More than a Game

Jake Salzman puts his thoughts about the end of his High School Football Career to words

By by Jake Salzman
Published: Summer 2003
Walking off that field, tears in my eyes, next to my friends, the people that I have grown to love,
in almost every sense of the word my brothers. An empty feeling growing inside me. My hands numb from the cold and bruises. A faint limp as pain shot through my knee. I remember pushing my wet hair back and seeing the eyes of the fans. I remember walking proud, yet sad that it was all over. The score was burned into my memory, 9 to 6 and the three zeros, where the time once was. Looking over my shoulder I saw my teammates, my brothers, tears welling up in their eyes.
We didn't want it to ever end. We didn't want it to be the last time we would suit up for battle and march onto the field as a team. Some of them would go on and play in college, but only a few. For the rest of us this would be the last time we would ever play.
I remember taking off my pads in the locker room, the underclassmen congratulating us on a great season. Yet it didn't matter much, because our minds were overflowing with sadness, pride and regret at the same time. Tears were still coming from my eyes as I took the tape off my arms and took off my cleats for the last time. We were conference champs, state semifinalists, and we had a record of 11-2, and yet it wasn't enough. We didn't want it to end.
That day wasn't supposed to come; we had worked so hard as a class for so many years. I think back to the months we came in at six-thirty every morning to work out. To the summer lifting and running, to the long practices in August, and to the cold nights in November. I still remember then being the most fulfilling and fun times of our lives; we made lifelong bonds on the field and in that weight room. We truly were brothers, and we had worked for every inch we got.
I remember the days and weeks to follow, thinking about how football was out of my life forever. Little did I realize that football and the work ethic I got through it would be something that I would use for the rest of my life. Every rep and set in the weight room was hard, but we did it. Waking up in the morning sometimes seemed impossible, but we did it. Five-hour practices at the end of summer seemed unbearable, but we did it. Holding the offense on fourth and short was hard, but we did it. Despite the little thing inside us that said, "Forget it, give up," we did it. No one made us, no one offered us any incentive to do it, there was no prize for finishing that last set of squats, but we did it.
We helped each other when we didn't think we could, we held the rope when we couldn't pull our own weight, because we knew that everyone would be there to help us keep going. We didn't like the conditioning at the end of practice, but that didn't stop us from doing it. Practices were cold, but we went. The summer days were hot, but we went.
That is what we learned, that is what we gained. Nothing that can be measured, nothing to hold, just something that is there; itís part of growing up, and turning into a man. Doing what was right all the time, even when no one was watching.
In life there are things that you don't want to do, like pay bills and go to work, but you have to. This is how football relates to life, this is how all the work we put in truly paid off: It turned us into men. It made us better in many more ways than we realized at the time. It showed us what hard work can do; we went from being winless to champs in three years. It also showed us that hard work, dedication and a little bit of courage can go a long way, on the football field and in life.

Jake Salzman Verona Area High School

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