This is the time I have dreaded for years, my youngest son’s last youth football game is over. This means youth football is not only over for him but for us as a family. I know on the grand scheme of things it is not very significant and he has more years of football left than he has played but the difference is we will not be part of it. You see, we swallowed the hook whole and drank the Kool-Aid when it came to Texas football. For ten years, our life consisted of practices, games, sleepovers, parties, meetings, events, laughter and tears with new friends and old. We found the game helped instill in our boys the same values and behaviors we embraced. It did not raise our children but we raised our children in it and we were proud to say our boys played tackle football. We still are proud to say it.
The game was different for this one. He grew up in it assuming the role of “Little Brother” waiting for his turn to showcase his talents. He stood in the stands vying for his time to strap it up and play in front of his home crowd. While his oldest brother enjoyed many championship seasons this one had to experience the somewhat harsh realities that sometimes the game does not pay off despite all the hard work. Sometimes, like life, we must cope with losing and become better players and better people from the experience. But like his brother he remained focused and determined. He knew what was asked of him, not by me but by his team and the game, and he faced the challenges presented to him without falter.
The game was different for us as parents too. We were fully invested in our first son’s team and we met many of our good friends as part of that experience. We felt the emotions that come when an entire team becomes a family. We enjoyed the closeness of this group until at last our sons had to move on and play for their different schools, never to play together as a family again. Like I said this time was different, these past seasons we were active participants with me helping to start and run the organization he played in as well as head coaching his team. Whereas before we were a small team family, now we are part of a large community family. Unlike my oldest’s team, who departed and went their separate ways, these boys will continue to play together until football is over for them, forever.
Even with the differences in our experiences one common thread ran through both, MY SON PLAYED FOOTBALL! He followed in the same path as his brother at left guard and like his brother played with the tenacity of a pit bull and the constitution of a piece of iron. Standing on the sidelines I was given a special insight to his game, as it was happening. I was witness to the joy, when everything went his way and the diapointment when the game let him down. I saw in his eyes a never faltering spirit that persevered through success and failure because he knew he mattered. He knew others were depending on him and in no way would he let them down. I saw a glimpse of the man he will become and it made me proud. I saw in his eyes the game as it meant to him and only him and oh what a gift that was.
We did not take this on alone. We had to rely on the unselfishness of adults who not only cared for their children but for mine as well. Thank you Vernon Cavanaugh, Seamus Burke, Rafael Fajardo, Bill Bittick, Jeremy Shaw, Jeff Haught, Brett McAnally, Jeff Harbors, Steve Roberts, Johnny Pickens, Mark Langseth, Scott Kuharski, Willie Flores, Chris Thomas, Rafa Valiente, Steve Gazlay, David Pratt, Duwayne Poston, David Molinaro, Thomas Crockett and Anthony Crockett for your unselfish dedication to these boys, my son included.
My days on the turf with my children are now over. I will be relegated to the stands as a spectator to cheer and immortalize their efforts in video. I will miss those evenings, standing with the other coaches in the brisk Texas air, watching the boys enjoying the game with their friends. I will miss the camaraderie of both adults and children striving together towards one goal and the joy and disappointment that came with it. I will always cherish those times as some of the best of my life.
So without further ado please allow me to present #99, Ryder Lucero, my little boy for whom I can be no prouder. I do so love to watch him play.