When the greatest Olympic champion of all-time speaks, you listen.
Last week, Michael Phelps paid the University of Alabama football team a visit, offering the team some motivation prior to the start of the 2022 NCAA season.
Phelps is a football fan, having long been a strong supporter of his hometown Baltimore Ravens, and is close friends with former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
In his pep talk, Phelps spoke on how, in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, he went six straight years without a single day off. He also emphasized how you only get one opportunity to really make a mark in your athletic career, and that every day in practice, he’d do whatever was asked of him by coach Bob Bowman in order to reach his goals.
You can watch the speech here:
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Below is a transcript of Phelps’ speech, courtesy of NBC Olympics:
Well, I’m going to open up with a quote. It’s one of my favorite quotes. “Actions speak louder than words.” That literally is what defines my career. I made my first Olympic team, 15 years old. I got fifth place. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t satisfied. They gave me a piece of paper that said, congratulations, you participated. That piece of paper motivated me for that whole next four years. I said, there’s not a shot in hell, this is ever going to happen again. My very first [Olympic] race, I did not medal. And then in 2012, I had one race I didn’t medal. I can go back and look at those races because I want to make sure that feeling stays with me until the next time I have a chance to get out there to do the same thing again. From 2002 to 2008, guess how many days I took off. In those six years, guess how many days I took off. None. Zero. Why? I wanted something that nobody else had the opportunity to get. I was willing to do more than anybody else on the planet was willing to do. I got the results. I wanted to do it because I wanted that chance. Nobody’s going to give you that chance, right? You’re going to have to earn that chance. That’s all I wanted. I wanted to bust my ass every single day to earn that one chance. And wherever that took me, it took me. Every time I’d go into practice, my coach would say jump. I would say how high, because I knew there were hundreds of thousands of other kids that were doing the same thing. And they were not going to take that opportunity away from me. Y’all have one of the greatest, if not the greatest coach leading y’all every single day. He’s got the answers. But it’s y’all that need to listen or making sure you’re doing everything away from the field. Right? It’s not just what happens here. I can’t tell you that enough. It is not just what happens here. It’s the whole entire picture. You get one chance, right? You get once chance to do something special. Don’t waste it, please.
After the immense success he achieved in that six-year span from 2002 to 2008, including 14 Olympic gold medals and 16 World Championship titles, Phelps took his foot off the gas and would miss training days, as the level of commitment he had early in his career was simply unsustainable.
His point, however, is that when the opportunity was there for him to go all-in and develop himself into the best swimmer in the world, he did everything he possibly could to get there.
Phelps, now 37, is the most decorated Olympic swimmer in history, having won 23 gold, three silver and two Olympic bronze medals over a span of four Games from 2004 to 2016. He made his debut at the 2000 Olympics at the age of 15, placing fifth in the men’s 200 butterfly.
One of his primary focuses from 2002 to 2008, the 400 IM, recently hit the 20-year mark of Phelps owning the world record.
The University of Alabama has made the College Football Playoff National Championship game six times in the last seven seasons, winning the title in 2015, 2017 and 2020.