Sometime late in my eighth grade year, a meeting was held at school for those interested in playing football the following year. I went to a small Christian school that prior to this had no football program. Growing up, I never considered that I would ever be a football player. Though I was always fast, one of the fastest in my school actually, if I may be so bold, but I was also very small. In eighth grade I was probably just barely five feet tall, if even that, and weighed only slightly more than a large bag of rice. However, when the meeting was called, most of my friends attended. This is eighth grade we’re talking about, so very near the peak of the effectiveness of peer pressure. Never a fountain of self-confidence, the last thing I wanted were my friends giving me a hard time about wussing out on football. So I went. I returned home that afternoon from school and declared to my mother, “Mom, I’m playing football next year.”
This was not expected nor welcomed news. Like me, my mom had lived her whole life under the assumption that her first born son would live a life free of full contact football. Baseball and basketball, sure, but not football. So this news was most surprising. Her first response was a “Hold your horses there bucko” type response. I don’t recall any big family pow-wow to resolve the issue, I’m sure I argued my case a little, but eventually mom came around. Having a dad who had played football when he was in high school probably helped my case. So a football player I became.
By the time practice started the following summer, I had beefed up to the weight of about two large bags of rice. Not many of the twenty or so guys on the team that first year had ever played football before so those first few years were a struggle. It didn’t help that many of good athletes in school either bailed after that first year, or never played at all, for fear of being injured for the basketball season. At my school, basketball was king. Pansies. After that first season, I think the most players we ever had on the team was maybe 15, and since you need 11 on the field, we obviously had to play a lot of Iron Man football as only maybe 12 of those 15 were servicable players. I think our first three seasons had a combined record of about 4-18-1 or something like that. And I missed one of those victories due to the famous Stomach Pump Incident, but that’s a story for another day. My senior year however, it all came together. The core of that team was eight seniors, all starters on both sides of the ball, five of which had played together since we were freshmen. That was a fun. We went 7-2 and were on the giving end of the blowouts we had been so accustomed to receiving those previous three years. It was definitely the most fun I had in high school. And I gotta say, I had a pretty decent year, rushing for about 400 yards and scoring six touchdowns. Despite my moms early misgivings, she rarely missed a game, even the road games that required hours and hours of driving. She felt that as long as she was there, that would somehow prevent my getting injured. She must have been right, because in my four years I never had anything worse than a few bruises and sore muscles.
After my senior year the program went on for one more season, downgrading to JV, and then went belly up. Last year, 10 years after my graduation, the program was resurrected. Today I went to their second game, which they won 7-6. The coach for the opposing squad was my old coach for the first three years. He was a good guy, but looking back I don’t know if he was the best coach for a fledgling football program. He scheduled games against teams we had no business playing, which led in part to our horrible record those early years. Like I said, nice guy though. I talked with him a little after the game today and it was nice to relive old times for a minute or two. Here’s a picture of him and me from today.