- “Records Are Made to Be Broken”
- They know their legacy isn’t what they did on the field. They are well-rounded.
This February, Shane Morrell will walk on a field to play college lacrosse in his first game at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI.
When he gets the chance to face a collegiate opponent, it will be memorable…but not nearly as memorable as what he witnessed 10 years ago.
Within weeks of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Morrell’s parents decided to start driving every weekend from their home in Philadelphia to Ground Zero, looking for a way to help. They loaded up their three children, ranging in age from Ryan (13) to Shane (8) to Tyler (age 7) and trekked two hours to New York City. There, they joined a volunteer effort at Ground Zero Food Services, making and serving food to the firefighters and law enforcement officers who were working around the clock in “the hole,” as those first responders referred to the smoldering site that had been home to the Twin Towers.
As a writer for Sports Illustrated, I also had the chance to fly to New York and volunteer in the food services operation several times in the weeks after 9-11. When the leaders of Food Services hosted a New York reunion for all of us on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, I reconnected with Shane’s parents, who told me their son was playing for Bryant and Coach Mike Pressler, with whom I wrote It’s Not About The Truth a few years ago.
As I talked with the Morrells and learned more about their story — that they served up Philly cheesesteaks for the firefighters every single Sunday from September 16 until the week before Christmas of 2001 — I was impressed by how determined the family was to serve others. But when I learned that their example inspired some of their friends — and their children’s friends — to join the effort, I realized that I was looking at true Greatness.
Rather than using those 15 Sundays to unwind from a long work week or to focus on the boys’ sports or social lives, the family decided that their time, energy, and effort was needed elsewhere. They wanted to be about something more important, something
bigger than just their jobs, their schoolwork, or their sports.
“When we got to the tunnel going into the city, you could just see the smoke coming up from the ground,” Shane remembered when I called him this week. “And every week we went, there was still smoke down there. Going down there and being one of the servers was just a great privilege to see all the heroes. I was just a little guy, so I probably didn’t really appreciate it at the time. Now, though, I can say I learned a lot about what matters in life by watching how hard they worked. I hope those sandwiches were good!”
But Shane also took some tremendous life lessons from the experience. When I asked him what stayed with him the most from those trips, he answered without hesitation: “I learned how tough those guys were coming up covered in dust and all this debris. And as they walked by me — I was the condiment kid handing out packets — I just saw them smile. That’s what I remember. Watching them, it was obvious that no matter what happens, you’ve got to keep on going and stay strong. Being there was a reminder that things aren’t always about you, which is a big thing for a kid to learn. It changed me.”
Tips From the Great Ones
That decision to be about more than their own interests, to leave a legacy, is exactly what we should all be about. When the
Morrells made the decision to serve, they were not only making a difference in the lives of first responders in New York, but they were investing in the lives of their children, knowing that the lessons they were taking the time to teach now would form the boys’ character in the future.
Even Shane’s coach at Bryant, Mike Pressler, can see evidence of how members of the Morrell family understand the importance of being about something more than just the record books. Both Shane and Ryan have played for Pressler and while both are talented athletes, their character — and the character of their parents — is what has stood out to their coach.
The Morrells realized that the most important things in life aren’t something that can be measured quantitatively; they are in the acts of service for others, in the good will and encouragement those deeds spread, and in the life lessons that come from such experiences.
Records are made to be broken because real life starts outside the walls of the office, outside the lines of the playing fields. It isn’t about how many performance awards you’ve won or deals you’ve closed. True Greatness is about who you are as a well-rounded person with a broader vision than just your career. It’s about setting an example for your family that will last beyond your own lifetime. It’s about leaving a legacy.