From the opening kickoff, it was evident that our entire football team didn’t belong on the field. It was especially true for my undersized, underdeveloped, 14 year old, 9th grade self. I hadn’t been moved up to Varsity because of talent but because of the dysfunction of a Varsity team that was 3-6. It was the last game of the season and my Varsity debut was against one of the best teams in the nation, the Heritage Hurricanes.
Anyone from the 757 will tell you that the Hurricanes were legit and wouldn’t be surprised that I was knocked all over the field that day. The referees were my only saving grace as they elected to have a running clock the entire 2nd half. The final score was 60 – 0 and the stands were all but empty at halftime.
One of the few spectators who stayed the entire game was my Grandfather.
Shortly after my playing days came to an end, my Grandfather shared with me how the Heritage game was when he knew I would have success as a football player. I was confused by the statement because I didn’t have a glimmer of success that game. He explained how it had nothing to do with my stats that day but was all centered around the fact that I kept getting up. He said…
Boy, you just kept getting back up. You never quit, never gave up, never came out of the game. I knew you would be alright on the football field after making it through that game.
Daniel Bacchus Sr. had been watching me play since I was 8 and was more impressed by my ability to get up from an ass kicking than any other accomplishment I had on the field before that. My Grandfather’s age and wisdom allowed him to know that getting up and continuing to fight revealed more about me as a player than any success I had before it. He knew just as Martin Luther King Jr. did that “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.” And those Hurricanes were a serious challenge.
I think my Grandfather also knew from personal experience that life would hit harder than any football player or team I would ever play against and my character will be defined in the moments I have to get up and not by the moments of success. He knew that I would have years like 2018 where Life delivered punishing hit after hit just like those Heritage Hurricanes in 2000.
I know he has been proud watching from the stands of Heaven as I have continued to get up despite the hits Life dished out. I may have been battered, bruised, and concussed but Granddad kept seeing me get up and I am sure he is nodding in approval watching me stand tall in 2019.