I’m going to admit this publicly, once and for all, something I’ve admitted privately for years. The day Manning retires - no matter the circumstances - will be a day I shed some tears, and the day the last part of my childhood youth dies away.
Manning is the reason I approached football the way I did…and though I’ll probably never meet him, he has certainly had a big hand in my life. Some may scoff at this, but in the end, Manning has been my biggest childhood idol and hero, and this article reminds me that time has gone on, age and maturity has come with it.
I’m no longer 8, watching a guy named Peyton wave his arms and bark orders around like a squawking pigeon…and football is no longer something confined to Madden ‘98. Life has grown past the confines of my childhood and with growing up came responsibility.
Whether it be the loss of a friend to death, friends becoming tragically ill, car accidents, or whatever life circumstances that were brought into my life, in the end, my experiences from football and sports (and obviously, God’s grace), helped me adapt, shape, cope, and grow.
No matter how it ends, and I’m very afraid this may be the end, Peyton will be one of my idols and heroes forever.
To say that the last 48 hours have been the hardest of my life would be a slight exaggeration. Make that slight.
On Friday night, I witnessed a (presumably) fatal car accident. As a male who has been ‘roided up with hero movies, you always dream of a moment where you hear screeching car tires and a crash, so that you can possibly be of help and maybe even be a hero in that situation.
How wrong I was.
As I was going through a walk-through practice with 40 high school freshman and sophomore students at Whittier Christian High School, we heard a violent screeching of tires. As we looked up, I started to chuckle, because you never actually hear or see a crash here in Los Angeles. For as bad of drivers as we tend to be, we always seem to luck out. Until this time.
I happened to look up right as the car went air born. Yes, air born. It nose dived about 4 feet from the fence that separates our field from Beach Blvd. in La Habra. The first words out of my mouth were of 4 letters I won’t repeat here, and something that shouldn’t be said around private high school students anyways…but it was appropriate. As I looked over at another coach, I mumbled, “I guess we better call 911” and he just looked at me mumbling some sort of affirmative back.
The adrenaline kicked in at this point, and all the first-aid training we received a month ago kicked in. I stripped off my hat, wristband, threw my papers in the air, grabbed my phone and took off towards the fence. I managed to dial 911 as I leaped over the 10-foot fence – something the players would say later was the “most athletic thing” I’ve probably done in years.
The sight on the other side wasn’t pretty. The driver lay limp in her seat, airbag deployed, front end of the car smashed into her lap. Her head was down, and there wasn’t any movement. In another car, the man was stumbling out of his car…based on my training, I started yelling (something I tend to do far too often I’m told) that he needed to sit down and not move. People scrambled to get his poor tiny dog from the middle of the 6-lane intersection.
I started telling everyone to back off and that I was certified in first aid. All of this was happening as I barked at the 911 operator to get us an ambulance – “the drivers dead” I claimed - she didn’t ask questions she simply replied, “We are on our way.”
As the other coaches caught up with me, the door of the first car swung open. A girl in the backseat was screaming. She was pinned where your feet are supposed to go in the backseat. Her leg was crushed underneath the drivers seat. She struggled to try to get out. I screamed at her to stop moving, that she could be hurt, and that help was on the way. I have never heard anyone scream bloody murder until that day.
My buddy, Aaron, a fellow coach at Whittier Christian grabbed the driver’s head frantically searching for a pulse. He couldn’t find it. Cars were honking and roaring by (because Californians are idiots and don’t understand a three car pile up and smoke means bad news). I jumped into the road and started directing traffic.
Aaron later told me that the limp driver started screaming, a pulse came, and he could tell her neck and probably back were broken based on the situation. The paramedics arrived and based on what they were asking/doing to her, I assume she had major internal bleeding and a lot of other things going on.
We cleared out and went back to practice, knowing we couldn’t be of any more help.
I don’t know if the women made it back to the hospital alive, if her daughter is OK, or any other details. But the sight of a limp women – a real human being, a real life – that close to death (or perhaps was dead) and knowing she wouldn’t leave OK when the moment had passed like they do in the movies was more horrifying than I ever imagined it would be.
To make it even worse, later at our varsity game, I saw a woman who looked very similar to her, and I couldn’t help but to be taken back to that spot in the road from some hours before.
If things couldn’t have gotten much worse, I had to sit through two grueling losses from our football program – minute items in the grand scheme of life, but if you know me, losing, no matter what, will always bother me – I got a call from my mom to tell me my godfather, Jim, who had survived the higher stages of leukemia and was on the verge of death went completely blind today.
He had already lost vision in one eye, and as he was being tested this weekend he lost vision in the other. I can’t help but associate him with the story of Job – a man who was righteous in God’s eyes who was put through the ringer to show his faithfulness. I can’t help but think that God is allowing this to happen to Jim to show his faithfulness to a great number of people, yet I can’t help but question God (and how crazy that is to even be written out!).
In the end, God is still good…and life will go on. But, our sin-twisted world, scorched and scarred like a blackened forest after a wildfire, has yet again sent crushing blows to my family and my church back home.
I trust His plan…we always have to. But tonight, I’ll shed some tears for the events of this weekends.
Prayers are always appreciated, and so are hugs and people reminding me God is good and everything will be OK – sin has been conquered, but we must be faithful until the end of this age and the coming of eternity with Him. How I long for the day when this earth shall be made new by the hands of it’s original Creator. How I long for the days of no back pain or concussion marks in my brain, the day Jim can see his daughters and wife again, the day (hopefully) those who are in vicious accidents will be reunited, perfect and renewed with their loved ones.
Until that day.
Day 24 of 30: Something you did as a child that people remember me for.
What a loaded question. I suppose I could go the postive route, or I could tell ya’all of something entirely stupid that I managed to do while growing up (that list is much longer), but I guess I’ll brag about my athletic glory days: elementary school and junior high football.
In 5th grade, I got most improved – which doesn’t sound like a lot, but we played in a pretty competitive Pop Warner league, and so coaches started pegging me early as a player to watch out for.
When I was in 6th grade, I was just finishing up a growth spurt that included 7 inches and about 55 pounds (over a year and a half). Note that I was also normally one of the fastest kids on the field when I really wanted to be. It wasn’t really a “one moment” type of thing, but instead a few years worth of growth – both physically and in athletic prowess.
My coach – who was a former college and pro linebacker – told the team and our parents that I was the type of player “who could go all the way” if I just “showed up” – but he “never knew which Matt would show up,” the player who showed the potential or the one who didn’t take it seriously.
In 7th grade, I made the 8th grade varsity team and became one of the more feared defenders at that level. For the next two years, I was recruited by half a dozen high schools to move into their district or opt out of mine and play football. Three of them (by my shotty count) went on to win State Titles.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t live in my glory days. I’m not one of those athletes who live in their high school (or in my case Jr. High) days looking for ears to hear my story. I walked away from the game I love because my body couldn’t take it, and I washed out during high school for lack of size, ability, and intensity for the game.
I only share that because it was a fun few years to be a “child prodigy” as coaches pegged me. It’s even GREATER to see the things that matter in life. My parents never forced me to play sports, play an instrument, or go to church. They encouraged me to, but they supported anything I desired to do that was legal.
Now, two years removed from anything competitive, still healing from 5 concussions, a broken back, a torn ACL, and a handful of other injuries, it’s safe to say, those were the glory days of my athletic career.
I’m excited to say that the glory days of my faith and life are ahead of me. Jr. High, High School, and College (capitalized on purpose!) aren’t the periods to life, but instead commas, a continuation to rest of the best days of our lives. Carry on friends!