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With the release of our inaugural All-Area team this week, I had originally planned on taking this chance to explain a bit about the team. I do hope that you enjoy the team and congratulate all those who made the cut. It was not the easiest task I’ve set forth on since I began this position, but it was certainly a blast. There were many great players and performances this year in each sport and it was fun to relive some of those moments from the players.
However, over the weekend, a couple things happened that got me thinking. I get asked quite often why I do what I do. To some people, to think as highly of sports as I do is a bit childish, something you have to let go of when you graduate high school. Obviously, I am inclined to disagree. I cover sports because I love sports.
I’m certainly not the only one that enjoys sports. Some people are casual sports fans, some are die-hard armchair coaches, some enjoy the sport enough to get involved as a coach, staff member, player or media member. I chose the latter two.
The point I’m slowly getting to is why we love sports. As I said earlier, two things happened that made me think about this. The first was Jack Johnson of Norfolk walking out with the team as an honorary scholarship player. The second, was a 55-year-old man in South Carolina playing in a college football game.
For those of you who haven’t heard, Jack Johnson is an eight-year-old boy from Norfolk. Jack has a genetic disorder called Menkes disease, a disease that affects his skeletal and muscular development. This disease prevents him from doing the one thing he wants to do more than anything, play football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mike Riley and crew got wind of Jack’s issue and in turn decided to make his dream come true. They offered him an honorary scholarship for the team and gave him the full celebrity treatment. He had his own press conference, spoke with just about every media in the area and then became part of the team. He got his own jersey and pads, led the team in the pre-game prayer and then led the team out of the tunnel before joining the captains at midfield for the coin toss.
As for the 55-year-old man in South Carolina, his name is Joe Thomas, Sr. He is the father of a Green Bay Packers’ linebacker of the same name. On Saturday, he became the oldest known player to take a snap in an NCAA D1 football game.
Thomas, Sr. was a promising football player growing up, despite being partially deaf until he was 17, but was unable to play any further in his career. When he lost his job during the recession a few years back, he decided to pursue his degree. His son earned a spot on South Carolina State’s football team and they thought it would be fun to play together. Thomas, Sr., enrolled at the school and practiced on-and-off with the team over the next four years as a running back.
Finally, on senior day, Thomas, Sr. got his chance to make his dream of playing college football a reality, despite it being a year after his son leaving for the National Football League. The Bulldogs’ coaching staff inserted the 55-year-old man at running back and gave him the ball up the middle. He plowed forward for three yards.
Stories like Jack Johnson’s, Joe Thomas, Senior’s and the well-known story of Jack Hoffman’s among many, many others are a big part of the reason I love sports. Sports are fun to play, they are great entertainment and they give us something to talk about on Mondays, but most importantly, they give us memories. The memories Jack and Joe, Sr. made this weekend are ones that will stay with them forever. They are moments that fans and non-fans alike can always appreciate and the families of everyone involved will cherish forever.
That’s why I do what I do.