I realize I’m probably not alone in saying that were it not for a few select individuals who happened to show up at just the right time in my life things could have turned out very differently for me.
Sure, I’d like to think that most of my good fortune was simply a foregone conclusion, but I know better. Life’s never that predictable. I was always a fairly motivated kid. However, I’m still well aware the line between having a family and career, and quite possibly, just rolling out of bed in my parent’s basement at 10 a.m. to play Call of Duty: Black Ops online against other “late bloomers” might be thinner than I’m comfortable admitting.
One such person took a vested interest in my life as I was about to enter my sophomore year of high school in 1994. That August, I was already contemplating an early retirement from what was a sputtering football career. Even though I had been the starting running back the previous season on my 9th grade football team, we were arguably the worst team ever assembled. Playing running back was not so much an honor as it was an added risk factor for a premature death. Furthermore, as much as I dreamed about seeing my name in the sports section of the local newspaper, I knew the “obituaries” was a more realistic outcome. It was settled, I was hanging up the cleats.
As fate would have it my retirement lasted less than 24 hours. A former All-State linebacker for the Albert Lea Tigers was home that summer and early fall prior to returning to law school in Chicago, and unbeknownst to me, he had signed on to co-coach our sophomore football team. Why? I’ll never know. However, invariably he called me, and that was all it took. Within a matter of days not only was I signed up for the team but so were 57 fellow classmates. The previous year we could barely field a team and now we were running out of jerseys. Why the dramatic shift in numbers? Our new coach believed in us. It’s as simple as that. He fought for us when others laughed and to this day I have never known a greater loyalty or commitment from one individual.
How does the story end? I’m proud to say we went on to accomplish something we had never done before in any season prior. We won one game. Now, I realize some of you were hoping for a better ending, but let’s not get carried away. Vince Lombardi couldn’t have pulled more victories from that squad. However, for those of us who lived it, the turnaround was still nothing short of a miracle.
As for my coach and I, our paths would distinctively cross again three years ago while talking on the phone about something near and dear to my heart, ethanol. In that conversation my coach, Eric Nyquist, NASCAR’s Vice President of Strategic Development, told me NASCAR was looking at implementing a green initiative and said he felt they needed to learn more about ethanol.
Fast forward to the present, it looks like my coach and I will be joining forces again. This team, however, has a slightly deeper roster and considerably more resources. And while wins can never be guaranteed, I can personally vouch for the character of this new, exciting partnership. I like ethanol’s chances.
Marcus Ludtke graduated from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn., in 2001 and started working for POET Risk Management in May of that year. His primary responsibilities include managing POET’s corn position and market research.