Three-a-days in the August cornfields of Culver and the heat waves in my cleats are almost unbearable. I am at my first football camp with a wandering mind and no expectations. The whole team is sleeping in one room, on rusted bunks with mattresses like stone.
Being a new player, as a senior, I was confused by my role on the team. Was I a senior leader, or just another new player with an unknown cause? After almost a month of twelve hour days, I earned the senior leadership role. Working hard in the weight room, getting my nose in the playbook and going into overdrive at the end of the longest practices was the price, now I am a football player.Walking into the locker room, the smell of sweat fills the air. After the rigors of putting my pads in place, I am ready have the best practice of the year.
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We all take the jog to the field, and the fresh cut grass fills my nostrils. After stretching for the third time today, sweat starts to seep out of my helmet.
The whistle blows and now the dreaded tackling stations are in front of us. Technique is everything during these neck snapping drills. I am thinking to myself, “Head across, stay low, wrap up, and rip his jersey.” There is blood on my jersey, bruises on my arms, and I can barely walk. Today was just another day and all this work, for one letter, “W”.Game day is finally here again, we are holding our ground at 2-2. Culver Military Academy versus Brebeuf Jesuit.
We are the underdogs for the 4th consecutive week according to the local newspaper. The hype is unbelievable and an electrifying feeling is free-flowing through our veins.We are mentally prepared and rapidly sprint out to the rubber track. The fifty-five Eagles are lined up, waiting to run through the tunnel of Cadets, and I can feel my heartbeat under the wings on my helmet. The lights are shining on the Eagles; we are the stars of the night. Tonight must be special; I have four shadows following me around. My laces are tight and I cannot stop attacking my mouth piece.
Ten of my brothers are in the huddle and our jerseys are drenched with sweat. Across the line, #78, a bully from cornfield, Indiana was trying to take my pride. They say I am just a Texas boy at a prep school, but someone has made a mistake. While running to the quarterback, my nerves turn numb and I am engage on him. The bruises are mentally anesthetized and blackouts are becoming the norm, but I will not let myself quit. With seven minutes left in the third quarter, they score on a heartbreaking 84 yard screen. They line up for the extra point and our defense is winded and trampled.
We will not quit. They miss the kick!! They missed it. Was it our penetration, fate or a gift from God? No one will ever know what it was, except the turning point of the game. After a touchdown off a Moe Weddington interception and a time eating drive, we are winning 14-12.The 4th quarter is now upon us, and the game is a toss up. The second ranked team in the state is losing to some military boys, and it is our duty to stop them. Play after play, battle after battle, we will not cease to persist.
Every drive our defense steps on the field, Brebeuf got smothered. The defense in the maroon and white could not give up. They get 12 yards. Not on one play, not on one drive, but the whole 4th quarter.On that humid Friday night, with the band playing and the fans screaming, our defense did not let up. I was not the Chris Hamm my parents, teachers or friends see. I was a vicious warrior, a relentless martyr without pain or consciousness.
I was not playing that game; it was another force which is indescribable. Tomorrow was nonexistent and every play was the most important things in my life.Work, persistence and victories are not earned without pain and suffering. The endless hours of film, heating and icing between practices and every other hardship are worth it. Many will never comprehend us as football players, because they do not know the feelings. Winning a football game is second to none and there is no replacement for the feeling. We won many individual battles.
Eleven personal battles for fifty team plays is our game plan. We are defensive martyrs, willing to die for one simple letter, the “W”.