Today I’ll just be going through the motions. I’ll be in a funk that I wish I wasn’t in. Because life played a funny game on me again. I lost my hero last night as Manchester lost its legend. I catch myself throwing around the word “role-model” a lot, which this person truly was. But the way he has impacted me he deserves a more appropriate word. That is why this post goes out to my hero.
Back in high school you could find my closest buddies and I during the summer playing golf or eating lunch at the Derryfield. That was what we did and that was what we loved. We would walk 9 holes, grab a grilled cheese in the restaurant and walk on over to Matt Anctil’s house behind the 13th tee box for a swim. It was routine and with routine you begin to see familiar faces. There was one familiar face though that stuck out from the crowd. There was one golf outing that I will never forget.
I was walking to my ball after I drove it off the second tee. Just as I step onto the fairway it all of a sudden felt like I got shot. I had just gotten hit by a golf ball in mid-air that I never heard a ‘fore’ for. I immediately hit the ground and stayed there for a little because I was pretty hurt. Out of no where a man approaches me asking if I was alright. He didn’t hit me though. He calmed me down by telling a funny story. He then gave me $10 and told me to buy my buddy and I a soda and a hotdog at “7th heaven.” That was all–nothing more nothing less. We left without exchanging names.
It was my junior year at Trinity where I would get a second chance. The entire school was called down to the gym for an assembly. It was Alcohol Awareness week and a former alum was coming to speak on his past experiences with alcohol. It was him–the man who gave me $10 at The Derryfield. He introduced himself as Danny Duval. He spoke and everyone listened. His words were powerful and straight from the heart. He had total control of not only the floor but the entire gymnasium. For the first time my heart was tattooed.
He started his speech with, “I’m not here to tell you what to do. I’m here to tell you what can happen.” He breaks up his speech into three stages; his success as a high school athlete, his struggles with drug abuse and how he turned his life around. Danny was a three-sport stud at Trinity. He was an excellent pitcher. But I remember vividly the story he shared of him making the game winning free throw in the closing seconds of his 1976 championship game. His best sport was football where he was three-time first team all-state selection. Duval attended St. Mary’s college before being later dismissed due to his alcoholism. Four years after high school, Danny had two DWIs and tried to kill himself before landing in detox. He shared his story of how his friend killed his 10 month old baby because of drunk driving. The story he shared which made him turn his life around came at the pinnacle of his alcohol abuse. One morning he found himself lying at the bottom of a jail cell after another nightly blackout. He called his parents which his father picked up. He begged and pleaded his case and promised that he would change; but his father just wanted to leave him in prison. His mother convinced his father to go pick him up. It was here where he taught me what unconditional love meant.
“By the grace of God and the help of my family, nothing but positive things have happened in my life since,” -Dan Duval
From that moment on Danny had gone about his life dedicating it to everyone else but himself. That is the kind of person he became and was. He made sure they received the appreciation they deserved. He talked about his mother and father a lot. He talked about his wife and made sure to acknowledge his love towards her during every speech. He was so appreciative and rightfully so of the people in his life, because they could have and should have gave up on him. He talked about his favorite athlete he had ever coached, Tyler Brown. Because of Danny I have had the pleasure to meet and become great friends with Tyler. His story is just as special, his story has just as happy ending that has lead him to a bright future. Good people surround themselves around greater people. This couldn’t be anymore true in this case.
When he concluded his speech all of Trinity gave Danny a standing ovation. It was time to go back to class. I stuck around though, I had to hear more. I wanted to show my appreciation for not only his speech but for the $10 he gave me the previous summer. I introduced myself and from that point on he took me under his wing. I told him that I wanted to become what he has became one day. I have a story and I wanted to share it. He couldn’t have been any more respectful of the conversation and he told me to call him after I got out of school. I did and 20 minutes later him and I were teeing off at the Derryfield. The following week he took me to Legends driving range where we split a large bucket of balls. He gave me tips on my swing, women, how to public speak, and life in general. As we were leaving Legends he saw a member of the Derryfield who yelled out to him, “Hey Danny teaching another child from Easter Seals how to hit the long ball?!?” Danny didn’t think that was very humorous and without making a scene addressed the man like I was his own son.
That summer he invited Tyler and I to different colleges to listen to him speak. The drive up we stopped at Dunkin Donuts to grab a coffee. He explained to the drive-thru lady that he was diabetic, there couldn’t be any sugar in his coffee. Which is exactly how he went about his speeches; without the sugar-coating. The entire drive up to Plymouth we drove windows down, sharing a cigar and Tyler and I just listening. This man was a human scrapbook. He never ran out of stories and all of his stories had a life lesson and a laugh at the end. He took the floor at PSU and grasped once again the full attention from everyone in the auditorium. Once again receiving a well deserved standing ovation.
Out of all of his titles he took the greatest amount of pride in being called coach. He coached basketball at West and football at Trinity and Central. He loved kids and took an initiative to make everything for and about his athletes. He had great success as both a coach and an outreach worker for the city of Manchester. He would always find the time to make time for you. He showed me how to always put others before yourself. He showed me how to be as loveable as can be. I last saw Danny on March 13, 2012. My friends and I went to watch the Central/Trinity playoff basketball game at UNH. We sat in front of Danny and like every experience with Danny I just sat and listened while he did all the talking. He wasn’t rooting for Central, he wasn’t rooting for Trinity. He was rooting for Manchester. He sat there and knew the scouting report for every player on both teams. This scouting report was different though; he knew each athlete’s character and potential as a citizen of Manchester. I wish I knew that was going to be my last time seeing him; I would’ve said good-bye differently.
My motto is “You take one step, I take three.” The way he ended every speech was with his motto, “It’s all about the three ships: relationships, friendships, and championships. If you have the first two, the third is just a bonus.” That my friends says it all. He is the reason why I started @littlemotivator. He is the reason I try to impact/inspire/motivate everyone I come across. He is the reason I have found my calling. He is a big reason why I live my life without regrets. He taught me how to speak from the heart not the head. He taught me that audiences don’t like to hear facts or numbers. He taught me how to chip. He taught me how to cut a cigar. He taught me to keep promises and pay back those you owe as soon as possible. He taught me how to project my voice, slow down my speech and to speak with emotion. With him leaving me, he now has taught me to appreciate not my life but the people in it. Never leave conversation on bad notes. Because you never know if that will be the last time you see that person. If I love you, you will now know it at the end of every conversation I have with you. If I mean something to you I will put my best effort forth to show that you mean everything to me. We talk about forever when in fact we’ve only got today.
He found my voice. I know I’m one in a million he has impacted, but under this circumstance I’m glad to be one in that million. I was so lucky to have had him in my life. I promised him I’d pick him up with a cigar in hand to drive him to my first speech. Where he would be sitting, smiling in the front row. I have yet to speak and for that
I have let him down. I feel terrible. Last night for once, I felt at a loss for words. But I know Danny wouldn’t want me to lose my motivation. In fact if anything this has motivated me even more. I will become a product of Coach Dan Duval. With that said, thank you Danny and thank you viewers for reading what my hero meant to me. I must get back to my school work now, I have someone looking down at me that I have to please.
Stay motivated. Stay Passionate. Chase Your Dream.
Love You. God Bless.