I sat in the Georgia Dome speechless last night as the final seconds of the clock expired on an incredible season for the Roswell Hornets’ Football team. If just wanting something badly enough could determine an outcome, my desire alone would have secured the championship for our boys. Throw in all of your enthusiasm, and it would be a slam dunk (mixing metaphors already.) But, it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t about our desire for the championship. It was about 48 minutes of football on the field. Colquitt just played better. Last night, they were the better football team. I’m a football dad. Therefore, I could armchair quarterback the reasons why; the momentum robbing calls that didn’t go our way, the missed tackles and the mismatches. Then, there’s the politics; What if there was no Cambridge, and redistricting hadn’t harvested talent from our team? What if there weren’t 2 other football programs less than a mile from our school also pulling from the same talent pool? But, what’s the point of “what ifs”? It’s really just poor sportsmanship. The game has been played. We were not victorious.
Then, the really dark thoughts entered my mind. I wanted to vilify our opponents, specifically the Colquitt County Coach, Rush Probst. My mind was filled with hurtful things to say, highlighting his past indiscretions. Slowly, and it has taken me all night, I’ve decided to not feed those thoughts or make those jokes. Isn’t the essence of Christian faith God giving us second chances? Imagine the shame he must have felt years ago as everything was unraveling in Hoover, Alabama. What an amazing comeback. I don’t want to mock his past. I want to celebrate his amazing turnaround. Which one of us couldn’t use a little grace now and again? It’s taken quite a bit of humbling prayer, but I truly want the best for his future. Also, I wouldn’t mind him moving on up to college coaching, and giving the rest of the state a fighting chance! He is really good.
After the game, I drove up to Ray Manus stadium to meet the busses and pick up my son. It wasn’t a pep rally. There were maybe 20 of us, but we lined the sidewalk just as hundreds of us had done to send the team off to the Dome. I clapped until my hands were bruised as the stunned Hornets walked to the field house to drop off their gear, some of them for the final time. I didn’t know what to say. So, I just rotated between “Thank you,” “I’m proud of you” and “Let’s go Hornets.” I’ve thought of some things I’d like to say.
In my time with Third Day, we received some incredible accolades, none bigger than the 4 Grammys we won for Rock/Gospel Album of the Year. What doesn’t make the press clippings are the 8-10 times we made it to the shortlist of consideration and didn’t receive the award. I’ve experienced winning the ultimate honor for my field, but losing it as well. I’m a competitive person. I always want to win. But, I’ve had to learn through both successes and shortcomings that taking the prize is only bonus. The real win with Third Day was when we made songs that impacted people’s lives. My favorite memories from my time with the band are the times of struggle with my friends before it became a business; when it was a joy, not a job. My favorite accomplishments are written on the hearts of people’s lives that were touched by our songs, not etched on Grammy Awards, now being used as paper weights. I wholeheartedly agree with Mark Richt’s final words as a Bulldog.
“Life is about people, not rings. Rings collect dust,” Mark Richt
I want to speak to three separate groups; the senior football players, the coaches and players of next year’s team, and the community at large.
One of you tweeted out “I suck” last night. That’s the worst kind of trash talk. You need to remove that kind of thinking from your mind. What you guys have accomplished this year is amazing. You brought a contagious joy to our community. I’ve watched youth football players play pick-up games at the Rec pretending to be you. There are a lot of kids looking up to you right now, and you have a city full of people who have your back and want the best for your future. Take a day and lick your wounds, but then it’s time to pick yourself up and make the most of your remaining time in Roswell. What did Coach Ford teach you after every win? He taught you that the past was the past. He taught you to think of your record as “0-0.” Guess what? You’re “0-0.” Failure isn’t falling, it’s staying where you fell. Pick yourself up, and go do great things. Find a way to give a little back to this community that has supported you before you leave. This is the gift that you guys have earned; You will always have a home. Here is my cell: 678-427-8659. You can call me day or night, and I will do anything I can for you, even if you’ve made a mistake. I’m not the only one. We’ll be cheering many of you on in your football careers, but for all of you, we’ll be cheering you on in life. Your city will be here to help you find a job after college, and many of you will return with your families to raise them in this community as well. You are always welcome here. Make the most of these last few months here. Connect with your home.
Coaches and players,
This sign is just as true today as it has been all season. When you look at the talent you’ll graduate, I know the future can feel daunting. But guess what, you don’t need to fill their shoes. You just need to be the best you that you can be. That’s what the slogan means. If you didn’t like the feeling of being on the sidelines watching time expire with nothing to do about it, guess what, next year is your turn to do something about it. Maybe it will be for a state title, maybe a region title, maybe a Milton rivalry game. The size of the stage is not the issue. It’s about deciding right now who you will be in your moment. You can let this year’s success lull you to complacency or you can start training now, harder than anyone else in the state. It’s time for you guys to commit to one another as brothers that ego and laziness will not be tolerated. Who will step up and lead? Only you can answer your challenge, but you’re enough.
Coaches, I have one request for you. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Keep teaching our sons that being an athlete is temporary, but being a man of integrity is forever. Keep cussing at them, and praying for them, and scolding them, and setting the bar high. Keep loving them. Keep inspiring them to bring their best, and not tolerating less. Keep showing them that real masculinity is showing emotion, not masking it. This community appreciates you. We’re grateful for you. Don’t second-guess yourself because of the scoreboard. (That’s our job!)
Our community had two teams come up short in the championship games this weekend at the Dome. However, our community did not come up short. I woke up today prouder than ever to be a Roswellian. The energy at the tailgate last night was incredible. How can we keep that going for every game next year? There is more to this “One Roswell” idea than just a slogan for mutual fandom in our community. I humbly submit that it is a new slogan for what this community can be. Will we let anybody divide us by racial lines? No. In Roswell, there is no black and white, only green. We love our diversity. Will we let anybody divide us on religious lines? No, we are One Roswell. Protestant, Catholic, Jew or Muslim, we are One. We’re all raising our kids together, and our values aren’t just lived out in our houses of worship. Will we let anybody divide us on political lines? No, we are One Roswell. I know it might sound dramatic to extrapolate so much from a football season. But, I believe that we can build from this season to make our city an even better place to be. Let’s actively support Roswell businesses. Let’s care for our neighbors across the street. Let’s not sleep through another election. Let’s find ways to make our park system even better. Let’s keep making all of our schools the best in the state. Let’s make Canton Street the hottest place to be in the Southeast. The world might be a scary place, but Roswell isn’t. It’s home. It’s our home.
We are One Roswell.
This article was originally published to my Facebook page, but was also published by Roswell Magazine.