Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin’s 2008 commencement speech at Saint Vincent College was named by National Public Radio (NPR) as one of the “The Best 300 Commencement Speeches, Ever.”
And when they say ever, they mean ever. They named speeches dating back to 1774, which included the likes of Mother Teresa, John F. Kennedy and the Dalai Lama.
Tomlin’s speech at the home of Steelers training camp had the same enthusiasm that he carries with him on game day, comparing it to a pregame speech to the players.
He encouraged the graduates to dream big, trust their preparation and encouraged them to “play to win.”
The following are snippets from the speech.
-- “I would like to encourage you to trust your preparation. You see, sometimes you burst out of those locker room doors, and as soon as we kick the ball of life off, you get hit extremely hard and you temporarily forget some of the lessons you’ve learned, and you search for answers that are not right in front of you. I encourage you today as you face the trials that may lie on the outside of that locker room door for you that you trust what it is you’ve learned here; to trust the lessons that you have learned here, both formally and informally. I tell you, you are prepared to play the game of life. I reassure you, like I reassure my football team of this fact. It happens in the game of football, it happens in the game of life.”
-- “I’d like to reassure this group that as you move forward, in the short term, you may have great success. You may have what you perceive to be failure. Press on with the same spirit and determination that has allowed you to assemble here today. Because, like in football, those initial moments will not decide the outcome.”
-- “I’d like to challenge this group like I challenge our team. I’d like to challenge this group to attack. I’d like to challenge this group to play to win. And there are many ways that winning is measured. There is always the ever-looming scoreboard, that’s easy, but it’s also how you play the game. It’s the same in the game of life. You will be measured in many ways, your level of success – fame, fortune, what have you. You will quickly find that true success is measured in how you play the game of life – that you honor those who have come before you by playing the game with great integrity, honor and class.”
-- “I mandate this. I mandate it. That you continue to dream the wild dreams that you dreamed when you were young. When you walk out of those doors today, the reality of adulthood, work places, and work forces await you. If nothing else, it inhibits your ability to dream…You make the dreams a reality regardless of the realities that await.”
-- “Dream and dream big. Don’t listen to the naysayers, because they’ll outnumber support 100 to 1. It’s elevator music. Like I tell my football team, you hear it but you don’t. Hold on to your dreams. Make the daily commitment to make those dreams reality. Play the game to win. Play the game the way it’s supposed to be played and you’ll live successful, happy lives, lives that honor those who supported you.”