December 04, 2006
Originally published July 30, 2004
I read that book by John Grisham while I was in Costa Rica. It was pretty much a throwaway beach-book that I left at the hotel when I checked out. But certain parts of it sent me spinning 'way back in time.
I played for Bubba Atwood during the glory days of Jenkins High School football in Savannah. I played in three losing games in three years. We were winners and we KNEW IT. But, by Bejus, we earned everything we got.
I both loved and hated Coach Atwood. He drilled the shit out of us and made us the most well-conditioned team on the field. He ran our asses off. We won a lot of games in the fourth quarter when the other team ran out of gas and we were still going strong. If you wore the Red and Silver at Jenkins, you paid for it in blood, sweat and tears. Atwood was a harsh taskmaster. But he got your ass in shape to play.
In a lot of ways, a football coach is like a father to everybody on the team. Atwood cussed and praised, he yelled and screamed, and he MEANT IT when he said that we would run laps and wind sprints until the sun went down. I believe that he was a winner because he demanded perfection. He could rake your ass over the coals one minute and then pat you on the back the next, depending on how you performed on the field.
I learned a lot of lessons from playing football that have served me well in life. I learned to be tough, I learned to ignore pain and I learned what it means to be a winner. I learned what IT TAKES to be a winner. It ain't easy and Coach Atwood taught me that.
Coach Atwood is dead now, but his influence on me remains alive. I'll never forget the man. He made one hell of an impact on my life. I feared HIM more than I ever did anybody on the field. I didn't want to let him down, because I loved him, too. I wanted to make him proud of me and I would have stuck my head into a fire if he told me to.
I can understand the meaning of Bleachers because I played for a coach a lot like Eddie Rake.
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