The day I decided to try out for my middle school football team would be a pivotal moment for me then and far into adulthood.

My parents wire bikers; not in terms of 2016 bikers wherein which just owning a bike seems to make you a biker, but hardcore bikers, part of a motorcycle club and all. Most weekends were spent traveling with the club, which afforded us the chance to see the countryside and more!

I however longed for something more than those trips, more than the occasional yard ball game in the neighborhood, I yearned to be a part of an organized team.

So I did what I thought any eager boy would do, when tryouts came along I told my parents a lil white lie; I said that I’d missed the bus. I really had stayed after school and tried out for the football team. Of course my parents figured out the truth the next day when I supposedly missed the bus again. They allowed me to continue tryouts (after some stern conversation about telling the truth) and I ultimately made the team.

THE TEAM, turned out to be stacked with most of the counties best players. These guys made even an above average athlete look like a begginer.

I had been taught to always keep my eye on the ball, catch it no matter what was around me; to the tune of me face planting a pine tree when Dad tested my training by throwing the ball intentionally in the direction of that tree. I held onto the ball! I became quite good at catching the football, so naturally, being a boy, I dreamed of playing receiver and making the winning catch. That was never to be!

We practiced hard, and were coached well, and we played even harder. I practiced in many positions on both offensive and defensive lines (never receiver). I remember the practice I got to play defensive end, I was estattic!

WAIT, then it hit me, I’m supposed to contain the best running-back in the tri-county area?!?! Maybe they won’t run him to my side! …blue 42… hut, hut!

NO! NO! NO! Crap! They ran him to my side. Ok, remember your coaching, get off and away from the offensive end, step up and either force the running back to the sideline, or turn him inside where there’s help. That play seemed like it took forever, but lasted only seconds. I squared up to the running back and prepared for an open field tackle.

Dimetruis White ran slap over me, even threw a stiff arm to my chin cutting it wide open; it still bears the scar to this day from that pancake of a hit!

It was years later before I realized those practices were just as important as the game day wins. Our starting players gained valuable game time experiences from those practices where everyone went all out.

I never gave up, ran every play as hard as I knew how, ran every wind sprint all out, ran every lap as fast as I could. I only played a few seconds in games where we were ahead and sure to win.

Our team went undefeated ultimately winning the Tri-County Championship! Go Stewart Eagles!!!

The night of our football banquet couldn’t come fast enough! I remember looking over the room of almost 40 players, then catching a glance at the row of trophies on the stage; there were only a handful (6 or 7 at most) to be given to the most valuable players on offense and defense, most improved on offense and defense, and so on.

When coach began explaining the unsung hero award; the last thing I thought was that I’d be taking home one of those trophies, however he called my name as the Unsung Hero!

What an honor that was. That’s when I first learned and understood the concept of four words strung together; four words that I’ve shared over and over with everyone I’ve come in contact with since:

HARD WORK, PAYS OFF!

Written by: Gene Williams

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