“Joseph Brown was a regular high school student with dreams like any teenager. He dreamed of playing football and hopefully, one day making a career out of it. But unfortunately, there was more than one demotivating factor.
Joseph was more determined than most and would do anything to get closer to his goals, but he had no idea that on the way to trying to achieve his dreams, he would be met with resistance on all sides. Every afternoon, he chose to walk to the store, dragging heavy tires behind him. He knew what other people who looked at him thought. To them, he was probably crazy, but he had his own reasons. He had a vision in mind, and he wouldn’t let anyone tell him any different.
But things would escalate even more than he could ever have imagined. It didn’t take long for another student from Joseph’s school to notice what was going on. Joseph felt dread well up inside of him as a boy, a year older than him, walked in his direction. It was this cool bully, an unpleasant boy that picked on Joseph for not having the newest sneakers or clothing. But Joseph had a good reason for it.
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Joseph was a little different from the other kids in this school when it came to one minor thing—clothing. All of his friends and classmates got new clothes relatively regularly, as well as brand new uniforms. Joseph was never jealous of this fact and wore the same shoes with worn-out soles, like he normally did. He also had to buy secondhand uniforms instead of new ones. But he had no idea that would mean he’d become a target.
The reason why Joseph’s clothing wasn’t new was apparent to everyone—his parents were encountering financial struggles, and he knew that he had to get used to a certain standard of living. He didn’t mind, though; he just wanted his parents to survive and get through their struggles. He was prepared to sacrifice for them.
The boys mocked Joseph as they noticed what he was dragging behind him. Joseph knew they were going to make a comment about it, and he tried to prepare himself for it. The bully’s eyes lit up as he said, “Dragging tires, too poor to afford the wheels?” Joseph gritted his teeth and didn’t say anything about the remark. In his mind, he knew that he’d get the last laugh after all his hard work had paid off. But he still had a little further to go.
Even though the bully had passed the comment, and others stared at him like he was some kind of freak, he tried not to let them bother him. After all, he was doing it for a reason, and a good reason at that. But he understood the ridicule he would get while he tried his best to do what he needed to achieve his goals, especially since he wouldn’t explain himself to anyone.
But one thing that Joseph didn’t notice was that someone behind the scenes was watching him. They were driving in a black car and keeping their distance for now, waiting for the perfect time to pounce. He had been watching Joseph for a while and had a gut feeling that he was different. He decided he would move in and give Joseph a piece of his mind, but he wasn’t ready for what Joseph would tell him.
Joseph noticed a car pull up, and the man slowly got out of his car. He was feeling suspicious; he knew the car was following him, but he had no idea why. He would be ready to defend himself; he had to. The man gave a reassuring smile as he walked closer to Joseph, but Joseph wouldn’t feel safe until he made his intentions clear. The man stopped ten feet away from him and asked him why he was dragging the tires around, but he wasn’t ready for the answer.
Joseph felt his heart race as he looked at the man. He didn’t know who he was, but there was something about him that he couldn’t put his finger on. He decided to see where this would go and answered the man’s question, “Why are you dragging those tires behind you?” But once Joseph explained his reason behind dragging the tires for so long, the man’s mouth hung open. He would then do something that Joseph wasn’t prepared for, but it would change his life forever.
Joseph’s explanation was that he was training his body for football. He needed a way to stay in shape, and just doing sit-ups wouldn’t be enough. But the man seemed even more confused than before. He decided to ask another question that Joseph would answer candidly, but the man would take action rather than just listening to him. He changed everything.
The man asked, “Why not weight training?” But Joseph, frowning, explained that he couldn’t afford to buy weights or get a gym membership. But that wouldn’t be good enough for the man, who would introduce himself as John Cleaver. John explained that he was a coach at a local football club and, coincidentally, was his neighbor. He told Joseph that he saw potential in him, his story resonated with him, and he wanted to help in any way he could, which would mark a turning point for him.
He decided that he would not only get Joseph a gym membership but that he would also coach him on one of his teams. This would guarantee Joseph a spot, and he would end up playing football for real. Joseph couldn’t believe the man’s offer and thought about the prospects of leaving his tires behind and trading them in for actual weights. He shook the man’s hand and started his new career.
Every day after school, Joseph would hurry to the gym to train harder than ever to achieve his goals. After dragging around a tire for so long, having professional equipment to work on was like a dream. Joseph pushed himself hard; he was well accustomed to struggling for his goals, so the hard work never bothered him. What Joseph did not know was that his struggles were just beginning.
What Joseph never expected was to encounter similar trouble at the gym too. It had become his refuge, but he noticed that there were other kids his age who would come there. Some were hardcore weightlifters and always made a spectacle of themselves. It seemed like they loved attention and always wanted everyone around them to know who they were. It wasn’t long before the other guys began passing comments and remarks about the fact that Joseph was lifting what they called “baby weights.”
Their taunts aside, Joseph kept his head down and just kept working on his fitness goals. He did his best to ignore them, but they weren’t satisfied and seemed determined to provoke a reaction out of him and decided to up the ante.
The continuous taunting and combative behavior by the other guys were beginning to make Joseph uncomfortable. He thought about discussing it with the management, but he knew this was only a temporary solution, as the guys lived in the area and could easily find him elsewhere. Joseph had faced many adversities and knew that showing weakness would only make things worse, so he decided he had to fight back.
Joseph’s new life had become more difficult than ever. Between football practices with his new team, daily workouts at the gym, and keeping up with the school schedule, he was often exhausted. There were many times when he honestly felt like quitting. When this happened, he thought back to his days of dragging the tire around. His resolve had grown, and he became more determined than ever. He even began documenting his transformation as his training sessions with the team became more intense.
Joseph realized that he was the odd one out there too. Being slightly shorter and much smaller-built than his teammates made Joseph an easy target for their antics too. Many times he was ridiculed and pushed around as the team’s water boy since he was the youngest. Joseph began wondering if he should talk to Mr. Cleaver about all the abuse.
Mr. Cleaver had continued being nice to Joseph even after his initial acts of kindness. He mentored Joseph on the finer aspects of the game and on his fitness. It was clear that Mr. Cleaver had high hopes for Joseph. Unfortunately, this also placed a lot of pressure on him too. Joseph realized that Mr. Cleaver had done so much for him that he could not ask him to fight his battles too. As far as the bullying went, Joseph had to face it alone. Football practice had its share of bullying too, but since Mr. Cleaver was there, the other guys never took things too far and usually just started when the coach’s back was turned. At the gym, Mr. Cleaver wasn’t around, and the other guys were getting worse.
Initially, after keeping their taunts to just words, they now started getting in Joseph’s space while he was training. Other boys began standing around Joseph as he trained, adding weights onto his bar, trying to break his spirits. He wasn’t afraid of them. Joseph held himself back from getting into a physical altercation so he wouldn’t run the risk of being kicked out of the gym and letting down Mr. Cleaver. Joseph decided to summon every bit of resolve he had in him and fought back in other ways.
All the extra time in the gym and brutal football training was starting to transform Joseph. He could see himself starting to physically grow. Beyond this, he could also feel himself getting stronger by the day. It was time for Joseph to start using that strength to his advantage.
Keeping note of the other guys’ routines, the next time they came over to haggle him, he was ready for them. Joseph had quietly kept track of the other guys’ routines and knew that the strongest among them was currently benching just over 200 pounds. While the boys showed to add weights to Joseph’s stack, this time he spoke up for the first time. It was up to 150 pounds, which he lifted easily.
“That’s the best you got?” Joseph said. The boys were taken aback and decided to challenge him further. The boys continued to pile on more weight, as it approached 200 pounds. Joseph again lifted it without an issue. He could see the shock in their eyes. Now he was a lot smaller than them, so he could tell them that they were shocked that he hadn’t even gotten this far.
“Now it’s my turn,” he taunted. “At 210 pounds, mark.” He said it again, “Is that the best you got?” By the time he was done, Joseph was up to 275 pounds. The other boys were beyond shocked. They had no idea that Joseph had grown stronger than them, even in his size.
After he wiped off his sweat, the boys all surrounded him. It was a tense moment. Joseph steadied himself for a confrontation. Instead, the boys applauded and shook his hand. He had finally earned their respect.
Confident, Joseph now went into his first game for the team quietly determined to prove a point. As a cornerback, he was expected to be quick. Joseph had been teased for not being up to pace in training, what they didn’t know was that in the last month, Joseph had been doing extra laps after everyone else went home to condition his body. After all the taunts of his teammates, Joseph ran like to win that game and many games after.
Joseph’s teammates loved him now, as he helped them win game after game. It wasn’t long before a talent scout spotted him in the audience. He was a standout player and was offered a full scholarship and a spot on a local varsity team. Joseph was proud when he spoke to Mr. Cleaver after one of his locker room speeches. He learned some startling news.
Mr. Cleaver revealed that he had put the team and guys at the gym up to the taunting to push Joseph beyond his limits. Joseph’s resilience to overcome obstacles was not a fluke. Calling it “grit,” Mr. Cleaver told Joseph how proud he was of him. After signing a lucrative football contract in his first year of varsity, Joseph finally knew he had come a long way since being that skinny kid who dragged the tire around for fun.”