By Luke Robinson
Justin Clayton is an everyday guy. Standard height. Very nice. Hardworking. Unassumingly funny. Fantastic friend. Maybe he needs a liiiiittle self tanner, but it’s not a big deal. He is a tech wiz and videographer extraordinaire; he videoed my wedding for Pete’s sake. Overall, though, he’s your average twentysomething.
So you probably understand that when he was approached via vague email by Coosa Middle School to be a motivational speaker to its students, Justin was a little miffed. “Lil’ ole me? A motivational speaker?” he most assuredly thought. “Why, I am just a regular dude!”
Like any of us, Justin has apprehensions about public speaking. He has been behind the camera countless times. He once worked for Lee Marketing in Alex City and he now does various video work for Russell Lands on Lake Martin. But being in front of a huge crowd telling his own personal story and segueing that into a motivational speech? That was terrifying.
But Justin is a good guy. He looked upon this request as a chance to conquer his fears. As Homer Simpson once taught us, the Chinese have the same word for “crisis” as they do “opportunity;” that word, of course, is “crisis-tunity” (not really, but that’s what Homer said.) Anyhoo, Justin responded to the Coosa inquiry in a positive way and exchanged several more correspondences. The two parties decided on a date for the speaking and Justin began his preparations.
Justin immersed himself in the practice of motivational teachings. He stayed up into the wee hours in deep thought on the subject. He watched videos. He read great speeches. He rented Hoosiers. In Rocky 4-esque fashion, Justin rented a cabin in the Soviet Union and physically trained in the snowy tundra for months just to be prepared to tackle his fears head on.
Finally, the big day arrived. Speech day. The day that would transform an average Joe into a modern day Coosa County Tony Robbins. As he exited his Dodge Avenger in the middle school parking lot, Justin looked into his rearview mirror. He peered deep into his own eyes and confidently said, “You got this.” He slammed his car door and began slowly walking toward the school. Trumpets were playing (in his head). Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dunta-
There were several teachers there to greet Justin. They were oddly all donning No. 21 Auburn jerseys and were suspiciously looking over his shoulder, but he barely noticed. All he could see now were those tiny impressionable faces seated cross-legged anxiously awaiting the inspirational giant that was he.
Justin set up his slideshow—Holla! Power Point in da house!—Sure, a few kids yelled, “War Eagle” at him before each click (and that was a little weird), but no biggie. Justin is an Auburn fan and maybe some of these kids did a little research on him beforehand.
Despite the random distractions, Justin had it all set up beautifully. “Core values THIS!” “Four points to achieving goals THAT!” He was verbally lambasting the crowd with “You can do it!” clichés so fast that he was sure this particular group of fourth graders was ready to run through walls just to excel in life and work and stuff! Motivation? Man, Justin had it covered.
Then, in a flash of sweat and can-do attitude, the speech was done. Justin, with arms agape as if to say, “Follow my lead, my children,” stoically and triumphantly surveyed the awe-struck crowd before confidently closing his laptop and packing his gear. A smile was permanently tattooed on his chalky white face (not that you’d notice because of lack of contrast. Again, the self-tanner thing and all.)
With his equipment packed safely back in his Avenger, Justin turned to give his new flock a final goodbye. The lady who had initially contacted Justin via email had luckily followed him to the car. “No surprise, right?” Justin thought to himself. “After a speech like that, I’d better get used to followers!”
Then, in an inquisitive moment, Justin asked the Coosa school rep, “Just curious…Why did you choose me, of all people, to do this speech?” Justin’s inflated sense of ego answered the question before she could speak: “Why Justin! You know it had to be your unmitigated success or charming personality or devastating good loo—”
Unfortunately, the honest lady interrupted Justin’s ego with, “We thought you were Eltoro.” Yes, that Eltoro. Eltoro Freeman. The former Auburn linebacker who wore No. 21 on the National Championship winning team of 2010. The physically imposing business man behind the successful Reputation On The Line apparel (eltorofreeman.com). It seems Justin, who once worked on Eltoro’s ROTL website, still has an email associated there. Coosa used the site to contact whom they thought was Eltoro. And since no mention was ever made of Eltoro in the emails, no one caught on.
It was just Justin. The same Justin who, upon returning to work after a deflating car ride, would realize he left his laptop in the Coosa gym, which was now 35 miles away. Take solace though, Justin; you can use this story in your next speaking engagement. Your new motivational theme can be, “With just a little hard work (and a lot of confusion), you too can be Eltoro Freeman!”