A hot tear rolled down my cheek as I worked to straighten my twisted frown and fake a shred of composure. I had told myself I wasn’t going to cry.

I saw a wince dance across Coach Miles’ face as his eyes began to redden, as well. I stared into the watering gaze of a man who saw glimpses of his own daughter in my eyes. A man who recognized there was going to be no easy way to deliver any verdict.

It had been 18 months since the day I felt a stirring in my heart to begin an uphill, unexpected journey.  I wanted my life to matter. Not just in the big-picture, but on a day-to-day basis. I was tired of living comfortably and making safe decisions. I wanted to risk it all. I wanted to have an impact. I wanted to live boldly. In asking God how He planned for me to do so, I received an unexpected answer.


There’s hardly a sports tv network, radio station, or social media site that hasn’t covered bits and pieces of my story since the day a few reporters caught me training with the football team at the indoor facility. We had worked so hard to keep my endeavor under wraps. For months and months I had trained–in conjunction with training and competing through my senior soccer season at LSU–with the permission and encouragement of the LSU Football coaches, the guidance of the players, and the care of the trainers. But 6 months into my preparation the cat was out of the bag, and the fire-storm commenced.

With the media attention came the interest. With the interest came the divided opinion. With the divided opinion came every sports-lover’s overwhelming and adamant input into my motives, my ability, my strengths, my weaknesses, my intentions, my faith, my past, my present, my future, and the fact that I had a sports bra strapped to my chest rather than a jock strap between my thighs. In conjunction with the LSU Athletic Administration crew, we worked to hyper-selectively pick through hundreds and hundreds of media requests to handle the necessary evil of addressing the endeavor publicly. We agreed on a handful of outlets and I gave a few interviews, then got back to work. From that point forward, media stations aired, re-aired and shared my story and the nation began to pick apart, evaluate, and dig deeper into all they were convinced they knew about “Mo Isom: the girl trying to play football at LSU”.  All the while, Mo Isom, the girl trying to play football at LSU, was simply doing just that. Warmly accepted and gradually respected by the 100+ young men who suit up on Saturday nights.  Practicing and perfecting a newly-learned kicking form. Studying the game and studying the quirks of the specialist position.  I think the hype of the college football culture in our country often blinds people to the reality that we are just a bunch of kids–navigating our way through college classes, fumbling through the highs and lows of relationships, and ultimately playing the sports we love for the schools we’re awfully proud to represent. I fit right in with my gridiron brothers–there was nothing unique or outrageous that divided us. We were all athletes working our hardest to push ourselves beyond the limit of “normal”. My pursuit of a football career was no different.

The AC hummed as Coach Miles slowly crafted his words. There was a mutual understanding that hung thick in the room. A mutual respect. He knew all I had been through–it was an unspoken reality that demanded respect, for the commitment alone. He knew of my personal journey–the suicide of my father, the horrific car accident–he knew of my recovery, of my unflinching commitment to live life unchained by my adversities. He knew all that I had voluntarily, physically endured for 18 months–the 3-a-days, the strict nutritional regimen, the weight-training program, the injuries, the rehabilitation, the countless hours on my own. He knew that I had navigated the obstacles of being a woman in a man’s environment–that there had never been issue, never been controversy, and that the team respected me and accepted me. He knew that I had handled the media carefully, that I had garnered support from thousands, as well as faced scrutiny and degradation by uninformed, yet overly-confident, outsiders. He knew all of those things. And I knew that he had a difficult decision to make. I knew he had given me a fair opportunity–an open door and open access to his facilities, his coaches, his equipment, and his program.  I knew he had faced scrutiny as well and, likely, a little distraction in the process. I knew that he had a unique situation on his hands and that he had never complained, asked me to leave, or discouraged my goal.  He had always encouraged me, always supported me, and always granted me the opportunity to give my dream my best shot.

He had also always been honest with me. That final day, sitting in his office, was no exception.  It was not easy news to hear, as I’m sure it was not easy news to deliver. After 18 months of effort, nobody wants to hear a “no”. But a “no” was the final verdict. And I had to hold my head high, though my brow quivered and my face grew hot and speckled.

As thoughts and emotions swirled through my mind, I worked to process all that I was feeling. Coach Miles continued to talk, and while I was trying desperately to listen and process his words, I found myself zoomed out of my circumstance and overwhelmed by the weight of  the “no.”

No. Though I could strike 53 yard field goals, there were other guys already on the roster who could do the same.

No. Though I was consistent, accurate, and conditioned, there was not room or need for another specialist that particular season.

No. Though I had worked for a year and a half, extended my college education into the Graduate program, and perfectly structured my course load moving forward, I would not be competing for another fall.

No. Though the nation was on edge waiting to hear the result–though I wanted to prove all those who believed in me right, and disprove all those who had doubted and degraded me–the story was at its end.

No.  Though I believed that God had specifically called me to pursue this goal–the final verdict was NO.


In the weeks that followed, I found myself confused, agitated, anxious, and depressed. All I had invested in for a year and a half was stripped away. All I had been driven by and motivated towards was an illusion. Not only was I not on the team, I was no longer a student-athlete. My eligibility was done. My college career was over. I questioned what more I could have done, I replayed every step and every kick from my tryout. All that I had planned for in the year to come was lost. I questioned Coach Miles, I questioned the motives of the decision, I questioned whether I had ever really had a chance at all. I questioned the system. I had seen how things truly worked from the inside, and I questioned the process. I grieved over the loss of my dream. I grieved over my failure.  I grieved over the “no”.

Time and time again I was drawn back to the same exasperated and frustrated question. “God, I believed that You specifically called me to this chapter of life. Was I mistaken all along? Was I just waisting my time? Am I the fool? Were those who doubted me right? If You called me to take on this challenge, and You saw how diligently and passionately I worked towards it in Your name–always giving You the glory–wasn’t it in Your will for me to ultimately make the team?”

And for the second time in a month, I was hit with the most rattling, course-altering answer…”NO.”

The resounding “no” that was now echoing in my heart gradually pushed out the doubt, anger, and resentment that had been brooding.  This “no” was humbling, precise, and revelatory.  It drew me to a realization of reality that I suppose I was intended to learn, all along. “No” is not a word of dismissal, it is a word of direction.

I was called to listen to God’s leading, take on the challenge He presented me, and passionately pursue the goal He set, in Christ’s name.  I was never assured of the result. Would I have been as willing to take on as crazy, vulnerable, and challenging a feat had I known there was a closed door at the end of it all? No. Yet God had reason for every step of my journey. Was it up to me to worry about whether those who had doubted me were arrogantly walking around with the false presumption that they had been right all along and knew all the details of the situation? No. Their hearts and their humility were in God’s hands. Was I a fool for having tried and having believed in myself? No. I was strengthened, nourished, and matured through the process. Was I a failure for having received a “no”? No. The success was not in the outcome, but in the steps of faith it took to complete the journey.

It is time for us to begin listening to God’s call in our lives and responding. His direction is going to look different in every single one of our journeys. We often have this narrow-minded and presumptuous misunderstanding that God can’t use us on a day-to-day basis unless He is using us in an extreme way. But God yearns to use us daily–in every form, fashion, and function.  Do not box God into the ways you think He can and can’t use you.  He works across a spectrum, so far beyond our understanding, to align each of our steps with perfect purpose.  His call in your life is going to be something tailored to exactly who you are–through your strengths, your talents, and your design. Allow Him to stir your heart and guide your steps.

It is not up to you to fully grasp the outcome before you ever commit to the challenge. It is not up to you to worry or stress about the elements of the process you cannot control. It is simply up to you to move forward and to trust in God’s provision and direction–knowing along the way you are bound to hit big and small “NO’s.” But that “No” is not a word of dismissal, it is a word of direction.


23 thoughts on “NO.

  1. I have truly enjoyed watching you over the past few years while you were at LSU. I especially enjoyed the “Meaux vs. ” videos! They were absolutely hilarious! And of course I was amazed at your soccer skills. All of these things kept me intrigued to keep up with your achievements even more but your REAL life experiences are what I am truly amazed by. You’re one of the very few athletes who are not ashamed to profess your love for God in the eye of the media world. Your heartbreaking story about your father and then the news about your tragic car accident were two events that would devestate most people and cause them to give up on life but you kept your faith and emerged victorious over life’s trials. I, along with the entire nation, rooted for you to make the football team and was sad to learn it didn’t happen. Your perserverence was so inspiring. Imagine all of the young girls who will use your story to motivate them to challenge themselves to do what they will be told they can’t do! You are a beautiful and talented young woman and you have truly left an everlasting mark on your fans and LSU. I WISH YOU THE BEST AND GOD BLESS YOU!

  2. Very inspiring as always. Having survived 54 years in this old world, each time I read about you, I am truly amazed at the depth of spirituality for a person as young as yourself. You are truly an inspiration! God bless you Mo!

  3. A friend…that happens to be a pastor….sent me your story because it made him think of me….I didn’t tryout for LSUs football team but I quit my job as a pharmeutical sales rep to travel Europe for 4 months with the thought that it would help me do Gods will in my life….ultimately I came home with no new direction and somewhat disappointed…and then my youngest daughter was involved in a horrible car accident….I am now helping her recover from her injuries….Like you heard “Football”….I heard “go”….and have had to learn that the outcome of my journey is not anymore in my control than the journey itself…..Thank you for your story….and reminding me that God’s purpose and timing are perfect.

  4. I’ve missed you Mo, hope you had a safe journey home, glad you’re writing again and look forward to readining your blog again. I’m glad you are taking time to understand you and God’s purpose for you but more importantly sharing it with the rest of us trying to do the same in our own lives.

  5. Mo, your story is inspiring and heartfelt. As a soon-to-be-collegebound-senior who has bled purple and gold since he was old enough to understand sports, you are a shining example of how and what to do with yourself and your life, your time and your faith – especially through college. You may have never seen the field under the Saturday night lights as the kicker you strove to be, but you know what? You made your mark anyway. Rock. On.

  6. I really needed to hear your story today Mo because I too have been struggling to see God’s plan in my current day to day actions. I just moved across the country following God’s direction and I haven’t seen anything fall into place yet, and I am just questioning His reasoning and my purpose for moving to Baltimore.


  7. It absolutely amazes me how much God has already used you. It also astounds me how much you have heard God’s call and have been so blindly obedient. You are an incredible example and inspiration for all of us…..and at your age….. incomprehensible…… Thank you!!! God Bless You!!!

  8. Mo,
    Your 18 months in my mind was much bigger than being on a football team, although I really wanted you to be on the team. I wanted to see you out there. As a life long Tiger, I wanted you to score a touchdown on a fake field goal against Alabama ! But what I see is that your efforts provided you a platform to deliver your story that has touched more lives than you will ever know until we are on the other side of Glory. I am a dad whose dad committed suicide and your story came to me when I was going through a difficult chapter and your story made me stop and realize that tough times are only temporary and God always gets us through. Today I feel sorrow for my Dad and yours because they missed so much. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for making a difference.

  9. Thank you for this insite on the word “no”. I am going through a separation and a possible divorce. After being married for 35 years, I have prayed, begged and pleaded for God to change my husband’s mind about his “girlfriend”. Five months have passed with no positive steps toward reconciliation. Just last night I lay in my bed so angry at my husband and at God that I mentally told them both I just don’t care anymore and I was closing the door on both of them. You just gave me a small bit of encouragement to ask God’s forgiveness and to seek the direction that my “no” will take me. God Bless You.

  10. Mo, you are a remarkable young lady. You have received a great gift…….the ability to see a bigger picture. Your dad would be proud. God Bless!

  11. Mo, you’ve been such an encouragement to me over the past year as I’ve taken a much smaller but similarly wholehearted leap of faith that didn’t pan out like I thought it would. I’m still feeling a little punk’d but also still believing that it’s never a bad idea to act on a conviction, even if the end result looks different than expected. Thanks so much for sharing this post and for being who you are! Keep leaping! 🙂

  12. What an inspiring story. I have two daughters and will print this out for them to read. There are numerous lessons here for them. God bless you.

  13. Wow! You have a wonderful talent in writing. Your story is very inspirational. I have a daughter getting married in 2 days and I will pass it to her. Thanks for sharing your story. God Bless You.

  14. Mo, don’t know you but I have the privilege of helping young people discover their destiny. I’ve learned that if you learn to accept the “no” in life, you’ll be ready for the “yes”. I’m personally encourage as I contemplate my own “no” from the Lord and I want to thank you for sharing your story. You may want to think about writing, you have a gift. I read a lot and don’t say that to many. Your emotions and passions come thru your words, I could ‘feel’ what you were saying. That’s a gift.

    • What a great letter. YES, you are way more mature than your age. YES God is using you by allowing you to write this beautiful piece. YES we see God in your writing. YES you should be very proud of your accomplishment even if the answer was No. YES you were the winner in this tryout because it is obvious you’ve made GOD’s TEAM. Thanks for the story. God Bless You. Coachdwb

  15. My dear sister-in-the-Lord we actually met during your sophmore year when we were both at the BRPD station for some paperwork filing; I believe yours had to do with a stolen bike or motorbike. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt thoughts especially re “NO” being direction. For a while as God walked me through the beginnings of my Christian counseling career, I would believe I had “it” figured out re where He was directing me, and then would come some form of “NO”. Each time I was reminded that it really was our every day living for Him, by His Strength, and with His Wisdom that mattered. That Christ died for me, to give His Life to me, to live His LIfe through me, as me (this is a quote from a dear brother-in-Christ, Bill Fagan). Always remember that in Ephesians 2:10 God tells us that He has already prepared for us works we are to do as we peripateo–which literally means “walk around”. So as we walk around in our daily lives being as Christ to all with whom we interact is God’s purpose for us. Oswald Chambers puts it that what we call “preparation and training, God calls the end”. (My Utmost for His Highest, July 28th). All of your hard work & sacrifice has had effects on others that you may never know about until you go home to be with the Lord (a very long time from now). And you have grown stronger, and more fit, plus recovered from the accident in truly wonderful ways. Thank you, again, for your transparency!

  16. Mo, I know this story is old, but I wanted to say thank you for sharing your story. I came across your story when it was featured on at the beginning of the fall semester (junior year). I am only 20, but I am heavily involved in a youth ministry at my church. In the eyes of some, I am the right-hand man of the youth pastor because of the amount of involvement. In addition, I teach a 6th grade class that is part of my church’s “foundations” course that will eventually lead to baptism and confirmation (aka first communion).

    What does this have to do with your story? Well shortly before your story was released, I was having difficulty finding motivation to give my time, effort, and emotion into the 100 or so 6th-12th graders that I attempt to mentor every week. I started to question if I was making a difference… And then I read your story.

    I was at my lunch break at work when I read your story. Seeing I was working at my desk, I had to fight back tears (aside: I generally do not cry. Just my personality) because your story hit me hard. My brother lost a close friend due to suicide, but the mental and physical turmoil you went through left me dumb-struck. Coming from a family of almost all boys (Mom is the only lady in the house), I never had any idea what a girl would put themselves through in a difficult situation. When I finished reading the article, it was like God had just smacked some serious sense into me. God showed me, through your story, why it was so important to mentor all of these pre-teens and teens: there is hope, and it is in God.

    Thank you again for the reminder. God bless you in all you do.

    “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2 (NKJV)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s