For The Associated Press
ALPINE, Texas (AP) -Had someone asked me to write out how I would want my debut to happen, it wouldn't have been as good as the reality turned out to be.
There was a big crowd at Jackson Field, including my immediate family (my wife, three kids, daughter-in-law and grandson), plus a bunch of former teammates and other friends, new and old. We scored on the game-opening drive and I got right out onto the field for the extra point, anchoring the left side of the line.
We dominated the whole game - everywhere but the scoreboard. We needed a long touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion with 32 seconds left to force overtime.
Their kicker missed a chance to win it in the second OT. Then, in triple overtime, I ran out to my spot on the left end while Michael Van Wagner lined up a 41-yard field goal for the win.
I made my block, then heard Michael's foot hit the ball. Then everything else just went away. I couldn't even hear the crowd.
I looked over my right shoulder and saw the ball. It was like in slow motion as it went through those uprights. The first thing I did was look for a penalty flag, but I could tell it was over by the way the rest of the team was jumping on top of each other. We'd won, 45-42.
I must confess that I didn't join the pileup. I saw those guys diving up and down and thought, ``Wouldn't it be something if I jump in here and get hurt?''
When reporters wanted to talk to me afterward, I really felt undeserving of the attention. A lot of people are interested in following me, and I really appreciate it, but I hate for people to think I'm bragging about anything. It was God's grace that got me here and God's grace that keeps me being able to go out every day, even after injuries kept me out the first five games.
Unfortunately, my groin is still giving me fits. Every time I run hard and put stress on it, it starts knotting up. The ligament is telling me, ``If you keep pushing me, I'm going to tear.''
I can't let that happen. If I hurt myself to where I can't suit up, I've totally defeated my purpose in being here. No matter how badly I want to play, I can't take that risk - especially not this week, because we play Saturday in Abilene and my 82-year-old mom will be there.
As disappointing as it is not being at full strength, the pride I have in my teammates more than makes up for it.
This was our second straight win in overtime, something we didn't have last time I played. Watching the film, I see the continuous effort they put forth. They never quit. They never doubted. They just kept lifting each other up.
I team that was starting a two-year run as national champs. A big part of it is the relationship I have with these guys.
They've accepted me since Day 1. When there was talk that other teams were going to go after me - ``Go get the old man'' - one of the linebackers said, ``Mike, no matter what happens, we've got your back.''
I also respect them for paying to play this game; they're not on scholarship like we used to be. Even when it gets really hard out there and Coach is all over you about something and it would be so easy to think, ``I don't need this,'' they don't ever say that.
You know, you don't get to be my age and raise kids of your own, then work with kids - go through what I go through with them - and not love them.
Come to think of it, that's another part of the script that's been better than I could've written it.

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