When the Pressure’s On, Stay Loose

by Jim Denney, adapted from
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions

Bob Griese quarterbacked the Miami Dolphins to three consecutive Super Bowl appearances, including two victories (VII and VIII), and an undefeated season in 1972. Twenty-five years later, Bob’s son, Brian Griese, led the Michigan Wolverines to an undefeated season and a win over Washington State in the Rose Bowl. Today, Brian is a color commentator for ESPN College Football. I interviewed Bob and Brian just a few months after Brian’s Rose Bowl win. 


L to R: Brian Griese, Jim Denney, Bob Griese, in North Carolina

We sat in the study of Bob’s golf villa in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. As we talked, Bob and Brian told me about the father-son discussion they had in a Pasadena restaurant, just a few days before the Rose Bowl.

Bob told his son that day, “There’s no pressure on you. You’ve gotten to where you want to be. Now just go out there and have fun.”

“I’m gonna have fun, Pops,” Brian replied, “but I’m also gonna win the Rose Bowl.”

“I wanted Brian to stay loose,” Bob told me. “I didn’t want him feeling a lot of extra pressure just because it was a big bowl game. I told him to approach the Rose Bowl like any other game of the season. If he did that, I knew he’d be okay. I said, ‘The Rose Bowl is just a football field like any other. It’s a hundred yards long and fifty yards wide. You don’t have to throw the ball any different than you’ve been throwing all year.’”

Brian took his old man’s advice. He stayed loose. He had fun. And despite throwing an early interception, Brian led the Wolverines to a 21-16 comeback victory over Washington State. It was Michigan’s first national title in fifty years. Brian went on to succeed the fabled John Elway as starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos.


Bob Griese, quarterback, Purdue University, in 1967. Photo: public domain.

Brian always had the most fun when things were tough. “Sometimes I set up to throw,” he told me, “and all of a sudden this big lineman’s paw comes outta nowhere and rakes across my facemask. Right then, the pressure is intense and I have to make some crucial decisions. The pocket is collapsing, and the defensive line is charging—but that’s what makes it fun.

“One time we were losing to Ohio State. I subbed in after our starting quarterback was hurt. I knew the Ohio State defense was tough, but over-anxious. They were thinking, Griese is just a backup quarterback. We’ll chew him up and spit him out. I mean, they would have loved to get in there and bury me. So I thought, Fine, let’s have some fun with this.

“Anytime a defensive lineman or a linebacker blitzes, he comes at you so fast that any little move you make, man, he’s going to fly right past you—and it makes them look terrible. And it’s funny! I’d say to them, ‘Hey, you’ve got to learn to lay back, man, because you’ll never get me that way.’ And they’d say, ‘I’ll get you next time, Griese! Next time I’m coming from your back side!’ But they didn’t get me. I just kept having fun with them, and by the end of the game, we’d won it.

“There was a game against Iowa in Michigan Stadium, and I really struggled in the first half. I threw three interceptions, and Iowa got two touchdowns off those interceptions. At halftime, we were down 21 to 7. When we came out to play the second half, Coach Carr took me aside and said, ‘This team is depending on you, Brian. They’re looking to you for leadership. So have fun out there—but bring us back.’ So we went out there and had some fun. First thing we did, we went right down the field, a 67-yard, eight-play drive that ended in a touchdown. After that, I was fine. And we won the game.

“To win, you have to be confident—and confidence comes from not taking things too seriously. When I play football, I know I can play this game. I never think, What if I make a mistake? I look at it this way: It’s just a game. I’m going to go out and have fun. That takes the pressure off. Sure, you’ve gotta be serious about winning, and your teammates have to know you’re serious—but at the same time, you have to have fun in order to be cool and calm and not get rattled in the pressure situations.”

That’s great advice for any endeavor—whether in sports or writing or the performing arts or business or ministry. Yes, approach what you do with a serious desire to compete, to do your best, to excel. But don’t forget to have fun. When the pressure is on, when the pocket is collapsing and your opponent is blitzing you, don’t panic. Instead, loft a quick prayer for wisdom and boldness—then enjoy the adventure. 

If you have fun at what you do, you can’t help but succeed. True success means accepting the challenge God has called you to and joyfully living the adventure of faith.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24


Answers-SoulANSWERS TO
Clear, Straight Answers to 20 of Life’s Most Perplexing Questions
by Jim Denney 

(Kindle Edition: $2.99)

“Read this book and save yourself a lifetime of searching and wondering. The answers you seek are all right here!”
Jack Canfield, author of Dare to Win and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series

“Grab an arm-load of Answers to Satisfy the Soul! Buy one for yourself, one to lend out, and a dozen to give as gifts. You’ve got a lot of friends who need this book!”
Pat Williams, author of Character Carved in Stone

“If you are on a quest for success, happiness, love, meaning, or God, this book is for you. Whatever you seek in life, Answers to Satisfy the Soul will speed you on your journey.”
John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

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2 Responses to When the Pressure’s On, Stay Loose

  1. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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