By Ryan McGinnis
Agility is in the heart of every running back. It’s something a coach insistently, and oftentimes excessively, drills into a player’s mind from sunup until sundown. It’s one of many skills that are practiced with such discipline on the field that it carries near religious reverence; and the admiration for such repetitive mastery has an interesting proverbial nature that took a long time for Stefphon Jefferson, a former University of Nevada, Reno, running back (and one-time NFL hopeful) to realize. It’s insight he’s hoping to pass on to his son Luxton in the newly released children’s book he authored.
Writing “The Adventures of Luxton the World Changer” is something Jefferson as a teenager could never have imagined doing. His eyes were set on playing football professionally — a goal that was set early in high school, when hours of running shuffle drills, sweating and putting in hard work appeared to be paying off. He ran for over 2,800 yards in 2008, setting a Visalia, California, single-season record. The momentum led him to college football.
At UNR, Jefferson helped to keep pumping the adrenaline left behind from the Colin Kaepernick era, finishing second in the nation in rushing yards per game his junior year and breaking the previous school record.
But momentum can be struck down with short notice, even without a clear mistake present.
Jefferson’s own career stalled considerably after he furloughed his senior year to pursue an NFL draft pick. At the age of 22, he attended the Tennessee Titans’ rookie 2013 minicamp. However, he was released just a few weeks later.
Looking back and moving forward
Over Zoom call, seven years later, Jefferson described feeling blindsided by his own lack of preparedness entering the draft. The feeling presented itself in small ways, such as not understanding the motions of the playbook during an early practice with the Titans — something that should have certainly felt second nature to him.
Today, Jefferson is both critical and humble for not giving the opportunity his best effort. A huge part of his identity was shattered by not making it to the NFL. And while an outsider may easily reconcile Jefferson’s career loss given the unlikely statistical odds of playing for a professional team, there is something to be said about the unrelenting motivation of athletes — a motivation driven by an internal dialogue that Jefferson, in hindsight, knows he could have strengthened.
What wasn’t diminished, however, was his natural gift of agility. Jefferson took to setting new goals, finishing a masters degree in Educational Leadership and Administration at Saint Francis University.
Though, it wasn’t until a sermon at his local church some years after his draft attempt that a particular word stood out to Jefferson, at the time a soon-to-be father. The pastor emphatically stressed the word “oversight,” describing how one must dutifully assess their shortcomings, so that, in any fathomable sense, one can learn to overcome them — and to better yet, know them so painstakingly well that lived experiences can be turned into lessons and taught to others, particularly to children.
The homily struck a nerve. And Jefferson started writing.
“I thought to myself, ‘How can I gain wisdom?’” Jefferson said.
He decided the answer was through writing a book.
Parenting leads to inspiration
While beginning to write, Jefferson grew particularly interested in how his son, like most children, mimicked much of what he did. A new sense of parental maturity began to grow from understanding how his son was learning: by practice, not understanding.
“Kids pick up everything,” Jefferson said. “The hard work starts now if you want to have an impact.”
That was the spark which ignited Jefferson to turn his hastily written thoughts — which were first a vehicle to find oversight in his own life — into a series of lessons that Luxton could absorb through learning how to read. It’s the same kind of practice Jefferson dedicated most of his life toward on the field, only now the monotonous grind (only in the sense that reading is difficult for toddlers) strengthens the emotional muscles of children who need to tackle goals later in life.
The best part of any children’s book is that little needs to be said about the books themselves. They’re written simply for a reason.
This is a lesson learned particularly well after reading “The Adventures of Luxton the World Changer.” The greater appreciation is understanding why someone may write a story as such; all too often the reasons lie in wanting to teach a lesson that went unlearned from one generation and teach it thoroughly to the next.
A children’s book best deconstructs such an idea to its most basic meaning, so the soul of its grip is not lost in overthinking, doubt, or even obviousness. Children’s books teach us that moments of wisdom can be learned (surprisingly enough) by the youngest of listeners through repetition, because, while a children’s book may not be intellectually challenging, its simplicity builds a foundation for future understanding, especially for lessons that may only become harder to recognize with age.
They’re lessons that took Jefferson years to recognize, and even longer to master.
In a few pages, Luxton learns to find a gift and to pursue that passion with every nerve in his body. Though behind the ink, you’ll hear Jefferson’s own voice, reminding himself — now a happy husband, father and youth leader — of how lucky he is to find a second gift. Page by page he is reminded to never give up on becoming a youth leader.
“The Adventures of Luxton the World Changer” is available for purchase on Amazon. It’s the first of a series of books Jefferson plans to write as Luxton continues to grow up.