The keynote speaker at Mount Marty University's Mission Day Program was former NFL star and Christian sports speaker Jay Novacek. Novacek played for the Dallas Cowboys and won three Super Bowls and went to five Pro Bowls.
At the University of Wyoming, Novacek ascended the ranks as an All-American football player. He was a two-sport star and an All-American decathlete in track and field. He was selected in the 1985 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, where he eventually secured a starting position and established himself.
“In 1987, I was a starter, before the NFL strike. I led NFL receivers among tight ends,” he said.
When the blow was over, Novacek went back to work with a broken elbow. Rob Awalt, a tight end selected by the Cardinals, took over for the hurt Novacek and later won the 1987 NFL Rookie of the Year award.
“I was placed on injured reserve. All that work, and I was on the bench again,” Novacek told the audience.
In 1990, he joined the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent. The Cowboys' attitude at the time, which Novacek described as "cocky," irritated him because they were coming off a 1-15 season. Novacek acknowledged this during the talk.
“It wasn’t like they had won a Super Bowl, but they were confident and believed in themselves,” he said. “When you’re down, you still need that confidence. You may not be good now, but you can be good later.”
Novacek admitted he was not sure of his place in the world or what the future held.
“I was one of the sorriest players, moving from a sorry team to the sorriest team in the NFL,” he continued. “I was thinking this wasn’t going to work.”
When he was called to the office, he learned that the team had acquired Rob Awalt from the Cardinals, another tight end. The Cowboys planned to put Awalt into the starting lineup, and they wanted Novacek to formally welcome, educate, and encourage the newcomer.
“But it was also the right thing to do not only for the team but also for me to become a better man,” he said.
The talents of Novacek helped the Cowboys turn their fortunes around. The Cowboys' three Super Bowl victories in four appearances were headed by five-time Pro Bowl selection Novacek, who was also once voted All-Pro.
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