When Cary Godette left Havelock High School to play football at East Carolina, he wondered about his future, especially after his first practice.
"I never encountered anything as hard in my life," Godette said in speaking at the Havelock High Senior Athletic Awards Banquet last week.
During a particularly rough stretch, he did what any other college student would do. He called home.
"I called back to my parents in Havelock, and I said, ‘mom, I don’t think I want to do this anymore.’ And she said, ‘what’s your plan?’ I said I’d like to come home, and she said, ‘son, you ain’t coming here.’
"It kind of threw me back a little bit because I didn’t have any answer to that one. Only thing left I could do was trudge back up to my room and suck it up."
Godette went on to become an All-American lineman at East Carolina and has had a long career coaching in college and the NFL. He is currently the director of football administration at ECU.
Godette said that call home taught him a valuable lesson about parenting.
"You as parents can’t solve all the problems for these young people," he said. "Sometimes, they’ve got to fail and learn so they can pick themselves up, bounce back and go.
"It goes back to competing. When I’ve gotten knocked down or run into obstacles, been fired from coaching, had some tough losses, you pick yourself up and fight through the tough times."
Godette spoke for about 20 minutes during the banquet, which recognized the school’s senior athletes with plaques and special awards.
Godette was a part of Havelock High School’s 1971 undefeated eastern state championship team. The winning team in the annual Tucker Creek-Havelock Middle football game is awarded the Cary Godette trophy in his honor.
He said athletics teaches valuable lessons that continue throughout a person’s life, the biggest of which involves commitment, attitude and heart.
"When you line up, it’s all about your training, what you put into it, the sacrifices you have made," he said. "That is what is going to get you through it."
He said a positive attitude is crucial for success on and off the field.
"If you don’t have the right attitude, it’s going to be very hard to have success," he said.
To illustrate the point, Godette told the story of drafting wide receiver Anquan Boldin when he was a coach with the Arizona Cardinals. Godette said Boldin wasn’t the team’s top choice, but in the end, that didn’t matter.
"Anquan Boldin ends up being a Pro Bowl player his rookie year, going over 1,000 yards in receptions, and it was all about heart, his effort and the way he approached things," Godette said. "No one could measure Anquan Boldin’s heart. He didn’t care that he wasn’t supposed to be fast enough. He would just line up and compete, and that’s one of the things athletics instills in us."
He said though athletes are special, they should remain humble.
"East Carolina has 28,000 students, and we have 125 on our football team," he said. "At Havelock High, you’ve got a whole lot more students than you do those who participate in athletics. It makes you very, very special, but it doesn’t entitle you to anything. If you look at it as an entitlement thing, there tends to be problems."
He said Havelock High athletes have been showing commitment, heart and attitude on the field, and he congratulated the players and coaches on their successes.
"You make us very proud the way you carry yourselves," he said. "Enjoy what you have accomplished."
During the banquet, Pharoh Cooper, who excelled in football, basketball and baseball, was named the school’s Male Athlete of the Year, while Abby Clark, an all-state swimmer and leader on the softball team, was named Female Athlete of the Year.
The Joe Hailey Sports Award went to basketball player and cross country runner Zack Bruns, while the Hoyt Hayes Memorial Scholarship went to cheerleader and softball player Malorie Rowe.
Mercedes Hargett was named the Andy Maness Manager of the Year for her work with sports medicine.