Walk On: From Pee Wee Dropout To The NFL Sidelines–My Unlikely Story Of Football, Purpose, And Following An Amazing God, by Ben Malcolmson with Patti McCord
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Multnomah WaterBrook Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
When I originally requested this book, I did not realize some of the ties that I had with its author. Frequently, I find that reading books can be a very Nathanish experience, where as someone who tends to live a somewhat isolated life that I find I am deeply connected to other people through books. During my time at the University of Southern California  I was an engineering student with a history minor who tended to mind my own business even if I write and read of a wider world. While I was still at the university, the author started attending himself, and followed a tradition of celebrated walk-ons like the one I had cheered on at the LA Colosseum during the last year of Hackett’s coaching during an otherwise meaningless win against Louisiana Tech to close out a disappointing 5-7 season. But lest I speak too much about myself there is a great deal about this book to appreciate whether or not one shares the author’s experience as a USC student interested in questions of divine providence.
This book is admittedly a very interesting book, as it shows the author’s life with occasional flashbacks and foreshadowing that demonstrate the course of divine providence in the author’s life, from the search for meaning and faith, to developing and honing skills as a sports reporter for USC’s Daily Trojan as well as other newspapers on freelance or intern assignments, to building rapport with Coach Pete Carroll of USC and the Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks (who is kind enough to contribute a thoughtful foreword here). This is a book that is filled with poignancy and self-effacing humor as we witness a somewhat out of shape reporter with basic pass catching skills turn into an underdog hero for a winning USC team and a talented assistant with a gift for social media. The author reveals his own struggles to find meaning and purpose and to discern God’s will in the complicated events of his life, especially the death of a friend of his shortly after a Rose Bowl win. Everything ends up for the best (spoiler alert) but the road is by no means smooth, and one get a sense for a less glamorous but compelling side of sports life from a talented writer with a perspective that wins the reader’s sympathies.
There are all kinds of questions that one gets upon reading this book. Why was it that Coach Lane Kiffin comes off so poorly here? Clearly the author and that controversial figure do not see eye to eye, something that has dramatic effects during the course of the book. Coach Carroll himself has a rather ambiguous role as well, being a person who is willing to take the heat for a tough loss (for example, in the Super Bowl loss against the Patriots) but someone at the same time who seeks to avoid being negative if possible and someone who has a rather sharp tone when it comes to dealing with a media frenzy. One gets the sense as well that he was not someone who micromanaged his college teams, which did allow for some shady people to inveigle themselves with athletes like Reggie Bush (with costly effects for the record book when the NCAA sanctions hammer came on the program later on). The author, perhaps wisely, does not focus a great deal on the sanctions or the rumors of corruption in USC’s behemoth football program, but the book is no less compelling as a personal story of growing faith in the face of uncertainty.
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