Justin Juenemann is a college student at the University of Minnesota. He plays on the Gopher football team as a third-string backup kicker, but doesn’t get a lot of play time. In fact, he hasn’t played in a single game yet.
This college senior is about to get a big surprise.
But Juenemann does spend a lot of his time giving back to his community. He’s a regular volunteer at Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
This patient is about to choose his favorite player on the team.
P.J. Fleck, Juenemann’s football coach, decided to bring in Kyle, one of the patients that his backup kicker has visited at the hospital.
This is Juenemann’s last year at the U of M, and his coach invited Kyle to help him with a secret reveal to the football player. But first, Adam spent some time talking to the Gopher Football squad about overcoming challenges and working through struggles, like he has because of an illness.
Then Kyle picks Juenemann as his favorite player on the team, and of course, Juenemann is surprised. Suddenly, Kyle launches a t-shirt at him.
Juenemann catches the flying shirt in mid-air and everyone cheers at a great catch, especially for a kicker! Juenemann thinks that’s the end of it and sits down, but little does he know there is a very important message printed on that shirt.
What’s printed on that shirt?
When he’s asked to stand up and show the shirt, the room explodes with celebration. “Justin, Congrats on earning a scholarship!” the shirt read.
That scholarship is a full ride for his final year as a Gopher, and nobody is more shocked than Juenemann, except maybe his mom.
Hello, Mom? Guess what?
Juenemann makes a phone call delivering the good news via Facetime, and his mom screams with pride and joy! Beautiful.
“I’ve never seen anybody serve and give more than that guy.”
Coach Fleck uses the teachable moment by explaining to his team who Adam and Juenemann are and what they represent.
“I’ve never seen anybody serve and give more than that guy,” Fleck said referring to Juenemann. He points out to the group of athletes that Justin Juenemann has not been a star player and is not recognizable like some of the other Big Ten football players on the Gopher team.
“He could easily just not do it and nobody would ever say anything,” said Fleck, and added, “And all he does is continue to keep his oar in the water, live that holistic life – academically, athletically, socially, and spiritually.”
“Row The Boat”
The ‘keep his oar in the water’ is a reference to a personal mantra that Coach Fleck turned into a rallying cry when he was coaching at the University of Western Michigan “Row The Boat.”
“Fleck has said the phrase stuck with him and helped he and his family through the death of their son, Colt, after birth because of a heart condition,” reported the Star Tribune newspaper.
You couldn’t have scripted a series of moments of inspiration that unfolded in that room last week, and Coach Fleck summed it up perfectly by finishing his life lesson by telling his players, “You are sitting here looking at two examples (pointing to Juenemann and Adam) at what our culture can do, what we can do for other people,” said Fleck.