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Former NFL star Ty Law says the key to success is to 'bet on yourself'

Former player Ty Law off the New England Patriots is recognized in a halftime ceremony during a game against the  New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on October 16, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Jim Rogash | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
Former player Ty Law off the New England Patriots is recognized in a halftime ceremony during a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on October 16, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist Ty Law had an impressive career. Throughout his 15 seasons in the NFL, the former New England Patriots cornerback notched three Super Bowl wins and has been called one of the greatest defensive backs of all time.

In retrospect, his success came down to confidence, Law says. "If you take anything from this," he writes in a letter addressed to his younger self on The Players' Tribune, "let it be these three words: Bet on yourself."

Growing up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, Law says, he learned early on that he had to be disciplined if he wanted to play football in college. In high school, he spent his nights running while his friends went out drinking. He saved his allowance so that he could spend his summers training instead of working.

"That will seem like a big sacrifice at the time, but let me ask you something: Would you rather have money to take a girl to McDonald's tomorrow, or be rich for the rest of your life?" he writes.

Deferring gratification and training hard paid off. Law signed with the University of Michigan, even though people in his neighborhood expected him to stay in Pennsylvania, as fellow Aliquippa natives Mike Ditka and Sean Gilbert had done.

He remembers thinking that people would doubt his ability to stand out on a team as esteemed as Michigan. And when he got to college, he says, he realized the people in charge didn't think he was starter material. When they wanted to redshirt him, he challenged his coaches, he says, and rode "that chip on [his] shoulder to a starting spot as a true freshman."

When he decided to leave college after his junior year and enter the NFL draft so he could earn money to help his grandfather, Law again refused to listen to those who told him his best prospect was as a third-round pick.

Law put in the work, including going for "midnight runs" and "nonstop training," he says. His perseverance worked: Law was drafted by the New England Patriots in the first round as the twenty-third pick overall.

"They were all wrong — your coaches, the people who make up those NFL projections … everybody," he says to his younger self. "Everybody but you."

So, he writes, don't worry about what other people think: "When you see those NFL projections, you'll look at all the corners they have ranked higher than you, and you'll know that you're better than every damn one of them."

Because he stood up for himself when others doubted him, and because he kept working hard and stayed focused on his goals, he became a millionaire and forged a place for himself in NFL history.

As he reminds his younger self, "Bet on yourself… Believe me. If you do, you'll win."

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