I have played football for seven years and when I was younger I was attracted by the attention and prestige that came with the sport. I have played quarterback for my high school team for three years and I always thought that I loved the attention. I was excited to know that as my team took their places, all eyes were on me. When my name was mentioned in the local paper, I was on top of the world. Our team does not have a sophisticated offense. We are primarily a running team, so the quarterback position is not a high-profile assignment, like the responsibilities that Drew Bledsoe has. I spend most of my time handing the ball off to the running backs. Occasionally I get to run the ball myself and once in a great while I attempt to pass. My sophomore year, I started six games at quarterback and we won once. As the immortal Forrest Gump once said, "That's all I have to say about that."
Last year (my junior year) was different. I started every game and our team had a winning season. It was the most fun I'd ever had playing sports. We were successful, the team was unified, and my teammates respected me. There wasn't a lot of attention focused on me and I didn't feel pressured by anyone but myself. I simply showed up and did my job. I was surrounded by many great athletes (many of whom have gone on to play in college) and they took the credit for our success. We played our hearts out, not for the attention but for us. We were like a big family. It was carefree, it was simple,
it was fun.
Last Friday we played the first game of my senior year. I was completely focused on winning, both for me and my teammates, because we had worked so hard during the summer and the beginning of the year. Fortu-nately, we did win, 28-7, and I scored two touchdowns. As the game ended, I was satisfied because I had done my job: I had lead the team to victory. I was happy, my teammates were happy.
End of story, right? I wasn't prepared for what happened next. My teammates were shocked. They must have thought that I had been touched by a magic wand. They showered me with praise and congratulations. This confused me. Had they not contributed to the victory? I had promised them that we would win and made good on my promise. But that was nothing compared to how everyone treated me. I was all over the sports pages of the local papers and I was even interviewed on the radio. My friends and classmates and teachers were even more enthusiastic.
The congratulations were endless and the recognition overwhelming. I couldn't believe all the fuss people made over a silly schoolboy's game. It was very stressful because it took me completely by surprise. Don't get me wrong, it's flattering, but it's not as great as I thought it would be. But this experience has made me realize what I really like about this game. I enjoy spending time with my best friends. I enjoy all the work that I put into the sport. I play for me. I play for my teammates. I play to win. Forget the rest of it. l
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.