In high school in the '60s I was 5-foot-4 standing on my tiptoes, and desperately wanted to be on the varsity basketball team. I practiced whenever I could. Any money I earned went to pay for Red Auerbach's basketball camp. In each of the last three years of school, I was the last one cut from the team.

In college I applied for a summer abroad in Africa but was not accepted. After graduating from college, I spent two years teaching science in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. Upon returning home, I tried to find a job in the energy sector but failed because of my lack of experience. I joined the Navy to overcome this deficiency. My second attempt to propose to the woman who would eventually become my wife took place in a romantic restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When I brandished the ring, she told me to put that thing away. Throughout my career, I accepted jobs that were my second or third choices.

I am now 55 years old. My wife and I have been married for 28 years, and I have long since grown to my full height of

5-foot-5. I play basketball on Wednesdays with colleagues about twice my size and half my age. As I start to fill out the 28th application for the job I desperately want, I remember the words of my hero, the late North Carolina State Coach Jimmy Valvano: "Never give up, don't ever give up."

Noel Dudley, North Potomac

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