Many know Michael Oher from his football career – he now plays offensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers – and from the Oscar-winning film, The Blind Side. At 6’ 4” and 315 pounds, he’s hard to miss.
For Oher, it all started at Ole Miss – The University of Mississippi – and its legendary NCAA Division I football program.
When Richie Contartesi walked on to the practice field at Ole Miss, he was 5’7” and tipped the scales at 155 pounds. By an awesome twist of fate, he was given one chance – and one chance only – to prove himself.
In classic “feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway” fashion, Contartesi made the team and became an Ole Miss Rebel – eventually garnering a full SEC scholarship to the University of Mississippi.
In the ensuing years, Contartesi became an in-demand public speaker, with a focus on kicking off and closing conferences. He is also the bestselling author of In Spite of the Odds: A True Inspirational Journey from Walk-on to Full Scholarship at Ole Miss.
Reader Pat Canuso had this to say about the book in an Amazon review:
“Reading In Spite of the Odds was like watching the movie Rudy, but with a machine gun.”
Youth motivational speaker and Amazon bestselling author Jeff Yalden hosted Contartesi in the third episode of his BOOM Podcast.
“Richie and I have a relationship that goes back a couple of years now, and I knew from the beginning that he was going to do some epically awesome stuff,” Yalden said, adding that he helped Contartesi get into the speaking market and mentored him from the very beginning.
Contartesi grew up in Palm Beach, Fl., where there was a lot of competition for Division 1 and Division II scholarships. And he was already at a perceived disadvantage because of his size. But he said he was lucky enough to attend a new high school in his sophomore year.
“There was not as much competition, [and that] gave me the opportunity to touch the field as a sophomore. I got to learn a lot early on,” Contartesi said.
By the time he was a junior, he said he could play because he knew what was expected – and he was able to outsmart some of what he called the talent just from experience.
But he hit a major snag in his senior year. A broken ankle sidelined him, and the colleges that were looking at him about potential scholarships fell by the wayside.
Contartesi shared his story on the BOOM Podcast – how he had a chance to play at Jacksonville University, a non-scholarship school – but redshirted his first year. The next year didn’t go well either, after a change in coaching staff.
“He took a look at my size without really getting a chance to see me play, and basically just cut me from the team,” he said.
He had a decision to make: Hang up his cleats and quit, or continue to follow his dream of playing Division I football.
He resolved to keep going, putting together a spreadsheet of 119 Division I schools, including phone numbers and the names of the head coaches. Contartesi picked up the phone and started dialing. Most conversations didn’t last more than 30 seconds, especially when he got to the height and weight question. But he kept grinding.
A silver lining appeared when he found out that a man by the name of Kyle Strongin was interning with the Ole Miss football program. Strongin, who eventually became director of football operations at the University of Mississippi, went on to work for the San Francisco 49ers and is now coordinator of football operations with the University of Tennessee.
Contartesi said he built a relationship with Strongin when he was 12 years old, and Strongin also coached Contartesi’s football team in high school.
“He saw my character, leadership and playing style. Because of the relationship I built with him, I called him and said, ‘Hey man – can I play football at Ole Miss and can you help me get in?’”
Strongin told him that if there was one person that he would help get in, it would be Contartesi. This was three weeks before school started and way past the admissions deadline.
“He was able to get me in academically, and was going to give me one shot – one try,” he said.
In this episode of The BOOM Podcast, Yalden and Contartesi talk about the importance of overcoming fear and self-doubt, while holding fast to perseverance – pursuing an important goal with bulldog tenacity.
Contartesi mentioned studies that show only three percent of Americans write down their goals, and uncovered an interesting correlation.
“When I was playing [youth] football, my coach said to me that only three percent of high school football players play Division I football,” he said. “When I was studying about goals and the fact that only three percent write them down – the same three percent get whatever they want in life. They live a lifestyle by design, and do what they want to do every single day.”
“I wasn’t the given size. I wasn’t the most talented. I wasn’t the fastest, but I pushed myself into the top three percent by always putting myself in the position to be successful – by getting there early and leaving late – working with coaches, being in the film room every day – being in the weight room as much as I could, and doing everything I could that was humanly possible every day. It wasn’t given to me, because I didn’t have all of those other gifts.”
In this episode of The BOOM podcast, you will discover Contartesi’s empowering views on healthy competition and how to find the fire within yourself, and more.
Yalden and Contartesi work together in the youth speaking market and speak often on leadership, character and resilience, but they have a great relationship and help each other out – the exact opposite of cutthroat tactics and self-preservation. For them, it’s all about service.
“Healthy competition is when you are secure with who you are – and you want to see other people grow and succeed as well. I think that’s awesome,” Yalden said.
Contartesi’s daily routine involves affirmations, personal development study and a few minutes of meditation and regular workouts. He utilizes a vision board and a goals spreadsheet, taking the main specific goals and writing them down on a Post-It note every day.
He also uses a task management app called Todoist.
Yalden mentioned that Contartesi’s routine was like a customized version of the principles laid out in Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning.
Contartesi is currently implementing the principles laid out in the Dale Carnegie classic, How to Win Friends & Influence People.
Both Yalden and Contartesi are huge proponents of self-discipline, and Contartesi laid out his three-point plan to bring the BOOM and make a huge impact in a person’s life.
- Build Relationships/Find a Mentor
- Overcome Fear
- Be Persistent
Yalden closed this episode with an admonition for folks to put down the cell phone and make that face-to-face interaction.
“Come out of your shell,” he said. “Recognize fear. Overcome it. Feel it. Crush it and go through it. We all experience fear, but you have to learn to overcome it,” he said.
And never forget the value of persistence.
“Richie talks about the football analogy of giving it everything you have,” he said, adding a shout out to entrepreneurs: “Wake up and give it everything you have – every single day.”
For more about Richie Contartesi, go HERE.
Learn all about Jeff Yalden HERE.
To listen to this episode of The BOOM Podcast, click HERE.
For more of The BOOM Podcast, point and click HERE.
Grab your copy of BOOM! One Word to Instantly Inspire Action, Deliver Rewards, and Positively Affect Your Life Every day, click HERE.
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