My Last Football Game Ever
I played the last football game of my life last week, and it still feels pretty weird to say.
The football team had its senior day, which is the last home game of the season. This day is dedicated to the senior Yeomen football players who put as much hard work and dedication into the program as possible. What made this day even more significant was the fact that it was also the last football game of the season. We were not in contention for the playoffs or anything, so the last scheduled game of the year was the last game I was ever going to play.
One of the biggest things I will remember about this day is how much emotion was in the air.
It was so interesting to observe, because this feeling seemed like it crept up on me and many of the other seniors. A lot of us had been playing the game of football for well over a decade. We went through many different experiences through this game before we even came to Oberlin, so the end of our careers was going to cut a little extra deeply. Then, we experienced the game as teammates, as brothers, as Yeomen. We all played for each other for the past three years, and this last game was what everything was coming down to.
For the entire practice week for senior day, I kept thinking of all of the little things that I wasn't going to be able to do anymore. There was more time spent on actually cherishing the moments I had with my teammates. Every time I put on my helmet and pads, I would constantly think, "Wow, in a week, I won't be doing this anymore." It seemed as though everything started feeling like a countdown. Whenever I went through a drill in practice, I would feel myself being even more focused than ever before. The same can be said about all the meetings, film study, and the rest of the time consuming events that were required of us in order to get the victory on Saturday.
Practice felt a lot different that week. There was a lot more to take in during my final week of football.
Whenever I stepped onto the practice field, it felt like one day closer to retirement, because that's the reality I had to face. From stretching in warmup lines to running the last play of the day, I took everything slowly. While the weather outside was freezing, I didn't necessarily mind too much. I simply wanted to play the game that I love. The same can be said about the other seniors as well. Whenever I talked to another senior that week, we always discussed the finality of the situation. We would say "four more days, three more days, two more days" and so on. We understood that after that week, there was no more football for the rest of our lives. Sure, we could toss one around in the backyard from time to time, but we wouldn't be able to strap on the pads and play an actual game or anything. It's not the same feeling or experience, no matter how hard we may try to recreate it in the future.
I could also tell that practice felt different based on how underclassmen would interact with me. There would always be a mutual respect between me and my teammates, but it felt emphasized even more during that final week. There were a lot more "thank you's" and "I appreciate you's." While I was grateful for all of the appreciation, it did make me feel a little sad. I would not be able to grind with my little brothers in their football careers moving forward. Instead, I would have to watch them play ball from an external perspective. So, when they showed their love and appreciation to me, I would often think of the future and the fact that I won't be in Oberlin to lead and guide them, because I'm going to be long gone.
Senior day came at the end of the week, and sheesh, that experience was unlike anything I've ever been a part of.
Before the game started, we had a ceremony that honored each and every senior on the Yeomen football team. The rest of the team would form a tunnel for the seniors to run through when the announcer called their names. The announcer would talk about that senior's accomplishments and post-graduate plans as he would run through the tunnel. When the senior ran out, he would find his family waiting for him at around the fifty yard line. My mom and little sister were able to fly up to Ohio from Texas, so that made the experience a million times better. Once my name got called, I ran out the tunnel and gave both of them the biggest hug I could possibly give them.
The seniors and their families took one last picture before the game, and then the national anthem played. After that, it was time to play the last football game of my life. No pressure, right?
Unfortunately, the game did not go as well as I had hoped, but I embraced every single moment on the field because I knew those moments would be my last.
As the game went on, I continued to notice how much I enjoyed all the little things about the game. I enjoyed the physicality, trash talking, strategy, excitement, energy, and everything. My appreciation for all the things I love about the game just skyrocketed as I kept playing. I noticed that I was more in tune with my focus than any game I had ever been a part of. The goal was to absolutely dominate the person in front of me, no matter how much it required out of me. Any sacrifice I had to make for the team, I did it. Luckily, I didn't suffer any significant injuries as a result, but I was willing to throw my body around a lot more than usual. So much emotion was poured out on that fateful day, and once that clock hit 0:00, that was all she wrote.
And just like that, I was a retired college football player.
I couldn't believe it. After years and years of hard work and dedication placed into this game, it was all over. There were definitely tears between me and my family, teammates, and loved ones. I was overwhelmed by everything that was happening and all the love that was shared between everyone. It was an experience that I wouldn't trade for anything else. Win or lose, it was an honor to be a Yeoman that day, and it has been an honor to play football for this program for the past four years. Here's to retirement!