Every Fall, 1000’s of football players show up for “Fall Camp” at college campuses across the country. I tend not to really get into the hype anymore, it’s been a long while.
But I sent a letter to former coach today. (I played college football at South Dakota State.)
Coach Stig is still there, leading the Jacks to great seasons and successful incredible changes. Some things resonate and I thought I’d share the letter I sent him.
Coach, I know its busy time or you but I wanted to share something. Maybe I do this every year, this all seems so familiar…
I had an amazing dream last night involving Jackrabbit football. This happens much more infrequently now but it seems to still happen every year during fall camp.
In the dream, as usual, I had a chance to play again. Be it some NCAA fluke of eligibility or magic or just the power of dreamland, I was on the bus on the way to the game. I knew immediately and instinctively exactly where I was and what was going on. I have talked to a lot of former players about this. It is common. We all still dream about our college football career, some of us, 30 years later!
Again, It’s dreamland, so things are weird in aspects. The team bus was loaded up and I knew we were headed to a big game. I was ripped up into the air and carried throughout the city faster than a movie in 10x speed. All of Brooking was shown to me as if carried by an angel – the dorms, the stadium, 6th street, the house me and 6 other Jacks lived – whatever and wherever I wanted to see. Then across the plains I was swept – over Rivers, Lakes and the hills of northern South Dakota.
I knew I was headed to Fargo. I whipped through the town, the old brick buildings, movie theater marquee, seeing all the gold and green (not happy about it but excited at the same time) and was magically parked standing directly in front of the stadium.
I walked past the girl taking tickets like a ghost, she didn’t even look up and I walked into the arena straight ahead and down the corridor in front of me into the arena, hopped the fence and proceeded onto the field.
Even in the dream, I could feel the stadium. The way a football field is ALIVE. Once I crossed the threshold of the white line and was on the actual field, it’s a different feeling…The smells of 20 years of games and sweat, the metallic energy taste of the crowd and lights. And the colors. The colors, true to real life – are more amazing, vivid and true with football than at any other time in my life. The only day that is even close in my life is the day after my first child was born. The day my son was born I remember walking the dog around the block as usual and the world just appeared different somehow. Similar to Polarized lenses in sunglasses maybe. I think all of us as dads have felt that before, just life I guess, Life fine tuned and dialed in. The flow.
Football has imprinted sensation and color into my psyche like that. I can, at any time still, take myself back to the first time I ever ran down a kickoff in college – the magical, slow motion of it all, the colors, the clouds and sky, the band and fans are imprinted into my being. My first start was that way too. I still get chills when I hear the song that played on the speakers during my first start as a linebacker for the Jacks. I had never heard the song before and it “attatched” itself to me.
This dream was like that. – dreamlike no doubt but fantastically so. Vivid beyond high def, 1080 or 4K!
So here’s how it went, with this fantastic feeling of being MORE ALIVE…I went into the locker room, my pads were set out and Oh My God!, my helmet – just to hold it again made me shudder. I held it for sometime, just letting the sensation of the paint and sticker and hardness, drip into my fingertips. Soon, I was suited up. I felt good – probably like a Ferrari on the open highway, ready to run fast, hit big, smile lots and soak it all in. It’s been 20 years since I last felt this and I had been waiting so long. What a rush. I can’t describe the next minutes very well. There just aren’t words enough for those of us lucky enough to know the feeling. You just don’t know unless you’ve done it before.
To walk out of the locker room and into the stadium and feel the energy, hear the noise and smell the remnants of fireworks was just so great of an experience that even as I drifted awake I just lay there enjoying it.
See this is the point of me writing you one of my dreams.
I never get to play –
It’s my birthday today and although another year around the sun, I continue to feel younger and stronger. I have a great life – it hasn’t been all downhill since I played. I am extremely blessed with a life of travelling, family adventure and LOVE. Playing football was a great fantastic thing I am extremely proud to have been a part of it but I’d be lying and ashamed if it was the pinnacle of my life.
I spent 5 of my birthday at SDSU in the midst of fall camp. Tired, sore and beat up from fall camp and although a great time of my life I failed to really grasp just where I was. I was looking to the future, to game day or to my girlfriend or to a coach’s decision of depth chart. Whateverit was, it always seemed to be going too fast, I missed the NOW. Or If I did live it, it was fleeting and fast.
Now 20 years later, It’s the THEN that returns to take me away in dreamland.
Even in my dreams I never get to play. I can’t find a shoe or I don’t have a chin strap or I sit on the bench. I have yet to ever see and single snap on the field in 20 years of thinking and dreaming about football. The last game of my life was the last time I ever felt that rush and that particular thrill and I wish I would have known just how important that was going to be.
I recall, You asked me if I was satisfied as I walked into the locker room for the last time and I told you I was. But it was a lie. Even my subconscious still chases the feeling.
I loved what I did and where I played. I just wish I had been fortunate enough to realize how sweet of a flavor it was. And just how much it would be missed when it was gone.
Feel free to share this however you wish (or not) or maybe someday have me come and speak to the team again about it – I would like that. But know that what these boys are going through truly will stay with them forever and will be woven into the fabric of who they are. Along with the friendships, laughs and parties are the tactile and raw sensations of a game that has a finite ending. So for those lucky enough to have the experience, hold onto it and drink it all in, in as big of gulps as possible. Its not the games that is whats lasts it the whole… “thing” (I dont even have a word for it). When it’s over, it over. Feel the NOW.