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Right advice on wrong end of horse

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By Greg Romberg

You never know when you’re going to have a life changing experience.
    Stories about both the untimely death of former CU and CSU track coach Jerry Quiller at the age of 69 and his funeral in the last couple of weeks reminded me of the impact Quiller had on my development in a way that I’m sure he never even realized.
I was on the track team my freshman year at CSU. I had a chemistry lab one afternoon that I just couldn’t seem to finish, and by the time I got done, I had missed track practice. Feeling incredibly guilty, I called Coach Quiller and said, “Coach, I’m sorry I didn’t make it to practice. I got wrapped up in a chemistry lab and couldn’t finish in time to get there.”
He didn’t say anything for a couple of seconds and then responded, “You horse’s posterior.” He didn’t actually say “posterior,” he used a one-syllable word that I assume wouldn’t make its way into a nice family newspaper! As I sat there in shock thinking that college sports were sure different than high school, Quiller suggested that before I went to dinner that I complete the workout that I would have done with the rest of the team if I’d made it to practice.
In a year with more adjustments and transitions than just about any other year of my life, those three simple words said to me that I was responsible for my own work and development. Just a couple of months later, I tore all the cartilage in my right knee playing intramural basketball and never ran in another track meet. But if I can point to one moment during my first year of college when it became clear to me that it was my responsibility to balance competing priorities and choose whether or not to reach down and find that little bit of extra to ensure success, it was probably when Jerry Quiller launched an expletive at me.
Our lives are full of experiences that have far greater influences on us than we could ever imagine when they happened. For me, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of family members, teachers, coaches, friends, bosses and co-workers on whom I’ve depended and whose words fill my head when it’s time to decide what to do and how to do it. My guess is that Jerry Quiller didn’t remember calling me a name the day after he did it, but more than 35 years later, at times when I think about taking the easy way out, I push forward so as not to be a horse’s posterior.
So, here’s to the people who, whether purposely or inadvertently, influenced us and to the people who we’ve influenced. We’re all in this together.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.