Week Three under the lights. Rain is in the forecast, the temperature is cool and it’s getting a bit closer to fall. It smells not quite like football season yet, but almost. It’s a perfect night for high school football.
It’s High School Football season… The smell of fall hinting in the air and an opportunity for young men to play a kids game under Friday Night Lights. Play tonight with passion and like it’s the last game of your life. It will go fast so enjoy every moment, every play, and every opportunity to be a great teammate. Ma
When I was a junior in high school Mrs. Leis told our third period College-Prep English Class that who we are and who we become in this world is a result of the people around us. Of all the lessons and memories I have from high school and growing up in my small town, by far this has meant more to me and has guided me to become who I think God intended me to be more than anything else. I have been so blessed over the years to have lived the travels and experiences life has provided, and at every stop, I’ve thought about Mrs. Leis, standing in front of our class talking about the experience of losing her husband in a tragic plane crash and that no matter how long people are in your life, whether it be a moment, an hour, an evening or a lifetime; they leave a mark on you and you are different because you met them. So with that advice, perhaps we listen closer, care more and try harder because every day as Mrs. Leis reminded us, is as an opportunity to be significant to someone else.
I hold a special place and respect for the two football coaches who led the teams I played on and their staffs while at Ottawa-Glandorf High School, but it was in Mrs. Leis’s English class that I learned to express myself and found an identity. It was the encouragement and inspiration from Mrs. Leis to live life to its fullest and not look back that has me sitting in Chicago after traveling the country and literally the world as a professional athlete writing a blog post. I certainly didn’t think professional sports were in my future at that time, but in the back of my mind I thought that I could be a writer someday. Even if being a writer today means I’m blogging or getting a call from a friend to help find the right words for a resume or editing a letter, the fact of the matter is that no matter where I go or who I meet, Mrs. Leis instilled in me in me that I can be someone who leaves a mark on others. So in some self-indulging way, I think I need to write about it because someone may also read this post and be reminded of or moved to ask me about how amazing of an English teacher she was and continues to be.
I was a boy of fall once. Meant the world to me to play football on Friday nights under the lights. Then on Saturday afternoons… and even a few times on Sunday. There’s a place for a boy and a man to come together and be one in the same. And it’s on a football field. It’s a man’s game, that’s played with a boy’s spirit.
If there is any advice I could ever give to anyone playing this game it’s to have fun doing it and enjoy every moment of it. Every play; play as if it’s your last. The coach in the video breaks his huddle with ‘last play’ – and it gave me goosebumps. (My arm hair is still raised as I type). The love of something bigger than yourself is an emotional scenerio for a high school kid to be in, and even bigger as a collegiate and grown man. But it’s maybe the most gratifying and rewarding accomplishment to look back upon, at the end of a day, realize that being a part of something bigger than myself was worth the sacrifice.
There is so much to learn from the game of football that doesn’t take place between the lines, but happens off the field in conversations on a Thursday night driving your high school clunker around with your best friend. Sharing life stories and being best friends… When you play this game you give your heart to it… at least you should. We play this game with emotion and with the understanding that every play could in fact be our last. But, it doesn’t stop us. It drives us. It drives us to be our best. And football has gotten that from so many young men. Young men who believed in something bigger than themselves. They were more than the boys of fall, they were the men of fall.