Playing football and winning games was the most important thing in my life. But one day the game was taken away from me. In 10th grade, I fractured the C-1 and 2 vertebrae in my neck, and was told I could never play football again.
While lying on the hospital bed, wondering what the future would bring, I looked up and there were 20 of my teammates. My teammates, in the middle of three-a-day practices, came up to see me. They practiced from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then drove an hour, completely drained of energy, to see me and keep my spirits high every single day for a week.
All through our football careers, we thought winning was the most important thing, but there we were, 20 high school players, fighting back the tears instead of fighting off the other team.
It was hard to look onto the field and see all of my friends playing while I knew I could never join them. I was forever stuck on the sidelines. I spent the next three months watching the coaches. Instead of learning how to play, I was learning how to coach. Every coach, every player and every person in the community was encouraging me to stay in the game, to coach, to succeed. The entire town was now behind me, helping me become the best football coach possible, just as I was helping my friends to be the best football players possible.
The rest of my high school career was spent as a student-coach. I served as head quarterbacks coach and assisted our head coach with the linebackers. Senior year, Week 7 of our season, we were playing our rivalry game. It is the second-oldest rivalry in the state, and we hadn't won the game in eight years. Our head coach had been suspended, so I was selected to be our defensive coordinator for the game. I called the defense for all four quarters, and we won the game, 13-7.
Every fan in the stands rushed the field after the win. My twin brother, James, and my best friends Anthony, Milton, Drew, and Justin, all called me over, put me in the middle of the entire team and the whole community, and handed me the jug that gets awarded to the winning team. I hoisted it up in the air as everyone cheered. At that moment, I knew football was not about winning. It is about the friends you gain, the struggles you fight through, the community who supports you and the memories that last forever.
It is not just a game. It is a lifestyle that stays with you forever. Even when you break your neck and you think the game is gone forever, your friends, your community and your family bring the game back to you and make life worth living again.
I would like to thank my brother, James, and my friends for always sticking by my side and helping me through all that we went through. Thank you!