We’re Getting Ready to Play Notre Dame, But All I’m Thinking about Is You
Tucked away in the extreme northeast corner of the Lone Star state is the sleepy town of Hooks, Texas, population 2,900. Located just outside Texarkana along Interstate 30, Hooks isn’t known for much and certainly doesn’t stand out on the map.
But that wasn’t the case in the fall of 1974. That’s when a star running back at Hooks High School was tearing up the football fields of East Texas. His name was Billy Sims, and he was one of those once-in-a-lifetime athletes. Having rushed for nearly 8,000 yards in his high school career, Sims was coveted by all the big-time college football schools.
Three hundred miles to the northwest, University of Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer had his sights set squarely on Sims, having identified him as the Sooners’ “number one recruiting priority” that year. Switzer was practically obsessed with Sims. Almost every Friday afternoon after practice, Switzer would board a private jet and fly down to Hooks to see Sims play. Then he would quickly return home to coach the Sooners the next day.
Although he doggedly pursued his top prospect, Switzer was still worried. He wanted to do something that would truly impress Billy Sims.
Now, you need to know about a trick college football coaches use when recruiting players. When they’re in their office or hotel room before a game, coaches call their best high school prospects and say something like, “I’m here in South Bend getting ready to play Notre Dame, but all I’m thinking about is you and how much I’d like to have you on our team.” Of course, Switzer made these calls, and in 1974, Billy Sims’ phone number was always on the list.
Coaches hope the phone calls will make recruits feel important, but the young men see right through it. They know coaches are calling a bunch of players.
Switzer got the chance to do something special one Saturday when his Sooners were in Boulder playing the University of Colorado. At halftime, the Sooners were leading the Buffaloes 28-0. Needless to say, Switzer felt pretty good as he entered the locker room at half, so he wasn’t worried about tending to the team. He spied a payphone on the locker room wall, picked up the receiver and called CJ’s Conoco Station in Texas. When the manager answered the phone, Switzer said, “This is Coach. I wanna talk to Billy.”
Sims had been listening to the game on the radio while pumping gas for his job at the service station. He was flabbergasted that Barry Switzer would take the time to call him during halftime. Switzer deliberately kept Sims on the phone for the entire halftime period. Switzer even told Sims the plays Oklahoma would run on Colorado during the second half so Sims could listen for them. The two talked so long, that the referee eventually came over, tapped Switzer on the shoulder and said, “Coach, it’s getting late. You got to get your team back on the field.”
Switzer smiled and said into the phone, “You heard the ref, Billy. I gotta go finish this ass whipping. Wish you were here!”
By the end of the conversation, Sims knew he was special. Switzer had spent the entire halftime with him and no other prospect.
What’s the moral of this story? Make the people in your life – clients, prospects, colleagues – feel special. Make them feel like they’re the only ones who matter to you. Give them your entire focus while you’re with them. Lavishing attention on others will get you more business opportunities and better career options.
It certainly worked for Coach Switzer, because Billy Sims eventually did sign with Oklahoma, where he became a two-time All-American and the 1978 Heisman Trophy winner. His likeness is now immortalized in a bigger-than-life bronze statue which stands proudly on the OU campus.
So, who’s your “Billy Sims” and when are you going to call him?
Jeff Beals is an award-winning author, who helps professionals do more business and have a greater impact on the world through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. As a professional speaker, he delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. You can learn more and follow his “Business Motivation Blog” at www.JeffBeals.com.