It’s been five days now and I feel like the Thanksgiving holiday is the perfect time to talk about it.
Nearly 18 years ago you made me a father. I was a naive 20 year old who thought he understood things, but you changed my world.
I’ll probably talk about that more in May when you graduate from high school, but it’s been five days since your last time you’ll play football and I finally think I have the words to talk about it.
You made me a dad in 2006, but you made me a coach in 2013.
My first year coaching football, a wide eyed 27 year old who knew more than anyone.
We lost a lot. But the thing I learned the most from was losing my best player, my son, for five weeks while you healed after having your appendix removed.
It taught me a fun lesson, that the game doesn’t care about your plans.
We changed some things and ran back a better team in 2014, I was wiser and you were older.
Then we decided it was time to play tackle football.
In 2015 you played your first tackle game at nine years old. It seemed like we had so much time.
I was unable to do much coaching in 2016 and no coaching in 2017 while I finished my masters degree, but being able to watch you continue to grow as a player was such a blessing.
In 2018 you were singled out by your coach for your sacrifice and willingness to do whatever was needed of you. It set a precedent.
We moved in 2019 and in 2020 you were a victim of circumstances and injuries.
Yet, you were never deterred.
In 2021 we had to make a decision and move you schools as you struggled academically coming out of Covid.
And then in 2022 you sent me a text.
You said… Dad, I’m nervous, I haven’t really played in three years.
It changed my mindset. I knew how talented you were, but I also forgot about the last three years of challenges you went through.
I told you one thing every week, and it is something I try to tell all your siblings and try to remind myself every week.
Work hard, have fun.
It is a game after all.
You get a finite amount of time to play the game. Whether you are Tom Brady or just your average youth or high school football player, the game always ends.
You played your junior year and I saw a different side of you.
Yet, I still didn’t see what was in front of me.
You spent your spring and summer getting ready, you spent everyday waking up early, driving you and your brother to workouts. Picking up any teammate that needed a ride to practice or workouts, watching film, talking ball and getting ready.
You asked to help coach your younger brother because you had learned so much.
You wanted to immerse yourself in football.
Your senior year seemed like it was the longest season ever, but happened in the blink of an eye.
You played so well for most weeks, some weeks only playing a half because you guys won by so much.
Yet, when the playoffs hit neither of us were ready.
I wasn’t ready to see you finally breakout of your shell. You’re my son, but I always watch the game with a critical eye, and for every game in the playoffs you were the best player on the field when you lined up at outside linebacker.
I saw the abilities you played with and what you were always capable of, I saw determination and tenacity.
And then, it was over.
In what was your finest hour, your team fell just short.
Yet, I wouldn’t change a thing.
You played the best football of your life for three weeks, in a run you’ll never forget. In a run that reminded me why I spend hours upon hours coaching every week.
Because, in the end it all ends.
I’m so thankful I got to watch you play football for a decade.
I’m so thankful that I got to watch you play your senior season with your brother.
I’m so thankful you love the game.
But most of all, I’m so thankful for the man you have become because of the game. I’m so grateful that you learned the lessons that football has to teach.
It hurts that this is the end of football for you, but you can hold your head high knowing you went out playing the best football of your life.
I’m so proud of you, and I love you son.