|College football's ultimate 'senior' ready to play|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 26 September 2007 13:30|
ALPINE, Texas (AP) -At my age, I should've known better.
After making it through two-a-days in good health and earning back the roster spot I threw away 37 years ago, I was so happy, I got carried away.
A groin injury should have slowed me down ... but I wouldn't stop and a pinched nerve in my neck got worse. The groin healed; the nerve problem was still there.
Some of my teammates had the same injury and were back in days. At 59, it takes a lot longer to recover.
On Tuesday, though, I went full speed through a scrimmage and now I'm expecting to play Saturday when we face Howard Payne in Brownwood.
The timing couldn't be better.
All along, my family has been planning for this to be our reunion weekend because my 82-year-old mom - who still works 40 hours a week as a manager at Wal-Mart - lives in Brownwood.
My wife will be there and so will our three kids and our 1 1/2-year-old grandson, about 20 relatives in all.
So why am I doing this?
Because I let down a bunch of seniors when I was kicked off the team in 1971. I wanted to make it up by helping another generation of kids, coming back with a lot more wisdom than I had then.
Spending time with them is major for me. They know I'm going to tell them what I think, just like they tell me what they think.
They kid me all the time about different things. One of the guys told me he was looking at my Web site (www.powerbasefitness.com) and some of the girls on there are hot. I said, ``Yeah, they are - and one of them is my daughter.''
One reason we get along so well is I don't judge the guys, or try to fit them into a mold. I don't like some of the rap music they play and things like that, but the last thing I would do is tell them to stop doing it.
In practice one day, a couple of players almost got in a fight. Helmets were dropped and they were coming to blows. Everyone was going to stand by and let it happen, but I was able to talk to both of them. It was resolved amazingly well and very quickly.
Our coach, Steve Wright, does an incredible job. I can't imagine there's a coach anywhere who cares for his kids more than him. Not many people realize the sacrifices he makes. I'm probably the only player that can see it because of my age and knowing what all is involved. He's also been monitoring me closely. He wants to give me every opportunity, but not at the risk of my health.
Being a college student again has been interesting. I'm taking three graduate school classes. We had to turn in grade reports this week and I had all A's. I told my defensive coach, ``These look a little better than the last time I turned one in.''
At night, I work on my business, getting on the computer with people back in Nashville. That has to stay on track because I've got a life after football. (Unless the NFL comes calling.)
Life after football certainly will be different than it was before.
So many more people know me now. I've been on ``Good Morning America'' and the ``CBS Evening News.'' I was on Jim Rome's radio show. I've been in Sports Illustrated twice and I'll be in AARP's magazine next month. There aren't a lot of current football players in AARP.
So many wonderful things have come out of this, little things people have said.
At the last game, someone hollered at me from the stands. I turned around but didn't recognize the guy. He just said, ``Thank you.''
There have been so many e-mails and comments like that, people who are going back to play sports or to try different things simply because of what I'm doing.
There have been some funny things, too.
Before the opener, our school president, Dr. Vic Morgan, called and invited my wife, Eileen, and me over for dinner and to listen to the game on the radio. I told Eileen, ``Golly, the last time the president of Sul Ross called me, it was to leave town. It sure wasn't to come over and have dinner.''
This experience is special and I'm hanging on to every bit of it, remembering every drill, every tackle, every time I'm putting cleats on, getting taped, all the ice - everything.
When you're young, you don't appreciate it.
When you're 59, you know how fast it'll be over.