Carl Ceder, Attorney at Law - Sports Enthusiast

Original Interview link located here:

Carl David Ceder is a life-long sports enthusiast who has been involved in sports almost his entire life. From the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Carl Ceder talks about his passion for sports, in particular for football, his family heritage, and the benefits of leading an active life.

You’ve been raised in a family that loved sports. What are your first recollections?

There is a video of me when I was about 3-years old.  I don’t remember my father making this video, but it is quite funny.  In it, he interviews me.  When he does, he asks me what my “daddy does for a living.” I respond by saying “he runs, and runs, and runs, and runs!” You can hear my dad laugh, and he gently asks what I mean by this.  In my 3-year old mind, my response was then to cheer for the team he was coaching at the time (the Reagan Raiders) – by exclaiming “Yay Reagan! Yay Reagan! Yay Reagan!”   Simply put, sports were a part of my life before even before my first recollection.

My parents also tell a story where, at about the same age, at one of my dad’s football games my mother lost track of where I was.  She said she looked all over in the stands for me, and after some period of time, one of the other coaches wives (or perhaps the parent of a player), pointed down to the field, and said “there he is!”  My father was holding me in his arms while calling plays from the sidelines onto the field. Suffice to say I think he was winning the game pretty handily, but this also illustrates how I was raised around athletics even before I formed my first memory.  My mom also likes to tell the story of how I was wrapped in a Reagan Raider towel (the team my father coached for) when I was brought home from the hospital after being born.

Another fond memory that I do recall was a ritual that I used to perform with one of my brothers when we were very young.  We loved all of the Sylvester Stallone “Rocky” movies growing up.  I’m pretty sure this was the first movie I saw. In one of the Rocky movies, there is a montage training scene that he undergoes after his wife, Adrian, wakes up from a coma and tells him simply to “win.” Rocky then undergoes a variety of exercises where he trains to music for his upcoming fight with Apollo Creed. Whenever this scene would come on and when Rocky would begin to train, my brother and I would gather any and all household items that we could, especially those that may resemble things that Rocky uses in the movie during his regimen to train for the fight.  We would mimic everything that Rocky did on screen, running throughout the house to the Rocky music, as if we were also training for an upcoming boxing match. It is a very fond memory for me, and I don’t know what instilled the desire for us to want to do this, but I can remember doing it on numerous occasions…and loving it. For whatever reason, we wanted to train to be a triumphant as Rocky would ultimately be in the movie.  We loved Rocky Balboa, and everything he represented. I think me, and my brothers, carried over this mentality into the real world when we all started to compete in various arenas.

What did you learn from your father?

My father is perfectionist.  He is perhaps the most intense person I have been around, and he puts his entire heart into any job he undertakes.  This was no exception with coaching football.  He wore his heart on his sleeve, he put everything he had into it, and approached his entire life by trying to give his best to the jobs that are tasked to him. As a result, when coaching, his players all seemed to feed off of his intensity, and extreme and meticulous work ethic.

My father was always authentic, and is the most unselfish human being I know.  He never tried to win games for his own vanity or his own glorification, or so he could tout his win-loss record.  He did, simply put, for the players he coached. If you played hard for one of my dad’s team – you always would have a very special place in his heart, even to this day.

He was a very passionate person when coaching, much like Dick Vermeil was, and I can remember him being so distraught and overcome with emotion at times he would tear up and cry.  He did this with complete authenticity, and with transparency, and not because he was trying to put on a show.  This kind of emotion, and his heartfelt desire to try hard for the players he coached, made them play harder for him than I have ever seen kids play for other coaches. His last year as a Head Football coach, he was a bit short on talent, to say the least.  But I can remember how much mileage he got out of them – and it was because he gave everything he had to them, and because he did, they did the same in return.  I have seen and viewed many coaches over the years that can’t seem to get hardly any mileage out of superior athletic talent.  This was never, ever the case for my father.

As a result, I have tried to approach the tasks I have tried accomplish in the same fashion, focus, and intensity. I am not my father, but I know I would be a better human being if I had more of his attributes.  Through him I have directly seen hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and total devotion to a craft. There has been no better example set by a father for a son.  I hope someday he will be as proud of me, as I always have been of him.

What sports did you play as a child and later on in your teens?

The first sport I played was baseball.  I was pretty decent at the sport, but I quit earlier than most other kids my age from my neighborhood.  Baseball bored me – there simply was not enough action. I never liked waiting in the field for something to happen.  You are lucky to do something a couple of times a game playing the field (infield/outfield) – unless you are a catcher.  I did play catcher back then, as it was the only position that could hold my attention for any length of time.  But I just didn’t have the desire to put the time into the sport that was needed.

I always wanted to play football.  My father showed us videos of great players he loved watching play from earlier than I can remember. He would show highlight films of games he coached, and he would always point out with pride the players who seemed to excel above their talent level.  Guys that were too small, too short, too slow, etc. – but who still seemed to manage to play better than others with much more talent and ability.  That was always the mark of a great player to us – those whose play exceeded the talent given to them by God. 

I was an under-sized player for much of my career when playing football, and I was far from the fastest player on the field.  I can say with 100% candor now, looking back, that I was never afraid of contact, or afraid to play with physical aggression. Also, when the lights came on for game-time, I don’t know that there was a more intense player on the field on either team. I am a quiet person by nature, but I think my fellow players gave me respect because of the intensity I showed when playing.  I remember during one game, during my Senior season in High School, I caught a pass on offense, and was doing my best to intimidate the other team, and was orally trying my best to rally our squad to perform better to win the game. It was at a point when morale was low – but I did not want to accept defeat or mediocre play.  I remember, almost as a reaction, challenging the other players in the huddle after my catch.  Their intensity level immediately rose, and I can remember our center, saying with complete sincerity, “Carl definitely gets the spirit award.” This was how I always tried to approach each game, and each play I was able to compete in.  I wasn’t normally your typical “rah, rah” player during practice, or during team meetings – but I do know that when I strapped on my equipment, I was always ready to play.

I also boxed for a time during my high school years, mainly to help get in physical shape for football.  I believe there is no other sport that is as pure as boxing is. It is one on one, and to be any good, you have to master not only the physical aspects of the sport, but the mental aspects as well. There is no other physical activity that is more exhausting than a round of boxing, much less an entire boxing match.

Also, because of the nature of the sport, you put your entire self, and manhood, on physical display when you step into a ring. That alone takes guts, courage, and strength, in my opinion. Most people also don't know how much skill is involved with boxing.  Boxing is not unlike a chess match, you have to try and figure out the best way to approach your opponent.  You can’t just get in the ring and try to punch it out. You have to be smart, as well as tough and physically strong.  I think that is why it is the purest sport of all – because you can rely on nobody else but yourself in the ring.  It is a wonderful sport, and if I did not have trouble keeping weight on for football, I would have devoted more time to it.  You burn a ton of calories during boxing training – and this was counter-intuitive in many ways to my goals in football (which were also to make significant gains in strength and size).

Which sport personalities influenced you the most?

Without a doubt, Vince Lombardi is the sport personality that has influenced me the most.  I have many of the Vince Lombardi quotes on my website, and sometimes read them when I need motivation. I have a large picture of Vince Lombardi in my office with his speech written “What It Takes to Be Number One.”

Even though I am a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan, Vince Lombardi stands in a category by himself. He was the perfect embodiment of an individual who expected and demanded perfection out of his players, and because he led by example, he was able to get everything he had from those he coached.  If you read some of the Lombardi quotes and you do not get goose bumps, or if you cannot find a way to apply the meaning of them to your own life, or profession, in some way or another, then something is  significantly wrong.  There will never be another Vince Lombardi, ever.

Have you benefited from this passion for sports in your law practice? 

I have benefited from my passion for sports in my law practice because I was taught from a very young age to try and excel at whatever you set out to achieve, no matter what the odds are against you. In the practice of law, especially with criminal defense, it is very much an adversarial process.  You compete in many ways, and on many levels.  You certainly complete when you conduct jury trials, and in my opinion, it is the most analogous profession to competing in sports that there is.

What would you say to people who claim not to have time for sports?

I believe all young adults should engage in some form of competitive activity.  I think it serves as the best foundation and cornerstone for teaching the fundamentals of life. Regardless of what path or direction an individual takes with their life, they will encounter hardship.  There is no better way to learn how to undertake dealing with difficult times in life, than by participating in competitive activity. As life goes on, and as people age, this participation level my wane a bit. But if you learn how to compete from a young age – you can apply these principles to whatever professional and career you embark on later in life. 

In your opinion, is there a correlation between an active life outdoor and being a successful professional?

As I get older, I try my best to undertake physical activities that stimulate my body to keep my mind in peak mental condition.  I believe trying to stay in good physical condition helps to maintain a sharp and acute mind.  I have the perspective that if one just merely plods along in life, and doesn’t try hard to achieve at something – what is life really about?

Lombardi said:

“…I've never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn't appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.”

Even during times when I cannot find time to engage in competitive activity, I am an avid sports enthusiast.  I love watching, reading, and discussing sports on the professional, collegiate, and high school levels.  Even at the professional level, I find that there is something innately beautiful in the reality that, regardless of how much an athlete or a coach may earn as a salary, they still must apply the core fundamentals of what it takes to achieve success. In football, you still have to have discipline, intensity, a strong work ethic, and a desire to master and perfect the core fundamentals of the sport: passing, catching, blocking, running, tackling, etc.  I think there is something inherently great, and specific to sports, that you still must focus on the little things to achieve success, even if you make millions engaging in the activity.  I don’t necessarily think the same is true of Wall Street executives, or Fortune 500 CEO’s. You still have to be willing to master the small things, and devote everything you have with athletic competition, for one to achieve success, regardless of how much athletic prowess one may have.  To me, that is perhaps the most beautiful and unique thing about the nature of sports.