My mom grew up dirt-poor in Mississippi — Hattiesburg, to be exact — among people of every race.
Through hard work, decency and belief in God, she persevered, rose and achieved the American Dream by earning a college degree in nursing, marrying the love of her life, raising a family and becoming the First Lady of Michigan football.
Hers is a story of hope, perseverance and faith. My mom and dad raised me with those values, all of which I have passed onto my son.
Yet through my recent actions on social media, I unintentionally let her, my family and my God down. I let my beloved Michigan down. I let my friends in the Black community and beyond down.
I apologized immediately upon my dismissal from the Michigan football team. I apologize here, again.
I did not just show a lapse in judgment by liking comments, philosophies and observations on Twitter that must be part of our past and not our present and future. I strayed from my own beliefs built in church pews and on the gridiron.
The beliefs of Episcopalians marched in chorus with calls for civil rights in the 1960s and women’s rights in the 1970s. Theirs are the belief of marriage equality for all. They teach that we are all God’s children. All of us.
Theirs are the beliefs in hope for all, something my wayward conduct on social media interrupted and intruded. But amazing grace can help me find this hope when lost.
“Why did this happen?” I ask myself. After all, I was raised on the right side of history and countless Black families allowed me as a football coach and scout to be a part of their incredible journeys. Why? Because history’s work is still not done. Because sirens from the shores of civil rights still sound, crashing even solid ships. Why? Because from time to time, in our moral frailty as imperfect beings, we can drag knuckles. I know this to be true.
We all get tested in life. We all make mistakes. When we do, many return to the comfort and conviction of faith. I am no different. As I said immediately after my proper resignation from Michigan football, any words or philosophies that in any way seek to underplay the immeasurable suffering and long-term economic and social inequities that hundreds of years of slavery and the Jim Crow era caused for Black Americans are wrong. I was wrong in giving breath to such an assertion. We must never sanitize explanations or philosophical bents that hindered or continue to hinder any of our fellow brothers and sisters.
Mistakes can make one better. That is my hope now. They can also be examples. I am one for you, the readers. No matter if you’re in football or farming, what you do online can impact you, good and bad, for the rest of your life. It can shoot you through a sliding door on a moment’s notice. In my case, a lifetime of promoting and elevating Black excellence via athletic opportunity can be threatened in an instant.
Learn this lesson. Learn my lesson. Even though they are ubiquitous in our lives, may caution and prudence become your guides with respect to social media, rather than impulse and indulgence.
In 1992, my mother died from adrenal cancer. Diagnosis to death was just nine months. But a death on social media can happen even faster.
After she died, our family, led by my father, dedicated itself to raising funds such that the University of Michigan might become a beacon to beat this disease. Today, people travel from around the world to benefit from the research and treatment in Ann Arbor.
Tragedy led to triumph.
May my mistake lead to the same for others, in ways big and small. May it help an individual who saves himself from headlines like mine. Or the millions of sports fans who recently learned of me, now reminded that the progress emanating from marches decades ago is not inexorable, but it should be.
My faith teaches me that when God blesses your entrance into this world, you ought to do everything you can to please him. Well, recently, I did not. Nor did I please her, as in my mom.
As both look down upon me, I take comfort in their forgiveness. I hope to evoke a similar degree of forgiveness from readers, because I have now been tested like never before, repenting, learning and letting them down never again.
Glenn “Shemy” Schembechler was an NFL scout for two decades, and is the son of former Michigan football coach Glenn “Bo” Schembechler.