About 30 years ago, I was playing football as a running back in Twin Falls, Idaho. My senior year we had a really good team and played in the Idaho State Football Championship on our home field. Unfortunately, the other team, Couer d'Alene, was much better and we took a drubbing in front of the home crowd. The final score was 55-13.
One of the backup quarterbacks on their team was John Friesz, who went on to legedary status at Universtiy of Idaho and played in the NFL for ten years or so. From Wikepedia, "Friesz grew up in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and attended Coeur d'Alene High School,
graduating in 1985. He was a year behind Scott Wellman, a two-time
all-state quarterback who led the Vikings to the A-1 state finals in
1982 and 1983, winning the first. Friesz spent those seasons as a
back-up and became the starter in his senior season in the fall of 1984." Okay, so these guys were so good that a future NFL quarterback did not start on their team as a sophomore. Scott Wellman did.
Ya, that Scott Wellman. He smoked us. Between him and number 44, Mike Cox, they really gave it to us. I remember 44 in that championship game. He ran for a touchdown, threw for a touchdown, kicked a field goal and kicked off a lot, considering how many touchdowns they scored. In addition to that, he was their main force at middle linebacker but also lined up as a down lineman and met me, regularly, at or behind the line of scrimmage. The backs of both of my hands were black and blue for weeks from being smashed by 44 and landing on the frozen and by that late in the year, the week before Thanksgiving, mostly grassless field. Cox also went on to be a force at linebacker at University of Idaho and is to this day one of the All-time tackles leaders at U of I. It was a long day.
Those are all just reminisces brought back to me in a providential way today. This morning I took my 10 year old son, Calvin, our youngest, to soccer practice. After practice, we had a talk about hustle, paying attention and taking initiative. It is his first year playing and he is one of the younger players on the middle school team. I reminded him that he may not be one of the better players this year but that he can still have a huge positive effect on the team through hustle, directed desire and being a team player.
I told him about an award that I won my senior year of football. It was the Paul Austin award and was given to the athlete with 'the greatest hustle and most desire to win.' I have probably only spoken of this award a few times in the last 30 years. Obviously, the import of the award has stuck with me and so has that same tenacity, the desire to work hard, the need to be a team player, hustle and teaching the importance of hustle. I would much rather see a kid hustle at every level than watch a hugely talented kid lazily outperform him. I'll take the hustle kid every time.
When I arrived home from soccer practice today, I had an email in my inbox from one of my old high school friends and fellow football players with an interesting request. He is assisting the football team and the current coach of Twin Falls High is interested in bringing former winners of the Paul Austin award to serve as honorary captains of the team and give a pep talk to the players before a game.
Very odd, providential, a God thing, as my friend Bruce would say. So, I guess I'll talk to the coach and maybe make a trip out to Bruin Stadium and, if they'll let me, give the kids a rousing pep talk. At the least, I've had a good memory and reminded myself of things to reiterate to my own kids and the various kids that I have the privilege to coach and mentor.