My conversation this week is a pretty awesome chat with the authors of 40 Days of Direction, Life Lessons from The Talented Ten. These men decided to write a book documenting their 27 year friendship that started as football players at Vanderbilt University and how their God-driven bond lead to every single one of their success stories. Their vibe was great and their story is even better. I truly got a sense of their strong bond and friendship from just our one conversation.
The book, tell us your inspiration behind creating?
Derrick Gragg: As the book author, we started talking about creating this book several years ago. I wanted to write it for two reasons #1: to educate young men, as I did not have a father coming up and then spending the last 23 years in college athletics, I wanted to inspire the young athletes. #2: I wanted to highlight “Da Fellaz”. This group of men are truly extraordinary and their stories needed to be shared. Many times not a lot of these type of stories are told and we wanted to change the conversation.
You guys truly have a rare bond, could you share how you all connected at Vanderbilt University?
Carlos: our experiences are so rare and there is not a lot of groups out there like us. When we came to Vanderbilt we really had to bond very quickly. We applied peer pressure to ensure we were on top of our studies and game. I really do not have friends outside of the Da Fellaz, as our frienship is so unique and something I do not share with any others outside my family. We just have a very natural bond.
Each of you are very successful, what would you tell young men looking to follow in your footsteps?
Derrick P.: Don’t get caught up in titles but focus on working hard. Stay faithful and consistent.
Derrick G.: Surround yourself with like-minded people who are focused on the right things. After our first semester at Vanderbilt we came together to help/push each other to do better which allowed us to excel together.
Da Fellaz 10 Principles
1. You Belong At The Table
2. Realize The Power Of Goal Setting
3. Go Pro
4. Become Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
5. Select Your All-Star Team
6. Show Me Your Friends, I’ll Show You Your Future
7. Stand Alone If You Must
8. NFL “Not For Long” and NBA “No Boys Allowed”
9. Recovery From The Fumble
10. You Started From The Bottom Now You’re Here
What do you see as some of the challenges of African-American males today? And what are some opportunities?
Carlos: Gaining self knowledge about who they are and their place in the history of this country. We see some of the same mistakes made in the past repeating itself because folks do not have a true understanding of OUR history and contributions. There are people who own stuff and people who consume stuff. I say, learn the necessary skill, stay self aware and knowledgeable so you can be the owner and not just consumer.
Derrick Gragg: I would like to address the student athletes. Love and embrace the fact you can play ball but also have your own mind. As an example, all of us were great athletes but Corey Harris was the only one that made it to the NFL. Pay attention to statistics, chances are you will not go pro but you can do so many other great things. Always strive to be excellent, focus more on education and think of other professions that you would love to do.
Derrick Payne: I see respecting young women as an issue with our young man. I stress with my sons the importance of respecting women and we also devote a chapter to it in the book. Also, young men need to stop being so “hard.” Vanderbilt was actually the first time another black man and gave me a hug and truly showed me what friendship looked like. Remember, it’s okay to show feelings, encourage and support one another.
“Da Fellaz” want this book to be a true blueprint for urban youth. Many times youth these days are focused on a lot of the wrong things but the men are hoping this book will provide true life lessons and principles that many can relate to. They are proving black men can love, be supportive, create beautiful families, have emotional bonds and friendship with other males and be extremely successful.