If you were to judge solely by the numbers, Frank “Muddy” Waters would not be considered a very good Division I college football coach.

A head coach of stellar success between 1954 and 1973 at Hillsdale College, a small, private Michigan institution whose team he once coached to 34 consecutive wins, Waters was once named the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics' Coach of the Year. Later he went on to be named the first coach of the Division II Saginaw Valley State University football team, where he won 25 games in five years, despite the trials of establishing an entirely new program. Eventually, that achievement, along with his extraordinary 138-47 win-loss record at Hillsdale earned him the prestigious head coaching position at his alma mater, Michigan State University.

At MSU, however, the numbers by which all coaches are judged quickly began to turn on the man who had been able to make gold out of any team at every other level in which he had coached. Hired to clean up the program after it was hit with NCAA probation for rules violations, the coach who had come to his alma mater as a hero lasted just three seasons with the Green and White before being fired for an overall record of 10 wins and 23 losses. In football-crazed Spartan Country, that wasn't acceptable, and the legendary Muddy Waters left Michigan State known as a hiring mistake, a failure, and a coaching disgrace in the eyes of the MSU fans obsessed with wins and nothing more.

Now, there is a whole other debate over the disproportionate focus on winning in today's world of sports in that story, but, this is no sports column. No, this is a column about much more important things like honesty, morality, and integrity, all of which Frank “Muddy” Waters possessed an abundance of.

Those are the exceptionally rare traits that shined though brightly near the end of Muddy's short career at MSU, when the writing of his future firing was on the wall and he gave the Detroit News the following statement for an article about his quickly fading coaching career: “I realize this is big-time football and sometimes I'm referred to as a 'Pollyanna,'” Waters said, “but there are ideals and principles I can't compromise. And if I have to compromise them, I'll get into another profession.”

And, those simple words are the reason behind this entire column. He had reached the pinnacle of his profession, and yet Muddy was willing to give it all up in favor of maintaining the values and principals he had founded his life upon. What courage, what character, and what a lesson this world needs so badly to learn from today.

Can you imagine someone in a position of power or fame making such an honorable statement as Muddy made during his MSU tenure these days? Instead, our politicians are stealing, our athletes are cheating and our celebrities are lying, all in the name of such evil motivators as money, pride and greed. If morals and principals do exist, they are shattered along the way to the top, and considered just an insignificant sacrifice in the race to acquire the fool's gold by which our worldly success is measured today.

But, is worldly success really the objective we should spend our days striving to reach? Muddy didn't think so, and I don't either. Because, in the end, worldly success and all of its perks don't add up to anything if you can't hold your head high with the knowledge that you have lived a life based upon principal and truth. After all, of what worth are accomplishments if they haven't been gained honestly, and what good is success if you know in your heart it isn't real?

Muddy Waters was fired just before the final game of his third season at Michigan State. That made it a rare sight to see when, at the conclusion of that 24-18 loss to the University of Iowa, MSU players and fans carried their beloved head coach off the field. It was a fitting end to the career of a man with the wisdom to judge success by so much more than numbers. Many years later, in 2000, Muddy was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame's small college division for the coaching prowess he showed during his tenure at Hillsdale, where the football field bears his name to this day.

You see, Muddy proved to all of us that, in the end, nice guys don't really finish last. Throughout a career defined by integrity, principle and morality, he showed that there are still things in this world far more important than material goods and tangible success.

And now, as I reflect on his life story, I have come to believe that we should all live our lives with one Muddy-inspired question in mind: Who will carry us off the field when that final buzzer rings?

Thanks to Muddy, I am going to begin thinking a lot more about that and a lot less about the trivial matters of life.

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