I’ve always been an athletic person. I played soccer as a young child, and baseball and basketball throughout my life, but I remember the time I actually held a football, I knew there was something special. Football made me feel like none of the other sports. Although I enjoyed the other sports, when playing football I felt a strong sense of belonging, camaraderie, and brotherhood.
I started playing in the schoolyard with my friends at the age of 8. I had an exceptional arm for a kid of that age, and would always play quarterback when we played pickup games. I kept practicing, and it wasn’t until the age of 12 that I went to my first football camp with my friend Jared. We had never been in any football clinics or played organized football before, so we really weren’t sure what to expect. Little did we know, we had actually signed up for a 1-week, summer “intensive”, football camp; which was meant to put us through “football hell” (as the coaches so eloquently worded it). After warm-ups, they had sectioned us all off into stations based on our positions, me with the quarterbacks, and Jared with the wide receivers. Jared and I were both in pretty good shape, and so were most of the kids, but it still didn’t make much of a different through the consistent circuit drills and rigorous reps we had to do in that summer heat. In that full week, we must have lost about 15 pounds but at the same time went through 15 pounds of Bengay, hoping that we would be able to move our bodies the next day.
That camp had did a lot for us, because once the actual training for the season started, we were so ready. We were in better shape at the start of training then everyone else, and we had better football knowledge then we would have had if we hadn’t gone to the summer camp. However, that season, which was our first season playing organized football, we went on to lose every game. Not necessarily the best introduction to the sport for two young kids, but we loved it so much it didn’t phase us. The next year we won a couple more, then a couple more the next season, and it wasn’t until we were 15 that we were on an incredible team. That year we were such a powerhouse, it felt like we were the 1999 St. Louis Rams a.k.a “The Greatest Show on Turf”. We went undefeated, but lost the championship due to a dropped pass in the endzone during the final minutes. That year I had won Best Quarterback and 2012 Offensive Player of the Year.
The next year I sustained an injury to my throwing arm. It was a hairline fracture on my olecranon, and almost had to go into surgery to get a polyaxial screw in it. I missed most of summer training, and gained some weight. It was quite depressing. One day I noticed that my arm’s pain decreased, and it had stayed that way for a week; so the doctor said I was cleared to play since it looked like the bone was starting to ossify back together. However, I didn’t realize I had a very tough road ahead of me. It was three weeks until the first game, I had missed all the scrimmages. My coach was still depending on me to start at quarterback, since I had took the team to a championship the year before, but I hadn’t thrown a ball in months and was out of shape. This is when I realized that what I had learned from that summer camp when I was 12, as well as through my other football experiences, that this was what it was all about. Football wasn’t about throwing touchdowns and doing dances in the endzone (which we technically weren’t allowed to do at the high school level anyway). Football was about facing adversity and having resiliency. It was about being greater than that injury, or that weight gain, or that time u got knocked in the ribs by a big linebacker and you couldn’t breathe for 20 seconds. It was about knowing that your reason for going on, staying physically and mentally strong, was greater than yourself. It was about the guy next to you. Football is a sport that calls for a complete collective effort, so if you don’t do your job, nothing will get done. As the quarterback, I was the focal point of everyone’s willpower, so I knew that my goal was to be ready by Game 1, no matter what it takes. I went to the field everyday for those three weeks, running so much my body went numb. I threw so many reps that my arm was getting stronger by the day. I would go home and study the new playbook intently. By the week before the first game, I had lost almost 25 pounds, and my arm strength was on a whole new level. The very first play of the first game I threw 40-yard pinpoint dart to the back of the endzone. I was back. I had then went on to win MVP that year.
Football has taught me a lot about life, and its that sometimes your reason for doing things is greater than yourself. In life, you may have others depending on you, like a single mother who has to provide for her children despite scarce funds. With that said I want to end with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that I think is pretty relevant and it is,
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”