The YMCA Knights, or as we called them, 'the Ka-niggits'. This is how it all began. I'm the dude in the glasses. The guy in the back wearing blue, Jerry, got involved with the YMCA and wanted to coach a kids football team. I think that he joined to meet girls or to use the pool, maybe both. Either way, he dragged me into it. I was having too much fun being irresponsible and reteaching myself how to drink beer to ever get into it on my own. He did it that one year, I did it for a dozen more after he moved away to Ohio.
I owe him. It changed my life.
I coached for 13 years and I was lucky enough to meet and be able to learn from over 100 great kids. Yeah, I was the coach but they taught me far more than I ever taught them. In the beginning, I was a 28 year old pain in the butt, learning how to live life again after a long and failed relationship that had pretty absorbed me. All I wanted to do was chase chicks and drink beer and cruise for a while. I managed to pull that off but during that time this was one of the few things that kept me grounded and reminded of what was really important. Making a difference. This probably directly led to my being involved with charities for the past 20 years.
I also acquired another coach in our second year, after the guys the courts and TPRD forced upon me as helpers ran out of community service hours, and he's the guy we all called Coach Keith. He was the father of a player, usually something that i liked to avoid, but boy was he great. He was a father and a good man and he taught me patience, with the kids and with myself. Wonderful guy. He coached defense. I ran the offense.
I really can't say enough about the guys, the WINTHROP FALCONS, who really did change my life. i could name names, but that wouldn't be fair to the names that I've managed to let slip from my memory. I still have my coaches medallion hanging from my car mirror and a signed football that a team gave me. I still have my playbooks and the Falcon Feathers, too.
Luckily, I still see many of them these days, either on the internet or at FSU football games. They've gone on to a broad variety of professions and the ones I see seem to be pretty happy young men. If I had even a smidgen of influence on their lives that they've had on mine, then I'm a proud man.
Thanks Boys, er Men, and Thanks Coach Keith. You are the best.