Triumphant is one of my favorite words. In no situation is it better than when talking about an against-all-odds story in sports. Appalachian State, unranked, beating No. 5 Michigan at the Big House. Leicester City overcoming 5,000-to-1 odds to win the Premier League in 2015–16. The “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic hockey team beating the Soviet Union in 1980. Me beating my friend, who now plays college basketball, in a one-on-one game when we were 10. These are stories in which one team goes in an underdog of epic proportions and emerges the best way it could: triumphantly.
The NFL draft took place in late April and had many stories of triumph, but two clearly stood out. Former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was made the first overall pick by the Cleveland Browns. It seems unlikely that his would be a triumphant story in the sense of beating the odds. Many No. 1 picks have been surprising selections, but Mayfield almost did not make the league at all. He almost did not make the Oklahoma football team. Before that, he almost did not make his first college team, Texas Tech. Mayfield was a walk-on player who had to prove himself not once, but twice. Now, he will have to prove himself once again.
This was not Michael Jordan being cut from his high school’s varsity basketball team as an average-sized sophomore. This was Mayfield, who was ranked outside of the top 1,000 high school players in the country, becoming the first player taken in the NFL draft. Triumphant.
Another story, full of very different struggles but similarly amazing success, is that of Shaquem Griffin. Griffin is a solid linebacker from the University of Central Florida who won numerous accolades and awards in college. He was taken in the fifth round of the NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks with the 141st overall pick. He succeeded at the NFL scouting combine with a strong 40-yard dash time and great bench press results. Oh, and he has one arm.
Making the NFL is tough. Really tough. Almost impossibly tough. Only .08 percent of high school players do so. That means that for every 10,000 football players in high school, eight make it to the pros. Those are monumental odds. Shaquem Griffin beat those odds without an arm, playing a position that requires dexterity and tackling. Triumphant.
Finals week at Tufts is a stressful time for many. I do not want to hold these success stories over people’s heads, as we cannot all be as triumphant as two of the great David vs. Goliath stories in sports this past year. I would just like to offer inspiration to everyone fighting their own battles out there, no matter how big or small. Just a reminder to all those people that the odds may seem against you, but you can fight and work hard and do your best and often end up coming out from all the struggles as one amazing thing: triumphant.