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Football: A Game of Life’s Lessons

One of the first “whippins” I got was when I was about 6 years old. My brother and I were at my grandparents house playing a game of tackle football with our neighbor, Jim Hill. Why did I get in trouble? Well, I tore a hole in my blue jeans and was full of dirt/mud. It was the first of many games and spankings to come.

Let me more clearly describe the setting for this game. My hometown’s population was just above 1,000 people. Most lived on farms outside the “big city of Alto”. My grandparents had some neighbors who lived across the farm-to-market road and through the pasture. That’s where Jim Hill lived.

Those initial games of tackle football are where my brother and I learned how to be tough and compete. I carried those lessons with me to the National Football League. My brother carried his lessons to Major League Baseball.

Like many of my friends, I played football, baseball, basketball and ran track. Oh, and a lot of “kick-the-can” games, too. Once my parents divorced and we moved to Houston…I always lived in apartments. I was an apartment boy…with lots of nearby friends to play with.

While I may have lacked having the serenity of a normal family upbringing ( a violent divorce can do that )…I did not lack for love from my mom. Nor did I ever go without eating a meal. I will say that I had my fair share of mayonnaise only sandwiches. But that didn’t slow me down from being happy and surrounded by friends.

Sports was my outlet…my safe zone. It wasn’t like I thought of myself as a gifted athlete. As I look back on it now, there’s no doubt that I was blessed athletically and had good coaches who helped me develop as an athlete. I’m thankful for those men’s mentorship and for my mom’s commitment to getting me to all those practices.

There are countless lessons to be learned as an athlete. I look forward to sharing with you what sports provided my family. It wasn’t always easy…but that’s the beauty of sports. I’ve never felt defeated…only beaten at a particular moment, with victory delayed until another day.

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