Monday, July 20, 2015

Jim Harbaugh, Thom Darden and Fernando Cabada

Many of you might not be familiar with Fernando Cabada age 33. Fernando a Hispanic athlete had a very eventful childhood. His parents were poor, middle school educated Mexican immigrant parents; an absentee incarcerated father; food stamps recipient; lived in public housing in the rougher neighborhoods of Fresno, California.

Graduating from high school, Fernando’s had an eventful and non-typical college career. He initially earned a scholarship at the University of Arkansas, as result of his running ability. He withdrew from that school and then enrolled at Fresno State. And after another dropout, returned briefly to the University of Arkansas, for a brief period, before dropping out again. He then enrolled at Minot State in South Dakota. That didn’t last long as he left there also. Finally, he wound up at Virginia Intermountain College.  Fernando, despite hardships and setbacks eventually completed his mission or goal’s. For instance, Cabada won 7 N. A. I .A.  Titles running for VIC.

Fernando’s work career has also been irregular. Was employed as a sales clerk at Sears; worked 10 hour days with a cleaning crew [Oilfields in North Dakota]; worked as a laborer laying tiles and cleaning hotel rooms. Fernando, despite all the obstacles, was highly motivated to succeed and overcome the difficulties of his past. His motivation about persevering, not giving up fits him well. In fact he employs running as his therapy. This young man would like to become an ego ideal for others and to demonstrate what can be done, accomplished despite poverty, meager resources, and an absentee father. Despite all this, he’s become one of the top distance runners in the United States. He ran a 2:12: 27 marathon-the Fukuoka. He improved and ran a 2: 11: 36 Berlin marathon in 2014. This year, he ran the Boston Marathon in 2:18:25 and finished 16th.

Fernando’s 100 miles, plus or minus per week running regime has been devised by Brad Hudson, a running coach from Boulder, Colorado. Coach Hudson described Fernando like a very tough Mexican boxer. He wears his heart on his sleeve and says what he means. He has passion and with fire. Although 33 years of age, Cabada hopes to make the 2016 Olympic team.

  Reading Fernando’s story in the April 19, 2015 edition of The New York Times, reminded me of Thom Darden. Thom, an only child, was reared in the projects in Sandusky, Ohio, by two hard-working parents. They did not allow him to cut corners with clear-cut boundaries. Thom was fortunate to have an athletic father who modeled and practiced with his talented son. Young Thom was a southpaw baseball pitcher and his father schooled him in the art of throwing the hardball. So a base was established at an early age. His parents made sure that young Thom did not let his studies slip. That paid off as Thom was allowed to participate in the college prep high school academic program. Academics segregated the school population in Sandusky, as nearly all nonwhites were prohibited from that program. Thom was an exception.

In part, a strong academic background benefited this young African-American athlete. On the other hand, he was segregated from his neighborhood brothers. His friends in part, likely envious, got on him and told him he was too short, he was too slow, not big enough, not fast enough- In other words, he was not a good enough athlete in baseball, basketball and football. Thom was also well aware of the segregation within the white school environment. It was okay for him to look, but not touch or become too close to any female. Yes, Thom had two working parents. But, this young man had plenty to prove. His father told him if he wanted to go to college, he had to receive a scholarship. It’s safe to say, that fear of failure was a strong motivating force for this athlete.

Thom learned his trade by competing on the field, and attending, during the off-season, tutoring from his high school coaches about the game of football. While in the pros, he was injured and again was assisted by one of his Cleveland Browns coaches in helping him learn more about the cerebral game within the brutal game of football. This defensive All Pro back, even returned to Ann Arbor to assist, Bo Schembechler and the newly hired defensive position coach Jack Harbaugh at the University of Michigan. Thom installed the Pittsburgh Steelers famous cover two defense for his former coach.

Thom married, has children and as a business entrepreneur still enjoys the challenge of using his skills to better the community. He is well connected to his parents, his church, and his community. He used his fear of failure motivation in his life after football. He knows what it is to overcome hardships and achieve at the highest levels. Hopefully, Fernando Cabada can attain his dreams. His journey is far from over and like Thom employees fear of failure to achieve his goals.

Join Thom, his teammates and Frank images at Sesi Motors on September 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor from 6 to 8 PM. Go Blue!

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