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Ideas in the Wild: How Candler Cook is Using His Story as a College Football Walk-on to Inspire Other Dreamers

Candler Cook knows firsthand that dreams can come true — but only if you’re willing to fight for them. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, Candler decided at age seven that he wanted to play football for the University of Georgia. Despite being only a fourth-string linebacker on his high school squad, he remained laser-focused on his quest. Rejection […]

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Candler Cook knows firsthand that dreams can come true — but only if you’re willing to fight for them. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, Candler decided at age seven that he wanted to play football for the University of Georgia. Despite being only a fourth-string linebacker on his high school squad, he remained laser-focused on his quest. Rejection followed rejection, but he refused to give up, even when others insisted that he’d never make the team.

And after years of intensive workouts and grueling self-reinvention, Candler finally played his first football game for UGA — 1,543 days after he walked into the coach’s office and requested a tryout. Candler wrote his new book, From Underdog to Bulldog: My Journey as a College Football Walk-On, to share an inside look at SEC football; but more importantly, to offer a guidebook for anyone pursuing a seemingly unattainable goal. I sat down with Candler to figure out what inspired him to write the book and his favorite idea that he shares with readers.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

I knew I needed to write the book after mentoring my friend John through his journey to walk on to the University of Georgia football team, which is where I played. When John was going through his journey, I saw he was hitting some of the same obstacles I did and that passing along the knowledge and experiences I had could help him. There are a lot of lessons even outside of football that I learned from my journey, and I knew there had to people other than my friend John who could benefit from hearing it, so I decided to start writing the book.

I decided on a book instead of other forms of media because I think it’s the best way to share my story and make it relatable to the readers. I decided to write the book after John made the team and got to dress out for several games, because I knew there had to be more people out there that could learn from my experience as well.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

My favorite actionable idea is being open to try a new approach when facing a difficult obstacle. When I was cut from the team the second time and received the review sheet saying I was “a Division 3 football player at best,” I knew I couldn’t just keep trying harder at the same things in order to achieve my goal. I decided to take a step back and try something new: trying out for defensive end, which played to my strengths and thinned out the competition I was up against.

In order to do that, I had to adjust my mindset to be willing to let go of something I was familiar with (in this case, playing linebacker), and embrace the unknown of trying a different approach.

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?

Now, in my business career, I apply this lesson regularly. When going through the annual budgeting process as part of the finance team, my company had previously added a set percentage to expenses each year. As part of a larger transformation initiative, the company decided to implement zero based budgeting, which meant having to justify every expense instead of allowing the budget to grow every year.

While the process was an adjustment for the finance team and our business partners, this new approach lead to huge savings, all stemming from a willingness to try new ideas.

For more advice on chasing your seemingly unachievable dreams, you can find From Underdog to Bulldog: My Journey as a College Football Walk-On on Amazon.

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