Hello my friend :)
Although early, I hope you're having a great start to your Friday.
Ever since Avin was a little boy, Chas and I would frequently get asked if he was going to play football... like All. The. Time... Avin had... well still, has a unique gift of being a massive child compared to his peers... however, much like me I guess... he was a very gentle spirited kid whom was soft spoken and got a lot more joy out of pretend play than sports... if playing catch and a person with a dog showed up.. that'd be it... puppy time. :) That being said, Chas and I never pushed the idea of it because it wasn't there as a desire - regardless of the random discussion. If Avin wanted to play anything it would be about and for him.. not us as the parents.
This past March I wrote a post about Avin wanting to pursue football for the first time. It was a vulnerable time for him but he had the guts to try something new regardless of the outcome. Although he didn't make the team his effort was worth noting.
I've not publicly shared how difficult school has been for him.. but short of being hell... it's been pretty much a shit show for years. Especially the past 3 years or so... last year being one of the worst. Between his teacher whom did nothing but bully him almost day after day - which he'd come home crying because of her.. this is 7th grade no less... the Principal had zero leadership for anything which exacerbated the problem... or he'd be surrounded by kids who'd taunt him for his challenges or how largely awkward he was. If it were a job anyone would have quit.. but being in school and a kid, you can't do that. All in all though it sucked total shit and I hate that chapter of life or even talking about it... this is a good story email so I'm gonna stop there ;)
Moving forward... :)
We had been on a waiting list for a well known charter school here in Surprise called Paradise Honors. This school frequently has a waiting list for students and now come to find out even a waiting list for teachers.. that kind of school... so this year both boys were accepted... and I cannot begin to tell you the difference this school has made! I could write an entire thread just about Paradise Honors. This school is different than most of the other public schools... It's has K-5, then a completely different middle school, then a high school.. ...
So Avin starts 8th grade this year... and unlike public schools that stop at 8th grade.. this school not only has flag football, but it has tackle football too. So there we are enrolling him and going through all of the stuff and here we go again... hey, is your son going to play football? you're a big dude, are you going to tryout for football?
Not knowing anyone on the team or the school, encouraged by the idea of tackle, never having played football before, he stepped out from his comfort zone and gave it a shot... :)
Of about 50 kids whom tried out, 25 made it.. and Avin was one of them. :) Unexpectedly, a football player was born... but born of his own desire and willingness to give the effort. He truly loves it.
(Avin would have had no issue smiling BTW... they told him to not smile..... )
Avin... in that picture above..... pretty much 6'-1"... 180lbs... he was always a big kid... but damn that's a huge bitch! hahah! :)
For a better understanding and comparison... when I started my freshman year in high school... HIGH SCHOOL.... I was 5'-9ish.... 130lbs?!...
There's no missing him when he'd practice on the field with his teammates nor miss him on the field playing against other schools.
Joining the team he approached the coaches the same way as before... "where would you like to play"... "I'll play wherever is needed"... being the giant he was he found himself on the defensive line and offensive line as a tackle. If you don't know what that is.. it's the line of big guys who smash into each other... Avin was right next to the guy who hiked the ball. :)
Avin was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. He never missed a practice and committed. He had a huge understanding of how big he was and struggled giving all of his strength as he towered most whom he was against and didn't want to hurt them.
There was one game where the opposing team had a BIG DUDE on it... #64... Avin and #64 played both on offense at the time and didn't play against each other... at halftime Chas and I were responsible for drinks... being down there myself, Avin kept saying I want #64!... as he'd say that teammates would complain about #64.. so that further amped Avin up!
I forgot really to mention... Avin's team, The Panthers, was a great team.. their first game was 38-0... and much of the games were large upsets...
So! #64... somewhere likely their head coach could see our offense was killing it.. so near the end of the game they put #64 on defense... Right. In. Front. Of. Avin. He was jacked!
Avin wasn't much of a play maker type, like caught the winning catch kinda play... but he was the iron curtain when he needed to be and those were his plays. So recalling it in my head right now I can feel the excitement of watching it unfold as I type... like exited tears right now...
He loaded up against #64 and owned him! He crouched low and lifted... not sure if it was pempted up strength from having bottled it for games on end, but #64 could take it... and Avin gave it! again and again.. .and again. Near the very end of the game he put #64 in his place enough for his team to make a score.. Afterwards Avin ran to the sidelines pumped as hell.. pounding on his chest taunting the parents crowd by flexing his arms.. he knew he did well and it was in a role really only he could contribute.
It was incredibly awesome... the flash of where he came from years before to this, he was definitely in his element and Chas and I couldn't be happier.
Avin had no shortcomings of being the mother on the team either haha... that is undeniably his role.. when someone would get hurt he'd talk to them or ask Chas and I for a special cold Gatorade he'd give the player. There was one play he was so focused on his teammate on the sidelines he nearly missed the play and had to be fussed at as a reminder to get out there! haha :)
It was those kind of quiet moments that were fun to watch as parents. Although not one whom scored, he was there in the ways that will make the difference in his future.
He did not have a receiver roll as he was just on the line, being the iron curtain.. but he did want his shot at trying something new... so over the course of a couple weeks he asked his coaches if he could try receiving... he knew that wasn't his strong suit at all.. but he willingly wanted to make that better...
So during his fall break he was a the park running passes and plays... in his park, no one to play against, yet he dressed up in his gear to make the commitment of practice... as often as we could go play catch, he was there.
One thing that was a huge surprise to Chas and I was the coaching staff... they were not your typical yellers.. they would talk to the boys and make them each feel important. Being on the sidelines as parents you could hear endlessly the other coaches hollering and yelling. Yes the Panther coaches fussed and redirected what they needed to.. but there was mentor-ship in it. They did allow Avin that shot at making a catch.. Although one pass, which he didn't make, but he gave it his effort. It was nice to see the coaches give that opportunity to him.
The season was an exciting one.. the first game the Panthers played was a staggering 38-0.. against their rivals Odyssey. Odyssey's start of the season wasn't that good and had a lot of injuries... so somewhere they came up with the idea to merge both schools...
The next time the Panthers faced Odyssey... Odyssey won that game it might as well have been the championship because they were beyond thrilled they beat us... Kudos to their #37... the game was tied, we were passing into our end zone for the win... #37 intercepted it and ran for 100 yard touchdown.. for the win. Although a loss... the Panthers needed a moment of humbling. Which that loss to their rival grounded them allowing them to find their roots once again.
Game after game thereafter the Panthers played like a team.. No one gifted player, just a team working as one. The Panthers did well enough. Keep in mind, this was the Panthers first season at their new middle school campus.. so there was a lot of that unconscious pressure they were dealing with as they kept winning and wanted to keep it up.
Sure enough though the boys won through the season and the playoffs... their record was so good they got to host the playoff game at home...
and host the championship..
The night before Avin spent quiet time in the shop cleaning all of his gear before the championship game. This is entirely motivated by Avin too... it was his routine of focus and want to take it seriously.
The game was one for the books... right out of the gate... we fumbled the kick off and gave it right to Odyssey... then thankfully we stuffed them right at the end zone with no score.. our first possession though... we were tackled in their end zone... safety... so 2 points to Odyssey. The boys struggled getting their traction.
As we headed into halftime the score was still 0-2. The defense of both teams would not let up.. all of us parents, fans even the Odyssey side were stressing. It was a good game.
Then we started to score... then Odyssey scored, then we scored. man it was hell!! ... then as we neared the final minutes, we were approaching the Panther end zone for a score.. Panther's #28 is headed for a touchdown for the hopeful win... BUT the football was stripped and loses it... he was so distraught...
Odyssey now has the ball... with less than a minute left Odyssey's #37 receives the ball again, took it and ran for a 60 yard touchdown... within the last 50 seconds?!?!? ... stressful doesn't even cover it... it was so reminiscent of how we all lost the first loss against them... thankfully the Panthers stopped the extra point.. but, now there was less than a minute and the Panthers were down by 6.
I can remember the stresses everyone felt.. how loud Odyssey's side was... I can still hear Eminem's song play from the tower behind us... trying to amp the boys.. "this is your last shot, your one chance" "loose yourself".. man.. like a legit pro game.. it was stressful.....
Odyssey kicks off.. Panther's #28 catches it, dodges a tackle, breaks a tackle, doesn't quit...
and scores a touchdown...
with 20 seconds left....
to tie the game..!
I get chills still even thinking about it. it was incredible! how redeeming Panthers #28 felt! everyone was on their feet thrilled!!!
Both teams square up for the overtime coin toss... Panthers win the toss, they go first. Now they have only 4 downs to score a touchdown before Odyssey gets a shot... the Panthers score a touchdown and make the extra point conversion... Panthers are up by 8!!!!
Being in overtime it's Odyssey's chance to score...
Panthers put up a huge fight! ... Odyssey's 4th down... last run... they score.... Panthers are up by 2 now... Odyssey goes for their final 2 points, for the tie.... BUT! before Odyssey's quarterback can hand it off, Panthers break the line and sack the play.. ending the game...
Panthers win 22-20, in overtime against their rivals...
I cannot even describe how insane that game was...not just because it's our boy's game... but it was all in all, an incredible game!
#77 is a champion! Panthers are champions!
It was amazing to see them all down there... it was amazing to see Avin down there doing something he asked for, wanted for, and did it himself. man it was incredible!
Now with the season done and completed I can sit back and clearly see the difference in who this little boy was back in March of 2018 and the young man.. the football player of today... now just a little more than half a year later.
His effort is a lot to be admired for and he's an inspiration to me to keep trying the things that make me uncomfortable. Today, everything is about football and a good play and playing catch. Although he'd like to be a fireman... he'd really like to play in the NFL. :)
Boy there was a lot there!... he deserved every single word and character I typed. Thank you so much for allowing a Dad to brag about his boy. I hope you enjoyed the story of his effort as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you.
Have a grateful Friday friend!!