My high school football career was spent largely on the sidelines during games. I was on a few specialty teams, and got on the field a few times each game. At about 5’5” and 155 pounds, I wasn’t the biggest or the fastest on the field.
My specialty was not displayed on Friday nights, but on Monday through Thursday afternoons, and during late summer’s two-a-day practices. You see, I could practice with the best of them. On those August mornings when dew was on the ground, and in the heat of the afternoon when no moisture could be found, I was relentless. I had a low center of gravity, and wouldn’t quit. During one-on-one drills, I would hit and keep hitting. I would take on anyone the coaches put in front of me. With my junior high quarterback experience, I would run the opponents offense for our defensive starters.
Then came the conditioning drills toward the end of practice. Running in place, we hit the ground on each whistle, and then jumped back up running again. I could bounce on my gut, get my feet back underneath me and be going again when others were slowly using a knee to get back up. When no rain came and the practice field became like concrete, I could still bounce off it and run. When we did wind sprints, they could always look up and see me beside them or leading them down the field. I pushed myself and my teammates till Friday nights were like a vacation.
My dad, a former coach himself, watched our practice one day, and told me later, “you can do more after you’re tired than most of those guys.” That was the best compliment he ever paid me. Perhaps he was trying to make the best of me not being a star. Yet, that ethic has stood me well since then. I simply relate any challenge to football practice, being hot, sweaty and dirty and lungs and muscles screaming for relief. One more time down the field; one more sprint; one more grass drill. It will be over soon, and I will be so glad I didn’t quit.