I will start it off...
My football playing career unfortunately only lasted 1 year. To this day, it was one of if not the best year of my life. I went to a small high school in Tempe and we were 1A. The year I played was our first year of a varisty schedule. We had 15 players that went out for the team and by the end of the season we only had 9 active players. It was quite a year. It taught me so much about myself and what it meant to truly be a part of a team. I loved the dynamic of being in a small school and on a small team. You really did become brothers. We had some success and we were able to really take it to some teams and some teams really took it to us too. There is nothing quite like winning a high school football game and there is nothing quite like losing one either. You never realize at the time how much being on a high school football team will mean to you in your life...but one day you realize it.
Unfortunately my parents moved out of state after that year and I wasnt able to keep playing. After leaving my team, I really lost the desire to ever play again in high school. Being on that team at that school made such a large impact on my life that I knew playing anywhere else would never truly be the same.
Fast forward about 7 years and after a 4 year enlistment in the Army (which I know to this day I would not have been able do without going through high school football first), I found myself back out in AZ walking out onto the city park where my former team was practicing. It was a typical hot August day. I could smell the grass and see the heat moving through the air. I knew I was home. My former head coach was still there barking out orders in that voice that I will never forget until the day I die. He sees me from about 100 yards away and yells out "the Prodigal Son returns!!!" Now lets be honest, I was never an all-star athelete at my school. Yeah I was pretty good but no where deserving of that title. But he said that, because thats the type of man he is. He is one of those coaches that remembers and truly cares about every single player he ever coached. I had not seen him in about 10 years. He introuduced me to the team and we had a chance to catch up and the normal chit chat. After practice, I asked him if there was any way I could help out with the team. He thankfully said yes. I started coaching the very next day.
Being able to come back to the school you played for and coach the team you played on and coach with the man who coached you, is a very unique experience. I was able to gain and entire new appreciation for what type of commitment it takes to coach high school football. You realize very quickly that if you coach football as much as you love it, then get ready for thinking about football 24/7 - 365. All the long days, countless hours watching film and coming up with plays, the sometimes explosive but always enjoyable coaches meetings, its an experience I would never trade for anything. I was able to do that for 4 years and it really has changed my life. I never thought I would be able to love football more than what I did when I first walked onto that practice field in August of 2006 but I was definitely wrong. I realize now, looking back, that I never truly loved football until I coached it.
Having the privilege of coaching high school football is a humbling experience. Meeting so many great kids and their families is the part of football that means the most to me. There is nothing like seeing the faces of the kids you coach when you win a game. When one of your players comes up to you and thanks you for coaching him is better than any honor or award you can ever receive. When a parent of a player tells you that you have made a difference in their child's life, there is no greater accomplishment you can achieve in life, in my opinion.
And now to leave you with basically the greatest football speech ever just because its playoff time, and its time to get fired up :-)
I don’t know what to say, really. Three minutes till the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today. Now either we heal as a team or we’re gonna crumble, inch by inch, play by play, 'til we’re finished. We’re in hell right now, gentlemen, believe me. And, we can stay here -- get the sh!t kicked out of us -- or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell one inch at a time.
Now, I can’t do it for you. I’m too old. I look around. I see these young faces, and I think -- I mean -- I made every wrong choice a middle-aged man can make. I, uh, I pissed away all my money, believe it or not. I chased off anyone who’s ever loved me. And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror.
You know, when you get old in life things get taken from you. I mean that's...part of life. But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff. You find out life’s this game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small -- I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch, because we know when we add up all those inches that’s gonna make the f-ing difference between winning and losing! Between livin' and dyin'! I’ll tell you this: In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s gonna win that inch. And I know if I’m gonna have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willin' to fight and die for that inch. Because that’s what livin' is! The six inches in front of your face!!
Now I can’t make you do it. You got to look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes! Now I think you’re gonna see a guy who will go that inch with you. You're gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows, when it comes down to it, you’re gonna do the same for him!
That’s a team, gentleman! And, either we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals.
That’s football guys. That's all it is...
Now, what are you gonna do?