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I’ve become a master of the “almost.”

Everyone knows life comes with plenty of disappointments; it’s absolutely cliché, but it really stings when you come so close to something only to be told “you’re not the guy.”

And for that to happen so many times to one person – it’s a miracle my self-esteem is still in tact!

I grew up in a Christian home. Some would use the terms “ultra conservative” and “sheltered” when I describe my life growing up.

I don’t completely disagree, but I know that the decisions my parents made in how to raise us (my older brother, younger sister and me) were decisions that shaped me into the man I am today.

As a matter of fact, I have a game I play with other people my age who tell me they were raised in Christian homes, or say they were sheltered as kids. The game, which I play in my head, is called “How Sheltered Were You?” I use this game to gauge – you guessed it – how sheltered a person was growing up (Yeah, the name says it all). I don’t always win said game, but I’m always in the running.

I was homeschooled. From Kindergarten throughout my high school career, I was a student at Williams Academy. Mom was the Dean of Students and the professor, Dad was the Principal and disciplinarian. I was the top in my class, and I can guarantee that your graduating class was not smaller than mine – one. The first time I attended a public school was junior college.

I was in church every time the doors opened. Sunday school class, check; Sunday morning service, check; Sunday evening service, check; Wednesday night service, check; any special service that may take place some time during the week, check; revival services, check.

In fact, at one point I literally lived in my church.

When my family moved from Ft. Walton beach, Fla., to Gulfport, Miss., in 1992, one of the first things we looked for was a church home. We found that in Northwood Christian Center. And when we were to move off base from Keesler AFB in Biloxi, my parents had not yet found the house we would spend our lives in. So the pastor of Northwood graciously opened the church doors to us and allowed us to live there for two months (my memory is a little foggy here – I was only 7, but I think it was a two month stay) in the upstairs of the church building.

Okay, so I was homeschooled and lived in church … that’s enough to win the game, right?

Anyway, all that to get to this point – every morning my mother would wake us up and we would grumble and climb out of bed and eat breakfast. Then we would do something that you may find uber-conservative, but I think is extraordinary. We met in the den before starting school for the day and we talked as a family, read the Bible together, and prayed.

My mom made a list (she made lists for everything – typical mom) of prayer requests and people to lift up to God, and also gave my brother, my sister and me something specific to daily pray over the family.

My specific prayer to pray over the family was for a “spirit of excellence.”

Every morning, during our time of devotion, I would ask God to give us, and in particularly me, a true spirit of excellence. That was my prayer nearly every day for years. And I’ll be darned if God didn’t answer that prayer.

I have never been one to brag, and I’m not trying to make this a bragging moment, but seemingly everything I put my hands to, I excel. I have an uncanny ability to see something and be able to do it well. Writing, sports, drums, singing, acting – I’m a jack of a trades.

In my senior year of high school, we found a small private school – Christian Collegiate Academy – that allowed homeschoolers to play on their teams. I played basketball, baseball and soccer that year. I was MVP of the basketball team, Defensive MVP of the baseball team and batted over .500, and was named first team All-Conference on the soccer squad. When superlatives came out for the school, the administration made the students re-vote for Most Athletic, because the students originally named me most athletic at the school, but I didn’t attend CCA.

After high school, I went on to college, and I wanted to play football. I grew up playing community sports and, of course, excelled. So I got somewhat of a try out at Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C.

The coach times my 40-yard dash time and watched me attempt to bench press 185 pounds.

I wasn’t ready.

My 40 time was, like 4.8 – which is a terrible time for someone who claims to be fast. I could only bench the 185 three times – again, terrible. I was too slow and weak to play with MGCCC (though, to be fair to myself, I didn’t have a clue about proper technique of running the 40, so that time didn’t accurately show my real speed).

I got asked to be a team manager. It came with a scholarship, so I said yes. I had access to the team facilities, coaches and food.

But I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to play, and I knew I was good enough. I started working out. Joined a speed and weight training facility and gained 20 lbs of muscle in a summer.

I came back the next year and tried out for the team, and I showed marked improvement. I was benching 225 up to 10 times. My 40 time was down to 4.5 seconds. And the cornerbacks coach took a notice of my hands while I was a manager – he noticed I caught everything thrown at me. He told me to try out for cornerback.

So as a sophomore, I made the team. But because I didn’t play football in high school, the head coach had no confidence in me. Physically, I was better than many of the defensive backs on the team. Mentally, I was green, but learning more about the position every day. But I didn’t have real game time experience.

I was red-shirted.

After so much work getting to that point, I was told I wasn’t good enough to play that year. But I knew I was! I performed better, in practice, than several of the athletes that made the team – but they made the team because they had played the previous year. I learned it was not only about the talent level – because if it were, I would have been on that team and would have made my way to being a starter by season’s end.

Instead I was sat down. The defensive back coach later told me that the last spot on the team came down to two players – me and another guy. They chose the other guy.

That was my first real taste of rejection.

Since then, I’ve come thisclose to doing something big multiple times, just to be told I wasn’t the guy.

I went to an open casting call for the television show Big Brother and got called back. I made it as a semi-finalist to be on the show. But wasn’t good enough to make it all the way onto the show. Almost.

I got a golden ticket at American Idol this past season. I was good enough to get through preliminary first rounds, but just missed the cut to make it to the tv round of judging – what the world sees as the first round. Almost.

There have been a lot of almosts in my life – and yes, it’s extremely frustrating to be told you’re not good enough, especially when you know that you are – but I’ve found that dwelling on my almosts has gotten me nowhere.

When I dwell on the things I almost was able to do, or the things that were taken away from me, or the times I was made to feel like I wasn’t good enough, I fall into a funk. A depression. A rut. And it happens.

I can’t help but to think back about what could have been if I were just a little better and if I worked just a little harder to achieve a goal.

But you know what?

Those “almost” moments have made me who I am, just as much as my sheltered childhood has.

Excellence is in my veins and I’ve decided that instead of looking at the past and my “almost” moments, I will choose to move forward and pray that one day soon I will be on the other side of that almost – the side where I’m told they almost went with another person, but I’m the guy.

I won’t dwell on the past any longer or wonder what life could be like if I had done more. From now on, I will just do more. I will work harder than the next guy, I will make it hard for anyone to tell me I almost made it.

But it will inevitably happen – and when it does, I will simply get up, wipe the dust off, and keep moving forward.

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