We played our first game against Austin Peay last night.
I personally thought we played pretty well. I mean, we got shut out (24-0), but we have a team full of freshman and sophomores. All things considered, I’m happy with how our team performed. I really am. Defense played about as well as they could have. Offense had some good success. And my buddy Joe got to snap punts for the first time, and he did a great job. But, anyway, this is the “official” start of my sophomore year here at PC, playing football, living the dream.
In the fall, we got told that we were moving conferences, laterally. By 2021, we will be in the Pioneer League, which is an FCS (1AA) conference that doesn’t offer athletic scholarships. When they announced this, several things happened. Some of our coaches left. A lot of our players transferred. Several guys just up and quit. In the spring, we had 43 guys on the roster, most of which were my age. For those of you that don’t quite understand that, most teams have around 70-100 guys in the spring. We managed to sign 66 freshman, but they are brand new to the whole thing. I was struggling with my role in this. I didn’t know what to think. It felt like another thing getting swept out from under my feet. I was discouraged by the people around me. And I’m not going to lie, the winter and spring were very hard. With so much change and uncertainty, it’s hard to find that want-to inside of you. I struggled with it. I’m not a quitter, but I’m also not a robot. Staving off the negative thoughts about what the future held and what I was really going to get out of this whole thing were hitting me like rocks. That’s the funny thing, though. I have finally realized, now, that it was never about me to begin with. Christ made that obvious. He, using this summer and the beginning of this season has made one other thing clear, too.
I don’t love football.
Hold on– don’t stress. It’s not what it seems. I like the sport of football a lot. It’s so complex and raw and fun to watch. It teaches you a lot more about life and being a man than it does about athleticism. But I’m not in love with it. With the newness of being a college football player gone, I’m starting to realize why I enjoy being here. I do genuinely enjoy playing here. But it isn’t because I love it. I don’t. I don’t get my fix from snapping, or running, or lifting weights, or wearing a jersey. Saturdays are so fun. Wearing the uniform is so cool. Traveling is so great. But I don’t love the sport. It’s hard to love, when you play it for so long. It’s hard on you– physically, emotionally, spiritually. It takes real dedication and pushing yourself to huge limits. I find it hard to love. But I don’t ever want to leave. So, what does that really mean?
I love my teammates. I really do. My favorite part is the locker room and meals and trips. It feels like a family event (I know, that’s cliche. Shut up.). I realized, returning home very early this morning from Tennessee (as in, left TN at 12 am, got back to Clinton at 8 am), that I love being here because I love being on the team. If I never played a single snap, I’m not quite sure I would care. I love to see my boys do well and smile and have a good time. I don’t care all that much about me. I mean, I want to do well. And I work hard. But I don’t love the game— I love the players of the game. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. I love my teammates, and I love this opportunity to be here for them spiritually and emotionally. That’s my role on this team. Christ has shown me this. He’s given me this team to be a light in a big, dark box. If I can snap along the way, great. If not… who cares? I’ve got a pulse, I’m on the roster, and I’m a Child of God— mission accomplished.
I told my Bible study guys just a couple hours ago— this is my role on the team. This is what position I play. Put “BT” on the roster beside my name for “Bible Thumper.” I feel like the unofficial team chaplain– or missionary, I guess. It’s not because I want the glory. It’s not because I want everyone to look at me and think I’m some saint (I’m not— ask my mom). It’s not because I know everything. It’s not because I want to be different for the sake of being different. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fun a lot. It’s demanding. And it’s tiring. And it’s ultimately impossible to maintain. I’m not perfect. I can’t be. I won’t be. But I won’t graduate from here without at least attempting to make an impact on my team. It’s in my soul. It’s what I desire. Who in the world knows the real Jesus and doesn’t want to talk about Him? If you say, “That’s me.” then newsflash– you don’t have any idea who the heck He is.
I don’t do this for the love of the game.
I don’t love the game.
I love my boys.
And, most importantly, I love the Cross.
And, let’s not kid ourselves. Football careers have an end, whether we want them to, or not. Eternity doesn’t. So, I’m going to chase after the Cross and Who was on it. I’m going to have those hard conversations. I’m going to pray those prayers. I’m going to try as hard as I can to be like the One I could never imagine being. I guess, along the way, I’ll snap a couple footballs, lift a couple dumbbells, take a trip or two, and watch a little bit of film.
College football breeds darkness.
My advocate? He ain’t having it.