“YOU BETTER RUN FASTER THAN SMALL-TOWN GOSSIP”

by Steve Clem on April 29, 2009

There are few people who come into your life that truly leave an imprint that lasts beyond their time. Let me tell you about one of them for me.

Walt Fiegel was unparalleled. This man simply commanded your respect the minute you met him, but he reciprocated that respect with a respect for you. It didn’t matter if you were his starting quarterback, his student manager, or someone he just passed in the hallways at my alma mater, Sioux City East High School.

Walt was one of a kind, and he taught me, and literally thousands of others, some very valuable lessons in life.

“Don’t forget where you came from.”

I did do this, for a long time, unfortunately, but in the end this life lesson came back to me. When I left my hometown of Sioux City, I had no intentions of ever looking back or reconnecting with people from there. I was George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I was going to leave that crummy town and do bigger things. But then I realized that so much of who I am as a person was shaped by that place. Those people. And now I won’t cut that reconnected bond.

“Go home and tell your mother that you love her.”

Every football practice in high school ended with this one. It was key to Walt, and it was a great lesson to learn. Our mothers, perhaps like nobody else, have a connection and bond to us that is unbeatable. That bond deserves our respect. It deserves our honest and truthful words. And it is a simple thing to do. Which is why it is so fitting that the annual fundraiser to remember Walt is always held on Mother’s Day weekend.

“Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

This one speaks to me more than anything else. I’ve had my hard times in life, as we all do, but over the last year, I’ve felt more negative scenarios than ever in life. And every time I’m about to give up and say “why me?” or “are you kidding me?” I can reflect back on the days of being at best a mediocre football player on Walt’s team, and realize that this was what it was all about. He taught every one of us to go out into the world, and when adversity hits, to not give in. Don’t give up. Keep fighting. Find a way to smile every day. Find a way to look at the positives. Don’t succumb to the enemy. For this, I owe Walt more than any other of his lessons.

If you would like to honor this incredible man, it is quite easy. On Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, the Walt Fiegel Foundation will be holding an auction/dinner and a golf tournament. Pay your respects to this incredible man by either attending one or both of these events, or by sending a donation to the foundation, which is dedicated to providing scholarships to local athletes who embody what Walt stood for.

While I myself will likely not be able to make it to the events this year, I plan to send a donation so that his spirit can continue on and others in Sioux City will realize how blessed we were to have someone like Walt to touch our lives. Visit http://www.waltfiegel.com/ for more information.

And remember, if nothing else, that tough times don’t last, to hug your mother, and don’t you ever forget where you came from. Thanks Coach, and may you have a smile on your face as you watch all of your former players and students live out your life’s lessons.

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Steve Clem originally published this piece on the blog A Prisoner in the Tundra.

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