By: Jon Finkel

You might know Adam Carolla from The Man Show; or maybe you’re a fan of his wine cocktail, Mangria; but most likely you know him from his Guinness World Record breaking podcast. Where you never saw him was in a high school football playoff game, because, in Carolla’s own words, “Our team stunk.”

Carolla played linebacker and guard at North Hollywood High School in Southern California.

“We knew we were playing in a pretty good league and we knew we were going to lose, but that never stopped us from trying to win,” Carolla says. “To be honest, I always found it motivational. I knew we were going to lose to Canoga Park or Van Nuys, but my mindset was that I wanted to whip the guy in front of me the whole game.”

His mental toughness came from, of all things, riding the pine his sophomore year.

“I sat on the bench in the tenth grade and it was very humbling,” he says. “I dedicated myself to being a starter after that. I had to work very hard to overcome whatever physical shortcomings that I had. When I finally made varsity it felt great, but most games we ventured into we knew we were going to lose.”

Carolla says that since team victories were so few and far between, he chose to motivate himself personally by taking each play as if it was an individual battle.

“It is a team sport, but I wanted to walk away feeling like I won my battle while the other guy felt like he lost his. It was a personal victory for me,” he says.

But Carolla did have some standout moments with his teammates, one of which followed what he considers his most memorable high school football sequence.

“We managed to win one game against Hollywood High School. At the end of the game, they were punting and I got called for roughing the kicker and my teammates were not happy,” he says. “Everyone’s looking at me because we thought we were getting the ball back and now they still have it. It was a long walk back to the ball for everyone on our team. But on the following play I intercepted the ball. That was a great feeling because I had screwed up, but after the interception all was forgiven.”

Adam and RayIn contrast to his high school team, Carolla grew up in the shadow of some great University of Southern California squads, so he watched players like Ricky Bell and Pat Haden when he could. On the NFL front, he hated the Pittsburgh Steelers and loved the Los Angeles Rams.

“I loved Jack Youngblood and Jim Youngblood,” he says. “Two guys with the last name Youngblood on the same team. What are the odds of that?”

But even more than the on-field play, Carolla loved the meritocracy aspect of the game that promoted grit and work ethic.

“Playing football taught me a lot about discipline and teamwork,” he says. “I learned about being humble and being able to swallow your pride and get to work. I learned about pushing through pain and the delayed gratification that the two-a-days we did in one hundred degree heat would pay off in a game months away. The lessons about teamwork and overcoming adversity that come with football are really strong.”

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*Originally published on FootballMatters.org