Ford broke his ankle and gathered strength from Kipling's words.
"All the sudden, the money didn't mean that much to me,” Ford said. "But the power of the words stayed with me.”
Now in its second year, the boys are on their third poem. After conquering Theodore Roosevelt's "The Man in The Arena,” next up is Frost's poem.
"I want to show that they can be anything they want to be,” Mike Turpen said. "You can blend athletics and academics — you don't need to limit yourself. They can be modern Renaissance men.”
Seeing how balanced and well-rounded the boys are, Petersen asked to join the group earlier this year.
"This is an honor,” Petersen, a junior wide receiver, said.
The results are reflected on the gridiron, the classroom and everywhere else.
"I was really nervous before the first couple of games,” Bray said. "But the poem helped me relax and kept me focused.”
Vater appreciated Roosevelt's speech so much he had it put on the back of the McGuinness cross country T-shirt this year.
"When it's game time, it's easy to focus on the task at hand,” Ryan Randolph said. "But the power of the words is at practice. Those days when you just don't feel like going out there, but you do. And you still give it your best.”
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
— excerpt from "If”
Mike Turpen said it's these two lines that have driven him when things are tough. It's the same lines that Bray said speaks to him the most.
"It's such a strong message but a tough one to follow,” Bray said. "Don't get too high after a win and don't get too low after a loss — know that everything happens for a reason.”
Mike Turpen said while he mentors the group, Jack Randolph has become the unquestioned leader. He's the one the boys look up to, Turpen said.
"There's something special and pure about having something down to memory like this,” Jack Randolph said. "Not too long ago, I used the poem to help me study for a quiz. It can be used in ways that you just don't expect.”
And the boys have been tested at this. While at a Hornets game at the Ford Center, a stranger asked Bray if he was one of the boys in the poetry club. When Bray responded yes, the stranger asked for lines from the poem. With no hesitation, Bray recited the lines flawlessly.
Ford Price has used the poem for strength during a job interview.
But no one has a more unusual story than Ryan Randolph. While in traffic court for a seat belt infraction, the judge said he would waive the fine if Randolph could recite Kipling's poem.
Randolph started to when the judge told Ryan to turn around and say the poem to the audience.
"After something like that, practicing against Midwest City is nothing in comparison,” Randolph said.
Said Mike Turpen: "It's not just words — it's a life philosophy. These are not just boys – this is a brotherhood.”