The Notre Dame Center Who Could

David Casstevens of the Dallas Morning News tells a story about Frank Szymanski, a Notre Dame center in the 1940s, who had been called as a witness in a civil suit in South Bend.

“Are you on the Notre Dame football team this year?” the judge asked.

“Yes, Your Honor.” “What position?” “Center, Your Honor.” “How good a center?”

Szymanski squirmed in his seat, but said firmly: “Sir, I’m the best center Notre Dame has ever had.”

Coach Frank Leahy, who was in the courtroom, was surprised. Szymanski always had been modest and unassuming. So when the proceedings were over, he took Szymanski aside and asked why he had made such a statement. Szymanski blushed.

“I hated to do it, Coach,” he said. “But, after all, I was under oath.” I observe two lessons from Szymanski’s story.

First, confidence spawns great achievement. We are more likely to strive and succeed if we feel we can do it.

This confidence does not come automatically—we must develop it. This is especially true if we hear continuous messages from others that we will fail.
In the face of such negative messages, we must refuse to allow them to thwart our efforts. Such external voices must be quieted and we must tune our ears to our internal feelings of confidence.

The second lesson I learn from Szymanski is that we need not trumpet our confidence in our abilities to make them effective. Frank felt he was the best. But he displayed modesty. Yet, when pressed to tell the whole truth, he firmly told it like he saw it.

When we are humble, yet confident we make believers of those around us. Their doubts turn into trust. They will begin to believe it too. They will stop sending you negative messages, but will begin to express their confidence in you.

Confidence counts. I challenge you to work on yours. I’m working on mine.



My mother taught me very early to believe I could achieve any accomplishment I wanted to. The first was to walk without braces. Wilma Rudolph

Confidence….thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them, it cannot live. Franklin D. Roosevelt

It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome. William James

In God’s eyes, nobody is a nobody. We should never lose sight of what we may become and who we are. Marvin J. Ashton

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. Mark Twain


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