During 7th and 8th grade at Abraham Lincoln Junior High School, the two years I attended they only offered flag football. Although it was competitive with all the other public schools in the city, I didn’t want to play flag football. After all, I had been playing junior tackle league for three years and was planning on playing High School football freshman year and throughout High School, which I did.
Instead of playing flag, I contacted my best friend’s coach who was head coach of St. James football team in the parochial league. After pulling a few strings for me, I was allowed to play on the team—tackle football! It was a time I’ll never forget. One of my teammates mother had died and his father raised him. He loved to play football and his father made sure that he was always there to cheer his son on. I can still see his dad over on the sidelines cheering and clapping. “Come on son, give all you've got!”
One day during practice, the coach Tippy (his nickname) met Billy with a telegram. Billy was shocked to read the message contained in it. Swallowing hard, he mumbled to the coach, “My father died this morning. Will it be alright if I miss practice today?” The coach put his arm around his shoulder and said “Take the week off son. Don’t even come to the game on Saturday.” On the day of the game, we were getting beat badly by St. Peter’s. The coach and us players had lost all hope when we saw Billy coming towards us. Billy ran up to the coach and begged him to allow him to play. At first Tippy wouldn't let him play. However, after a lot of persuasion the coach gave in.
No sooner had Billy joined playing with us, we started to catch up and eventually tied the game. With just a few seconds left in regulation, Billy intercepted a pass and ran it back for the winning touchdown! We all went crazy!
After the game, coach Tippy went up to Billy when seated alone in the corner of the locker room and asked “Hey Billy, I can’t believe it! You were fantastic! Tell me what got into you? How did you do it?”
He looked at the coach with tears in his eyes and said “Well, you knew my dad died, but did you know that my dad was blind?”
Billy swallowed hard and forced a smile “Dad came to all my games, but today was the first time he could see me play and I wanted to show him I could do it!”
“The Father of a righteous young man has great joy, he who has a wise son, delights in what he sees.” Proverbs 23:24 (NLB)