High school football is one of America’s favorite pastimes. Playing high school was quite possibly the thing that changed who I was and the way I saw myself. Before football, I was just another kid in school but when I made the varsity football team as a sophomore it gave me an association that I was proud of and something I belonged to. Many of my teammates went on to play college ball and even coach on a collegiate level.
I remember Charles Sinagra, Eddie Householder, Ray Leake, Jeff Lane, Charlie Cantrell and other guys that I looked up to. When I became part of that group, in a way it changed me. Team sports for a young guy is probably one of the most impressionable activities you can do. Today many kids don’t need a team involvement but for me back then, it was what I needed.
In the spring Jamboree game of my sophomore year I caught an interception that changed the outcome of the game. There is probably nothing more gratifying than to have your peers congratulate you and pat you on the back. I remember Coaches Smith, Gore, Moore, Easterling, Oswalt and AC McCullough. They were men’s men and would yell so loud through the ear hole in your helmet, that your head would ring for five minutes. Back in those days there wasn’t social media and videos and tattling to your momma about how mean the coach was. They basically did whatever they wanted from slapping us in the head to kicking us in the butt. We were their boys, their players, their team and while they could do anything to us they wanted to, they wouldn’t let anyone else mistreat us. We grew into a close group that to this day at class reunions, you will see the old team over in the corner talking about football games.
My home life was mess and in November of my senior year I got in my car and left home for a week. When I returned home (if you could call it that) I drove over to coach Smith’s house and told him I fully understand if he kicked me off the team. I remember vividly that he looked at me and said son, its ok, now get your head back in the game and be there for practice tomorrow. Then he put his arm around me and told me he understood. He never knew what that gentle act of kindness did for me as a troubled teen. It made me want to be a better man when I grew up. I left home for good shortly after that as a senior in high school and found a job and a place to live and started adult life way too young. It was that football team, my friends and especially Elaine that helped me hold it together. Being coached by good men at that impressionable age helped set the example for me to follow in life.
I reconnected with my oldest friend in life, Ray Leake a few months back and as you would expect from high school teammates, we talked a great deal about that period in our lives. We,,,,,, also talked about Oliva Newton John who we were both in love with in the 8th grade. Ha. KT