Dedication and Determination

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There are a lot of things that people remember in their earlier years, first date, first kiss, or even someone’s first fight. Sometimes situations like that can mold who you are. Something that I think shaped me and was maybe the beginning of something very beautiful was my first year playing in an organized football league. I was 11 years old and completely clueless. I was in a Pop Warner football league and the head coach’s son was one of my best friends at the time, but please don’t think that my coach took it easy on me because he didn’t at all. I played, but didn’t get in as much as I would want to. The starting players in front of me were Bam who was known as a head buster, Ahmad, who was just an all-around good athlete. They were really good; Ahmad actually got a scholarship to play for the University of South Carolina. I was lacking a tad bit of experience since it was my first year and they were already on their second and third. I came to the realization not too long ago that I sucked at football when I first started. It’s very hard to say something like that for someone like me, having a huge ego, but it was the truth. I was so scared of hitting; I used to slow down just before I made contact thinking that would lighten the blow which in reality, made it much worse, sometimes knocking my 11 year old behind to the ground. I also had no idea about what hole to run. For those who don’t know, in football the space between the linemen are called holes, evens are on the right and odds are to the left. I always confused myself from where to go, ending in a sloppy play that got me taken out of the game or practice. I had a whole lot of problems but the biggest one, one of the biggest no-no’s in football is to not fumble. Fumbling the football could be a HUGE game changer. Luckily I never fumbled in the game but I did a whole lot in practice, which obliviously didn’t help my cause if I was trying to get in the game more. I had a lot of flaws in my game, but you want to know what I did? I practiced and practiced and practiced!

I remember talking to my mom about all the problems I had at Cici’s Pizza, during the tradition of going there every Friday, and she gave me some very good ideas on how to improve on those skills. My mom is the type of person who will help me with whatever problems I have, even if it means making some sacrifices for her. She is a tough love mom; if I complain about a problem and don’t try to come up with a solution she would always say “You will never go anywhere in life whining about your problems, but you will go very far if you find solutions to it.”My mom used to help me practice in the garage almost every day for my problems remembering the hole numbers. We used to set up laundry detergent and act like it was the line and my mom used to hike the ball and hand it off to me and I’d run through whatever hole the play called for. It was so hot, and being from Florida, did not make things any better. We use to go at it for hours in that garage during the fall, sweating like some dogs.

My mom took things very seriously when it came to me practicing at whatever I do. She was like a coach when she helped me out, “Run through that whole hard son, stop tip toeing!” At first I used to think to myself like “Why is she taking this so serious? “and whenever I wanted to stop she would say”Ok, I tried to help you so don’t complain to me if you don’t get any playtime”. In the long run, she instilled a very strong work ethic in me that I still have to this day. It took me a while but I eventually learned all the holes with no problem. I never would have a problem with which hole to go in after that football season.

My mom use to help me with my fear of hitting as well, even though it sounds strange. We had a huge pillow and she’d hold it and pretend to be a linebacker while I was the running back. We used to practice it in her room; the room was so compact that it felt like I was running through a gauntlet, which is what it basically feels like running in real football because the space in holes are small sometimes. I would run at her, not trying to run too hard because that’s my mom and I didn’t want to hurt her. She’d shove the pillow at me occasionally knocking me back, but after vigorous training I was running and not getting knocked back at all. I was later known as one of the the hardest hitting running backs in my high school and I think it was because of those drills my mom and I used to do.

The hardest and longest flaw I had to deal with was fumbling. I had two ways of dealing with that problem. First was just holding onto the football and letting my mom try and rip it out. That proved to be very effective but I think if one ever has a problem with holding onto the football, you should definitely sleep with your football. I know it sounds strange; but I did this my whole career of playing football and had the least fumbles out of all the running backs in high school, so it might just work. Just hold it tight, rubber band yourself with it if you have to so it won’t slip out when you fall asleep, and you’ll be in good shape!

All this hard work paid off in my last game of the season in Pop Warner football. We were up by two touchdowns and the coach put me in for a running play, “follow your lead blocker, “I remember him saying. I was so scared, but remember all I was taught and ended up running over a linebacker and running for a touchdown. My mom would video tape whenever I got in, so when I got a chance to see it after the game, I was so captivated, I thought it should have been on the Mandarin Mighty Mites Pop Warner highlight of the year. That was my first ever touchdown in a football league, but it surely wasn’t my last. I believe that season made me into the type of football player I am today. I rarely have any problems with fumbling, I’m never scared of hitting anyone, and I know what holes to go through now. In order to get what you want in life you must work hard, nothing in life is ever handed to you.





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