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Against The Grain

A Coach’s Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love

Heralded by Bryan Burkhart of The New York Times as “a real leader who draws out the true character of his players,” Bill Courtney is a familiar name to those who saw him in Undefeated, the Oscar-winning movie about the high school football team he coached in a downtrodden section of North Memphis. The documentary, which The New York Times called “an irresistible story,” follows the indefatigable coach as he tirelessly works to turn around a troubled inner-city football team, meanwhile putting out fires at his day job: a highly successful lumber company. Now, in his first book, Courtney, Esquire magazine’s Coach of the Year in 2012, describes the key principles—including service, civility, leadership, character, commitment, and forgiveness—that have helped young people and adults to live better and more fulfilled lives.

Courtney has also passed along these values to his 120 employees at the lumber company he built from scratch. A former drug addict became a line manager and loving family man; an out-of-control cornerback is now a cadet at West Point; a star running back has discovered he can show his emotions and still be strong. Courtney shares these and other compelling stories—with pithy statements such as “True compassion is when you reach out to another person when there is no benefit to yourself,” and “How we treat those we disagree with says more about us than our opinions”—to illustrate how readers can enrich themselves their families, their businesses, and their communities.

Courtney goes against the grain of today’s me-first culture, while explaining why these time-tested principles are needed now more than ever. He shows that winning isn’t just about the score at the end of the game, or the profit margin. Ultimately, it’s about the impact you make on your fellow human beings and the legacy you leave behind.

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