On Friday, September 26, 2014, I had the honor of being inducted into the Howard University Athletic Hall of Fame. I attended Howard University from the years of 1992 to 1997 in pursuit of my undergraduate degree in engineering and while there on football scholarship, I also was a member of the track team and the wrestling team. During my time there we won 2 conference championships and two National Championships and I had the opportunity to graduate from alma mater as one of the few and rare 3-sport athletes in my school’s history.
The 26th of September was a great way to have my accomplishments celebrated but while there around other inductees, while my accomplishments were certainly something of note, I felt great, yet small. I felt as if there was just so much more that I could do and should do. I was super fortunate that my father, Rufus Ferguson, was able to travel with me to attend the ceremony. It was 21 years ago when my father, the first 1000 yard rusher at the University of Wisconsin, was inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.
So there I was during the evening sitting at the table with my father and the family of 2008 Olympian, Olympic Bronze Medalist and World Champion, David Oliver. A few tables away from my was 2000 Olympian Dr. Ngozi Monu. I sat at the table remembering how much I looked up to Ngozi when she returned from the Olympics in Sydney, Australia and then how David used to look at me as a 2004 Olympian and now how I perceive him as he is now one of the best in the world at his craft.
I sat in that room in Washington, DC – surrounded by NCAA Champions, Super Bowl Champions, World Champions, Olympic Medalists and professional athletes and I was not at the University of Miami, nor Stanford University, nor the University of Texas or THE Ohio State University. I was right in DC at the athletic Hall of Fame induction for Howard University. And I was right where I wanted to be and where I try to position myself all the time… no matter what the cost. And that position and place is – IN THE MIDST OF EXCELLENCE.
A few years back, two men by the names, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, penned a book title, “In Search of Excellence.” That book inspired me when I read it in 2002. Funny that I waited so long to read it, as it was on the bookshelf in my parents’ home for years but I never touched it. However, I used to see the words on the binding on the hard copy on the book shelf, “In Search of Excellence.”
I guess that’s what my life is about and the reason why I coach, teach, write and train. And as I am older now with a wife and children, I can clearly see that excellence is not a destination we reach but a way of life that we choose. And there will always be those who have lived their life in a “more excellent way” and we should make whatever sacrifices that we need to make in order to place ourselves around those people and to do what’s necessary to get in those groups of pockets and patches where excellence flourishes, grows and is displayed.
Weeks prior to the Howard University Athletic Hall of Fame induction I was asked by some friends that I attended school with at Howard University, if I could and would join them for the Outkast concert in Atlanta, Georgia on the 28th of September. Now this was going to be a stretch! My schedule was already beyond full.
– On Friday the 26th at 1pm I had a speaking engagement with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers on the campus of Howard University on the topic of “Engineering and Entrepreneurship”
– On Friday the 26th at 5:30pm I had a weight room workout that had to get done.
– Then at 7pm on Friday the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony began.
– Saturday, the 27th, I had a Judo Seminar to conduct of the DC Judo Association on Ground Fighting and Strategies in Judo (see video)
– And then at 1pm I had to be at the football game at Howard University because this weekend was the Hall of Fame weekend and Saturday’s game was the Hall of Fame game.
And now I was presented with the option to fly out of DC and into Atlanta instead of back home to Tampa in order to see a group for which I am NOT a fan.
Well, Outkast is a group that has been out for 20 years.
The two members of the group had great solo careers and also a great career together. This is VERY rare as most groups who split cannot survive and have thriving solo careers. It’s like the group holds their access to excellence hostage.
There’s no need for me to drop the accolades of Outkast or its members “Big Boi” or “Andre 3000.” The bottom line is this. They were in concert to celebrate 20 years in the game and this was the first time in years that the two shared the stage together in a long time and it may very well be the last. The group is originally from Atlanta and they schedule tour dates for the 26th and 27th of September at the Olympic Centennial Park in Atlanta.
When I was first encouraged to attend the concert, I could not due to the schedule conflict, and then….. as if it were a sign from above – the Friday and Saturday concerts sold out so fast that they opened up another date on the 28th!! This was unheard of for a group to perform 3 nights in a row at the same location with sellout crowds!
Well, I purchased my ticket, manipulated my flight schedule, secured housing and made the concert a priority.
1996 I watched one of the greatest Judo players ever walk on the mat and earn a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics. From the day I watched him on television until today, he is STILL my favorite judo player. So much so that after graduating from Howard University, I made it my business to find him and train with him. I used to travel 90 minutes, each way, in traffic to train with this man and I studied and watched his life and his behaviors closely. He is the reason why I am good on the mat today. I’m not the best in the world, but I took being good on the ground serious because of this man. I also understood what a HUNGER, thirst and drive for excellence looks like and how you can chase it and attain it ethically and morally BUT it does come at a cost. This man, is Jimmy Pedro. I call myself “The Best Judo Coach Ever” but the fact of the matter is, in my opinion, he is. However, the thing that I have learned from him is that being second is not a position that one should accept nor strive for. So in harmony with the scriptures, I call things that are not as though they were and I strive to be the best ever and as I live my life and continue to coach, I will touch more and more people who will believe this to be so due to my pursuit of excellence.
With that being said, 1996, at Centennial Park was where it all started. It was the place of the Olympic Village and where one of my heroes in the sport earned his first Olympic Medal. It was where my dream of being an Olympian was born. I watched the 1996 Olympics and Jimmy Pedro and told my mother, “I am going to the Olympics in the Sport of Judo.” Atlanta, at Centennial Olympic Park, was now the place where I felt I was being called to after celebrating 10 years as an Olympian this year in August. And after being celebrated at an inductee for my contribution to sport during and after my time at Alma Mater, I could think of no better place to spend it than in Atlanta.
I also wanted to see what 20 years of excellence looked like and how and why Outkast commanded so much respect in their field. I also wanted to see the level of presence they had on the stage and what made them so different than the THOUSANDS that were watching because only a FEW were performing. I wanted to examine the environment and watch excellence in motion. The Olympic park was the place of the “gods” in 1996 and I wanted to see these two “gods” of the music industry perform and see if I could identify the traits which made them EXTRA-ordinary.
From the onset when I arrived at Centennial Park, I could feel the anticipation and excitement in the air. Although, not a fan, I was moved by the energy – the vibe. As the moment neared for Outkast to perform, it seems surreal as the sun began to go down and the ambient seemed to transform in such a manner to accept the fact that greatness was among us. When they walked out on stage and performed, I watched people not only enjoy themselves but become inspired to do better. I didn’t know if I was watching a rap concert or watching the effects of a great motivational speaker. People were laughing, crying, shouting, dancing and pledging their love for one another. I had not seen anything like it in the United States. It was similar to that feeling that you get when you attend carnival in Trinidad and Tobago.
After the concert was over, I knew why I had to go. I needed, like all persons need, to be inspired to do more and be more. Ten years ago, I walked around the track at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics. Ten years later I returned to Howard University to be honored as one of the greatest athletes to ever step foot on the campus of the university. And ten years later, I stood at the same Centennial Olympic park as one of my Judo heroes and watched two legends make history. All weekend, I surrounded myself with Hall of Famers and it was like giving myself an I.V. of excellence. I know that I can do more for my clients, my students, my family and my children. And I will live and operate with excellence.
“……me and you…. Yo momma and your cousin too…….”
Dedicated To Your Improvement,
Rhadi Ferguson, PhD