For nearly all the stars on this fall’s football fields, the stardom will come and it will go. It always has. And then what?
All three of Cedar Rapids’ mayoral candidates — Brian Fagan, Ron Corbett and P.T. Larson — achieved note as young football players, and here they are now, running toward a Nov. 3 election day, hoping to lead the second biggest city in Iowa.
One measure of comfort: None of the three has erected a shrine of past football glories above the mantel or in an extra bedroom. All three had to dig to find a few old photos.
But all three say they still carry with them lessons learned from being part of a team that knew how to give it and take it back during a time when they were coming of age.
In 1989, Fagan was a wide receiver and defensive back as a senior on the Regis High School football team when he achieved first-team all-conference and first-team all-metro accolades. The Regis team that year was undefeated until it lost in the semifinals of the state playoffs. Fagan notes that he got little playing time a year earlier, the year National Football League star Kurt Warner was a senior quarterback at Regis. But Fagan says he tells Warner to this day that all of Warner’s success comes from how Fagan pushed him as a defensive back in practice.
“I had a great experience with football,” Fagan says. “I really enjoyed my teammates, and many are still my friends today.
He says his coaches taught him about “being smart, playing smart, working hard and having a passion for it.”
“I liked the understanding of what we could do as a team together, and trusting that other people were doing their job with the same trust they had that you were doing your job,” he says.
Corbett was a fullback for the Newton High School team that lost in the 1977 state football finals.
“I’m older than Brian, but we did play with helmets back then,” Corbett says.
Corbett went to Morningside College in Sioux City and played football there until he injured his knee. Subsequently, he transferred to Cornell College in Mount Vernon, where he became the college’s first running back to run for 1,000 yards in a season. He did it twice. He was named a Division III All-American in his last year at Cornell, in 1982.
“I think football is a great team sport,” Corbett says. “You learn at an early age that you’ve got to work with people, celebrating victories and analyzing the losses together. And you hear about that intangible called chemistry. You can develop that chemistry in football.”
“And I played running back, and you get tackled and you get up and go back to the huddle and run another play. So it really teaches you to be persistent.”
Larson was a defensive nose guard for the 8-1 Fort Dodge Dodgers back in 1974 when he was named a third-team all-state defensive lineman among all the schools in Iowa.
In those days, at 5 foot 9 inches and 195 pounds, Larson says he outplayed offenses, not by his physical size, but by “outsmarting them.”
“It was my commitment to the mental aspect of the game,” he says. “It’s a thinking man’s game, and if you’re not in the game to think …”
The Fort Dodge team back then, he says, had to special order him a helmet because the team did not have one big enough to fit his head. The Dodgers’ helmets were black, but his was red, so it needed to be spray painted black. After each game, his teammates would look to see how many chips of paint his helmet had to see what kind of game he had played.
From football, he says he learned “that drive and desire for excellence and never quitting, and giving it my best in all situations.”
He later played was on a college team at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn., for a season, didn’t play much and pursued his interests in speech and theater instead.