I just experienced my last road game EVER... and it feels pretty weird.
This was the last away game that I ever played in my life. After this game, I have one more game left at Knowlton Stadium, and then that's it. No more playing football for me. Unfortunately, the Yeomen took the L this past Saturday. However, I don't see this an entirely negative experience. There were many things that were worth cherishing more since time is ticking until my "retirement."
With this being the last away game I have ever played in, there were a lot of "lasts" involved.
This was the last time I was ever going to experience packing up all of my equipment for an away game. I'm not going to lie; it felt pretty weird to me. I received my away jersey and pants and paused for a second. Call me extra if you want, but I wanted to cherish the moment. It was the last time I was ever going to wear the white Oberlin jersey. Personally, I like our away jerseys more than our home jerseys, so this was an especially special occasion. After I received those, I went through a mental checklist to make sure I had everything that I needed for the trip.
Packing for the trip can be a little nervewracking at times! Imagine leaving one of the most important pieces of equipment (helmet, shoulder pads, etc.) behind... No, thank you!
I am extremely relieved to say that I have never left any of my important equipment in the locker room in all four years of my Oberlin football career. However, it had always been a big fear of mine. Could you imagine what would happen if you left something like your helmet in the locker room after you departed to your destination? I certainly would not want to imagine it. That's why I would always have a mental checklist that consisted of all the things I needed to pack in my bag in order to be fully ready for the game on Saturday. I would always make sure I had the following: jersey, pants, socks, undershirt, helmet, shoulder pads, girdle, knee pads, knee braces, and gloves. For this game in particular, it was going to be under very chilly weather conditions. So I packed a long-sleeved undershirt and some tights to wear under my pants. This was always a tedious process, but I made sure to cherish it even harder for my last time.
This final away game was even more special because it was also the last time I experienced an overnight trip with my team.
We had to play Depauw for my last ever away game, which is around six hours away from Obieland. This meant that we had to stay in a hotel overnight. The team usually does this every year for one of the Indiana teams we have in the conference. Last year, we had to stay overnight in Indiana for a game against Wabash. This time around, we had to come back there to play Depauw. It was especially important to make sure that I had everything I needed before I got on that bus, because if anything was left, there was no turning around. Depauw is located in Greencastle, Indiana, which is a little over five hours away (according to Google Maps, anyway). There's just one factor to consider when it comes to the estimated time of arrival. We're riding on a bus, not a car. Buses have to move a lot slower in traffic. Plus, we would occasionally stop for food and bathroom breaks. All of that extra time included made the trip around six to seven hours long.
The bus ride to Indiana wasn't too bad for me. After all, it was the last time I was ever going to have to be on a long road trip with my football teammates, so it was a great opportunity to spend a lot of time with them. Sure, we were cooped up in a bus for hours on end, but I spent time with some people who are very hilarious and enjoyable to be around. Since I really enjoy being around my teammates, this wasn't too big a deal. Did I want to be on a bus for that long? Absolutely not! However, that's just part of playing college football.
When we arrived to the hotel, we approached everything with the mindset that we were going to handle things from a business perspective.
We knew that this wasn't the time to mess around or do anything stupid. There have been too many occasions in college sports when someone does something that costs the team while they are on the road. We didn't want to emulate any of that behavior, so we made sure that we stayed very disciplined once we were settled in. Of course, we had our fun with each other, but we didn't do anything that would embarrass the program or jeopardize our chances of winning. We stayed calm and collected when we checked into the hotel in Indiana. A lot of that had to do with the fact that everyone was too tired to really do anything that requires an abundance of energy. We had just endured a six-hour bus ride, so a lot of us just wanted to lie down and get off of our feet.
The hotel treated us very well that night.
We received dinner as we usually do whenever we arrive at hotels, and it filled everyone up. After that, we watched film to analyze what Depauw was going to do during the game. The game of football is so strategic, so making sure you have a solid idea of what the opponent is going to do is essential. After we watched film, we were blessed with another delicious "snack," which turned out to be Chik-fil-A sandwiches. Then we went to bed.
The morning after, I felt a little differently than normal. It was the last (away) game day that I was ever going to play in!
I woke up feeling like a kid on Christmas morning. I didn't care about any of the circumstances that were in the way. Having a long road trip after the game didn't matter to me. At the end of the day, I just wanted to get the win. We ate breakfast at the hotel that morning and promptly left for Depauw after that. We left with the mindset that we were going to win the game, because that was the end goal.
Unfortunately, the Yeomen lost that game, but I still gained a lot from this final away game experience.
It's always upsetting to lose, but I could not let that keep me completely down. Time is ticking on the clock towards retirement. Every single play mattered just a little bit more to me, because I'm getting closer and closer to my last play. The trip back to Oberlin was faster than the trip to Indiana, but it was still very long and tiring. Fortunately, I was able to sleep for most of it, and when I woke up, I was right back in Obieland. Just like that, I had experienced my last road trip with my football family. It's an experience that I will never be able to relive again, and while that is somewhat saddening, it also makes me feel grateful to know that I was able to experience something this awesome. This game has blessed me in so many ways, and with my last game inching closer and closer, I have become more observant of the little things than ever before. This will be my last week of football, and I still don't know how to feel about it completely. However, I do know that I will take it one day at a time and cherish every single moment.
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November 5, 2022