl in overtime 34-28. For Brady to engineer a comeback like that he had to have the entire team believe in him. How did he garner that belief?

Brady came to the Pats as a 6th round draft pick without an overly impressive college resume’. He was a backup to the highly touted Drew Bledsoe when his opportunity arose. Though not a starting, Brady worked out relentlessly to transform his body and studied video relentlessly to transform his mind. So when the opportunity came Brady was ready. He knew Belichick’s system and played within it. A player gains his teammates respect by having a great work ethic. Brady gained their respect and led them to a Super Bowl Championship in his first year as a starting QB. His unselfish style of play and his manor of giving credit to his teammates made him their leader. The result was 4 additional Super Bowl Championships. There have been many great NFL QBs but only one won 5 Super Bowls. So let’s peek at Tom Brady’s DNA:

1. He is a team first guy – he puts his team’s success above his own. He could throw the ball deep more and have more touchdown passes but Brady controls the clock using short high percentage passes that keeps the Patriots Defense off the field and the ball away from opposing offenses.
2. Tom has a tremendous work ethic that sets the example for the entire squad.
3. Brady is unflappable, he never gets rattled. As a result his team doesn’t get rattled. Brady exudes poise even when trailing 28-3.
4. A leader give his followers hope, Brady gives the Patriots hope that if they can just hang in there Tom will come through.
5. Tom Brady played big on the biggest stage and set a Super Bowl passing record while leading the historic comeback vs The Falcons

Do you notice the common threads of these three great champions? There many other great examples I could use of people with a champion’s DNA, and in the future I’ll add to the group. But if you have a suggestion please feel free to email me.