Mills column: Football has arrived
As the days become shorter, the temperatures begin to drop and the season changes.
For people including myself, fall is the favorite season of the year.
But unlike a lot of people, its not the cooling temperatures and changing of the leaves that makes it the best time of the year.
It’s the smell of the dew-covered grass, the clashing of shoulder pads and the roar of the crowds that make it the greatest season of them all.
Football season is here.
In my hometown it was every young boys dream to wear the black and orange uniforms of the Jerome Tigers.
To this day, I remember lacing up my first set of shoulder pads, tightening the belt on my grass-stained white football pants and donning the way to big solid white helmet when I was 9 years old for my first season of organized youth football.
I still have my bright orange jersey with the number 20 emblazoned on the front and back. In fact I think it still fits, but there is no way I’m getting shoulder pads under it.
I played football around the yard with my brothers, and spent countless hours watching and reenacting moves from the college and pro football games we watched with our dad on the old RCA television.
But to be honest it just wasn’t fair, being the youngest I was always at a disadvantage, as my much bigger brothers would toss me around like a rag doll.
But that first chance that I was able to battle on the gridiron with my friends and other children of the same size, was exhilarating.
The hair on my arms still stands on end when I think back to sprinting around dreaming of football glory in my youth.
Most everyone that has chased the pigskin has dreamed of playing a college or maybe even a professional football team growing up.
For me, I wanted to play college football at the University of Notre Dame. I know it was a crazy dream, but hey, I was always told to dream big.
I wasn’t the biggest kid in my class and I was far from the fastest, but that didn’t stop me from trying.
When I was in seventh grade, I finally broke the 100 pounds barrier, at a shade over 5 foot tall and 112 pounds. I thought I was on my way to 6 foot and 3 inches, and 200 pounds like my dad in his glory days.
But that just wasn’t in the cards for me. By the next fall, I was a few inches taller and I had lost almost 10 pounds.
By my sophomore year I reached my peak of 5’10” and tipped the scales at 120 pounds.
As I watched my friends out-grow me and my athletic ability never quite matched what my heart could give, I made peace with my career ending at the high school level.
I will never forget the friendships built on sweat, blood and sometimes tears. The special bonds made, the road trips shared and even those few plays I was able to get in on during my brief career were special.
My love for football didn’t end when I unlaced my cleats that final afternoon well over two decades, it continues today as I cover western Garfield County football under the lights every Friday night from Parachute to New Castle.
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