I have had the extraordinary pleasure of being with the football team since the spring for almost all of their practices, meals, and games. When I first started, it was a bit awkward because I didn’t quite know what I was doing, and I most certainly did not know all the boys. But I know them now and I am so grateful for that opportunity. They’ve all taught me so much about life and becoming a better person. I feel like there are those who can only see football players as the arrogant boys who get away with anything or the stereotypical heart-breaking jerks. Admittedly, I held similar opinions about individual guys at the beginning of the spring, but I have a much different opinion now.
I want to share some things about the football players that I know, not the football players that everyone sees. I know the boy who gave me his hat to wear when it was freezing cold. The one who says that I’m an angel and the one who calls me “Miss Duke.” The ones who let me in front of them in the line for food. The ones who always put their water bottles back in the rack, and the ones who say “thank you” despite the fact that we’re losing. The ones who tell me that my taping is perfect even when it’s not. The one who asks over and over again what he can do so that I won’t be mad at him anymore. The one who told me that he would marry me and that I’m wife material. The ones who spent their free time visiting their teammate in the hospital, and the ones who pray. The ones who volunteer to beat boys up for me. The ones who high-five me every time they see me. The ones who never have anything but sweet things to say, and the ones who just talk to me. The ones who love their mothers; the ones who give rides to teammates. The ones who make me laugh.The one who sits with the boy with an intellectual disability during pregame meal. The ones who ask if I need help and the ones who ask if they can sit beside me on the bus. The ones who make an effort to become a better person. The ones who let other players get taped first, and the ones who have big dreams. The ones who sing the Alma Mater after every game. The ones who are friends with younger players. The one who says I’m his lucky taper, even though they lost one of the games I taped him for. The one who says “Hey, Shannon!” every time he sees me. The ones who go to the games the other teams are playing in, and the ones who apologize for cussing in front of me. The seniors who told me how much they’re going to miss me. The ones who recognize that football isn’t the most important thing in the world but play like it is. The ones who have a reputation that doesn’t know how kind they really are. I know the boys whose mothers would be proud of the people they’re becoming. I know the group of young men who have the biggest hearts out of anyone I’ve ever known.
Granted, they aren’t perfect, but none of us are. They don’t all possess all the fruits of the Spirit all the time. (Galatians 5:22-23 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…) But they have an abundance of the first fruit; they’re full of love. Love for their families, love for the game, love for each other. Every single time that I’m around them, I just feel so surrounded and protected by the love that radiates off of each of them. I’ve witnessed them taking part in countless acts of love this year when they could have easily replaced them with acts of hatred. They showed me the goodness in all people; they taught me that it isn’t about how much you do but how much love you’re putting behind the things you do. I’m so thankful to them for that. I hope I marry a man who loves like they do, and I pray that I can love with the heart of the boys of fall.
1 Corinthians 16:23-24,