Mike Minter tells those at Education Summit to keep fear from derailing plans
By Kathy Chaffin
Everyone has a life dream, said former Carolina Panther Mike Minter at Thursday night’s Education Summit.
“Every single person in this room has a dream,” he said of the 200-plus people gathered in the Carson High School auditorium, “a dream of doing something spectacular, a dream of doing something big, a dream of making a mark that says ‘I have been here.’ ”
Minter discovered his dream early in life. At about age 6, he used the couch in his home as the line of scrimmage for his one-boy football team, during which he’d throw the ball to himself and dive over the couch to score.
Then he said he’d run over to the sidelines and become the announcer saying, “Mike Minter just scored the winning touchdown.”
It was then that Minter said he began dreaming of one day playing in the Super Bowl, a dream that would come true on Feb. 1, 2004.
He was in the third grade before he got to play organized football. “I kept my jersey on all day and all night,” he said. “I wore it to school … I took a bath in it. I didn’t take it off. I was so excited.”
Minter recalled his first time on the playing field. “It just made sense that I was supposed to be there,” he said.
In 1986, while watching the University of Nebraska football team in the national championship, Minter decided he wanted to play for the Cornhuskers. Now a football player in Lawton, Okla., is not supposed to fall in love with the University of Nebraska, he said.
“I’ll bring it home for you, it’s like Duke and Carolina, if you’re on one side, you’re not on the other side.”
When you have a dream and focus on it, Minter said, circumstances and situations begin to line up to make it happen. It’s called the “Law of Attraction.”
As a running back and free safety for the Lawton High School football team, Minter led the state of Oklahoma with 1,589 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns on 187 carries as a senior. He also excelled in basketball, averaging 21 points per game.
Minter’s dream was realized when University of Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne called and asked if he’d like to play for him.
It was 9 degrees and snowing when Minter got off the plane in Lincoln, Neb. They were driving through the city, he said, when he noticed there weren’t many black people.
“I’m nervous,” Minter said, reliving the moment. “I’m getting scared.”
A successful businessman and motivational speaker, he paused to talk about what he called the No. 1 threat to dreams. “That goes for young people, teachers, parents …” he said.
“At that moment,” Minter said, returning to his story, “fear was real to me.”
Then the former Panther shared one of his worst fears: cats, ordinary house cats.
He once refused to enter a friend’s house because a cat was inside, but finally agreed when the cat was taken outside. Minter said he was sitting around a table with his friends when the owner of the house’s 3-year-old daughter let the cat back in.
There were 10 people at that table, he said, but the cat chose to jump on him. Minter said he screamed, “Oh, get the cat, get the cat.”
His friends finally got the cat, he said, but it took 15 minutes before he could move.
“So fear is real,” Minter said. “But the passion of your dream is more powerful than any fear that can ever come up to you.”
Minter said he didn’t make it to the Carolina Panthers because he was so great. He made it because he had help.
Parents, teachers and communities help nurture the seeds of dreams in children, he said. “We need to jump in and contribute to water the seed so it grows …” he said. “It’s up to all of us.”
His mother, who raised four children as a single parent, never missed one of his games. “She knew I had passion about it,” he said, and was constantly encouraging him.
Words are powerful, Minter said. “Be careful of the words we water our kids’ seeds with.”
In addition to being the owner or partner of several business ventures, philanthropist and motivational speaker, Minter is now the head of football operations at First Assembly Christian School in Concord. “What I always look for and I see in every kid is the gift inside,” he said.
When people reach out to nurture that gift, Minter said magic happens. “We have the ability to create magic in our lives if we give kids help.”
When he was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 1997, Minter said he arrived in Charlotte and was “tripping” by all the trees. “We don’t have trees in Oklahoma and Nebraska,” he said, adding jokingly, “we’ve got like three trees.”
When he called his wife after his first practice with the team, Minter said he told her, “You wouldn’t believe how many trees they’ve got.”
“I want you to go home and hug a tree,” Minter told the audience.
A tree has many roots that grow deep into the ground, he said, but it’s the taproot that goes the deepest to find water. Even when the weather is bad, Minter said the tree continues to grow. “It’s tapping into the flowing water that’s under the ground.”
Parents, teachers and the community can offer that “living water to young people …” he said. “It’s not about you. It’s about encouraging everybody.”
Once people realize that, Minter said they understand their power to change lives. “When you change lives, you change the community,” he said, “and when you change the community, you change the world.
“Keep that dream alive.”
When Minter finished, the people at the summit were treated to large spreads of food prepared by Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ Food Services.
Chris Facemire, a senior at Carson, ate in the cafeteria with his neighbor, Matthew Alexander, an eighth-grader in Southeast Middle. Facemire said he wanted to see Minter and enjoyed his talk. “It was funny,” he said.
His favorite part was the story about the cat, Facemire said.
Alexander said what he got out of it was to “believe in your dreams now.”
“And not to give up,” Facemire added.
He said he wants to work in computer services for the FBI.
Alexander hasn’t decided what he wants to be yet.
Facemire demonstrated the encouragement Minter talked about when he reassured Alexander, who was nervous about asking Minter to sign his “Official Growl Towel” he got at a Panthers game.
Both had big smiles on their faces when Minter cheerfully signed the towel.
Others stood in line to have their photos made with Minter and to get him to sign copies of his book, “Driven by Purpose … The Power of a Dream.”
Rowan-Salisbury school board member Karen South Carpenter won the drawing for a football autographed by Minter.
She said her challenge will be keeping her son from selling it on eBay.
“My mother (Nancy South of Granite Quarry) is a die-hard Panther fan,” she said. “I will probably give it to her.”
Pete Teague, chairman of the Rowan Partners for Education Board of Directors, also spoke at the summit along with Jackie Harris, chairwoman of the Decrease Dropout Rate program, and Liz Tennent, who chairs the Educators’ Express.
Millbridge Elementary teacher April Williamson also spoke about the opportunity teachers have to help mold students’ lives. Education Summit Chairwoman Rebecca Jones introduced Minter.
Sponsors of the third Education Summit were Cheerwine, F&M Bank, Piedmont Natural Gas, Community Bank of Rowan, SunTrust Bank, Rebecca Jones Realty, CommunityOne Bank and Rowan Regional Medical Center.Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.