(photo courtesy MaxPreps.com)
I distinctly remember my son’s first high school football game. I was floored at the violence. The sheer intensity of the hitting, the helmet-to-helmet and pad-to-pad contact that could be heard in the stands. He was a freshman then. He had never played football and decided to try out for the team. The freshman played on Thursdays and he didn’t play much that game…just kick returns. I went with him on Friday night to the Varsity game and was completely convinced of two things: 1)These kids were huge and if he played as a senior, he’d get killed, and 2) I didn’t need to worry because there was no way in hell he was good enough, fast enough, or had enough football knowledge/experience to even make the Varsity team. Again, this kid had never played football and he was competing with kids who had been playing organized tackle football for years. He might make the Varsity team, but he would never see a minute of playing time.
I was wrong.
My son came off the field tonight…his last Varsity football game. He was the starting Free Safety. He was a “player to watch” in our local player a couple of weeks ago. He had an interception and a fumble recovery this year. He had a TON of tackles. He not only made the team but he contributed to the team in a big way…all against and with players that had played much longer than he.
At the start of summer practices this year, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that he might not start in his senior year. He wasn’t the best player at that position and there were guys with much more experience. I told him to just be “that guy” that works his ass off all summer while everyone else is taking it easy.
He did…he was “that guy” that made the coaches take notice of his commitment.
The week before the first game, the defensive coordinator took him aside and told him he wouldn’t be a starter this year. But he also told him they had taken notice of how hard he had and was working. My son was devastated. I could hear it in his voice.
I explained to him that I was beyond proud of him. In my eyes, he’d already won. He’s put in the work and although it wasn’t the outcome we wanted, his coaches noticed…and he had gained their respect. I then told him something else…guys like “that guy” make their own breaks and if he continued to work hard, he might get another shot…
He did…he ended up playing nearly 75% of the defensive series this year…again becoming a big contributor and even a starter towards the end of the season.
My son came off the field tonight with tears in his eyes…and began to sob softly.
His season was over. He had accomplished something bigger than both of us and as I held him, I told him how immensely proud of him I was…not for making the team…not for starting…but for the effort he put in. The outcome didn’t matter. The effort did.
Football was a game changer for my son these last four years. It developed in him a confidence, work ethic, and brotherhood that he will take with him forever.
I am eternally grateful to God that he made it through these four years without any injuries and am forever in debt to the parents of his best friend for being my companions at every game this year.
Thanks guys…what an amazing 4 years…