A couple weeks ago, I was weathering the “hurricane” (pun intended) by watching the 30 for 30 documentary series on the University of Miami Hurricanes Football “The U” – a story on the ups and downs of the famed program. Halfway through the documentary, I started thinking to myself – “Roanoke needs to be more like ‘The U’”. Granted, there are some dark times associated with Miami football, but one thing stood out that I hope Roanoke can embrace.
The documentary highlights the period between the end of Coach Jimmy Johnson’s successful tenure and the new coach Dennis Erickson’s under-performing first year. During that period, former players such as NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin were quick to criticize and cast doom and gloom over the new team and the Hurricane’s new leader. These former players felt they handed over the keys to the Ferrari to a new team that couldn’t get the car into first gear. The perception was that the young guys were letting down the family and letting down the tradition.
Ultimately, as the documentary highlighted, the problem wasn’t that the new players didn’t know how to get the Ferrari into first gear. Rather, they were just going in a different direction. Upon recognizing this new direction, Irvin and other former players also recognized the responsibility they had to impart their wisdom on the young guys. The moral of the Hurricane’s story is that the mentoring worked and the Hurricanes continued to succeed even if it was just in a different direction.
After the documentary concluded, I could not help but find myself comparing this early success and transition of the Hurricanes to what I believe are the crossroads currently being experienced by Roanoke.
The bygone era of Roanoke’s prominent railroad days is the crossroads that I am referring to. Indeed, while your senior leaders had a great run in this city during our prominent railroad days, those days are now in the rear-view mirror, but here’s why that’s okay – While the railroad industry may have largely left Roanoke, what remains is Roanoke’s innovative young thinkers, skilled workforce members and talented tradesmen and women.
As much as I like to boast about my ambitious peers, we still need help. We need Roanoke’s old guard - our senior leaders - much like the new players at Miami needed the more senior alumni as mentors.
The impact that our senior leaders’ wisdom and institutional knowledge can have on young professionals in Roanoke is insurmountable. I truly believe that Roanoke’s best days are ahead of us. Roanoke’s rising stars are anxious to take a turn at the wheel, yet we recognize that we need our senior leaders in the passenger seat guiding us in OUR new direction.