Growing up, sports was always a huge part of my life. As a kid, I spent most afternoons outside with my friends from the neighborhood playing football, basketball, or baseball until the sky was dark or someone’s parents chased them back inside for dinner. My dad would spend countless nights in the backyard with me practicing, never too busy and always available. And I loved it..I really couldn’t get enough of it. Sports became my identity.
Early on in my life baseball was my passion, with basketball taking a close second. I really enjoyed being on the mound as a pitcher. There was something about the competitive nature of that position that fueled my love for the game. My favorite thing to do was to challenge a hitter with a fastball; to drive to the plate with all that I had and know that most of the guys in the lineup couldn’t catch up to it. It was a good feeling. With every pitch I held the the fate of the team’s hands in my own, and I liked that.
I played football in my younger years, but really only because I was “supposed” to. I can’t say that I fell in love with the game right away. That came later. Football is really like no other sport from the standpoint that you grow into it. It’s a man’s game, and most people need to mature to be successful at it and appreciate all that is involved in it.
I’ll never forget the moment I knew that football had something special to offer. When I was a freshman in high school I was moved up to the Varsity team as a back up quarterback. The night of our first game, I suited up and walked with the team from the locker room to the field directed by the lights sitting out on top of the hill. The energy I felt inside was incredible. I never felt so alive in my life. The sounds of the cleats on the pavement, the camaraderie, the people, the lights, the dew on the grass…I knew in that moment that I found something that would touch my life forever.
For the next three years that followed, it became my life. I had fallen in love. I even gave up baseball and basketball altogether in favor of lifting weights and running track to improve my strength, speed, and agility for football. I didn’t want to stop playing after high school, I wanted a collegiate career as well. It became the basis of all of my dreams and aspirations.
During that high school experience I learned a lot of life lessons playing the game. I learned the value of team, hard work, commitment, and the meaning of the phrase “blood, sweat, and tears”. But most importantly, I learned how to take a crushing blow, fall to the ground, and pick myself back up to play another down. I learned to stare in the face of adversity without fear. Because just when you think the tank is empty, you find the will to go a few more miles…to make a play or take something positive from the experience. And those moments are the ones that you can hold onto and cherish forever because they ultimately define your character.
I’ve battled a lot of issues in the ten years that have passed since I last laced them up. And without the experiences that I had on the field and the lessons taught to me by the game and by my father I would have never been ready to face what life had waiting for me.
I never allowed myself to lay on the field. Unless you were truly injured, that was a not an option in my family. So it became habitual for me to get back up. I never knew just how valuable that habit would be…