For proof that dreams do come true—and that we should also be careful of what we wish for—I’m transported back to the 10th grade.
The summer of 1995 is a sweaty, dusty blur that is forever ago yet easily recalled by Montel Jordan’s “This is How We Do It.” I was 15. A young woman named Monica Lewinsky was working at an internship at the White House. A guy named Osama bin Laden had been kicked out of Saudi Arabia the year before and would be expelled from Sudan in 1996 for acts related to terrorism. Most people alive at that time had no knowledge of either Lewinsky or bin Laden. But that would change.
Being a sophomore meant that I was no longer a freshman—anything was better than being a freshman—and there was this thing called two-a-days that I had to participate in, in order to be on the football team. As freshmen, we just had one practice per day, but sophomores through seniors practiced once in the morning and once in the afternoon in the humid August heat in Ohio. Plenty of guys quit, but if nothing else, I’m glad I hung in there for all three years. Once I lost so much weight from sweating in the morning practice that I wasn’t allowed to participate in the afternoon practice!
I had bigger problems than missing electrolytes, though: In my second year of football, I still didn’t know much about the sport; I had no idea how to prepare for the mental aspect of the game, such as the importance of running precise routes, knowing my responsibilities for every situation or even remembering all the plays—I was fairly book smart but sports stupid. I was a 5’11”, 165-pound wide receiver/middle linebacker at the start of practices that summer and showed a sliver of promise on defense: I could run fast and liked tackling people!
One day the head coach pulled me and a fellow sophomore aside and asked us to throw a football around, which seemed odd; weren’t we supposed to be doing drills of some sort, not playing catch? The other guy eventually went back to practicing with the receivers and defensive backs.
I was told I was going to be a quarterback from that day on, and I think I may have blacked out from excitement—or maybe it was the heat. I had always wanted to be a QB, like my idol, Joe Montana, and somehow it was actually happening! Never mind that I had no experience whatsoever in playing perhaps the hardest position in all of team sports or that I still knew too little about football in general.
See how my time as a quarterback goes in Part 2!