The Legacy of Maine South Football

May 31, 2010
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I’m going to tell you a story about a decision that completely changed my life. This decision formed me to become a more mature and dedicated man.
Freshman year of high school, I was an undersized kid. I thought it would be nearly impossible to play football for a high school team, and idiotically I turn down the chance to play. Although I played basketball, and baseball my freshman year, it just did not feel right. I was not completely satisfied, and I didn’t really enjoy going to practice. I did not get much playing time during the games. I had to be on the bench more than the court or field.
I want to tell you a thing or two about my brother. I could go on for pages, but for your sake I’ll try to sum it up. My brother is my role model. Every day I wake up, I try to be more like him. He was voted “best personality” in his high school class, never swore in his life (except after his team won state), and lastly was an All-Conference team captain for a state championship team. Freshman year he was also small, and was on the freshman “B” football team. Sophomore year he did not play at all. He worked so hard and showed an extreme amount of dedication to his team and himself in the off-season sophomore year. Still, he got no playing time in his junior year. During this year, Mike made a name for himself. Every day in the weight cage, he worked as hard as possible. He showed major improvements of strength, and rarely ever missed a work out. Senior year, through his dedication, he started on offense and defense and strongly contributed to the state championship win. All his hard work paid off, and made a name for himself through Football.
After watching all of my brother’s accomplishments my sophomore year, I knew I had to make a decision. When I went down to Champaign, Illinois for the State Championship game, I knew I had to return to football. During that game, football just felt right to me, and I wanted to strap back on my helmet. I knew I had to make up for the two years I missed playing football, and ever since I have not taken a day off. I started to work like my brother day in and day out. Finishing every set or play the way he would. He inspired me to work hard and to never give up.
In contrast to baseball or basketball practice, I enjoyed going to practice. You see, football is different from all other sports. “Football is the only legal way to kill a man,” Coach “Mags” says. We always were busy and there always was something going on. Whether it was speed training, hitting the sled, or just going over plays, we always were doing something. I feel so fortunate for having the coaches I have now. I truly believe we have the best coaches in the state, which is the main reason why our football team has accomplished so many things. During our practices, Coach Inserra has our practice scheduled to every minute and is very organized. Although we stayed late for many practices (sometimes till 8), nobody really cared about the time. Our team grew bonds that I don’t think any other team can possibly do. We have so many inside jokes, which makes our team so special. We spend almost every minute together during the football season, and we were able to get to know everybody on the team very well. I think our friendships are part of the reason why we were able to be so successful.
Going into the 2009 season, we knew it would be extremely difficult to win state again. We took one game at a time. We started off our season playing at home against a rival team. With anticipation and adrenaline flowing through our veins before the game, we came out fired up and we were ready to knock their heads off. We started off the game very strongly, which led to our win.
A couple games pass, and one of my favorite games was fast approaching. We were playing West, and we knew we would absolutely kill them. Our prediction was right, and we were slaughtering them in the first half. Many players who normally don’t get in the games, were able to play. Two minutes pass by in the second half, and I hear my name get called, “Cooney”, get in there for someone. I could feel the nerves flowing through my body. I felt the sweat drip down from the top of my head to the bottom of my cheek. I overcame my nerves and sprinted onto the field, and gathered in the huddle. A few plays pass by, and I got into my stance. I stared at the offensive tackle right in front of me, and I bottled up all my anger. My brother always told me to do that when I am on the field. He told me to bottle up all the anger I have, and put it on each and every play. Generally, off-the-field I am a really nice guy. But sometimes I can’t control my anger and do stuff like “punching holes in the wall”. I took all my anger in the past and put it into that play. I came out like a bull from its cage. I was grunting and wiggling my fingers before the play. Then, I hear the quarterback say “hike!”, and I made my move. “Conor with an 18 yard sack,” says the announcer. At that very moment, I knew football was the right decision.
I still remember that day like it was today. That play went by so quick. I was extremely happy that night, and I remember thinking this is the best day of my life. Although my sack may not have been in a crucial moment of a game, I still thought it was amazing. We watched it on film the next day, and I was able to watch the play. Coach Inserra said we watched the entire game on film to see my sack again. Everybody was screaming “Coon Coon Coon Coon” in the film room.
Football is more about just the score and every play. It’s about what everybody does to prepare for every play. It is about all the little things athletes do going into the game, like Adam wearing his Northwestern shirt under his pads, or Frank playing music as loud as possible in the locker room, or when both C. brothers sat on each side of the water fountain in the pre-game, or lastly when all our players touch the “Play like a Champion Today” sign before each and every game. Football is not just a sport. Football is a lifestyle.
I also do many things in the season or off-season to be prepared for the games. After every leg day, I would do wall sits with a 45 pound weight on my lap. I would punch my leg to stay focused, and visualize the season upcoming. I would visualize me getting big plays and then celebrating with my teammates. I would pray during the National Anthem and thank God for such a great day. I would always pray to God asking for him to guide our team to the best of our abilities. Football players must get into the right mindset before each and every game.
The 2009 football season was a huge success. We overcame the improbable and won state back-to-back years. Winning state was the best experience of my life and I will never forget it. Winning state is a once in a lifetime experience that not many people ever get to live. I remember all the little things during the State Championship weekend. I remember seeing all the pranks my teammates did to each other in the hotel. I remember going to Wal-Mart for almost two hours. I remember praying before the game. And most importantly, I remember looking at the scoreboard at the end of the game and seeing the score 41-17. We had a special team this year, and I am so fortunate that I was on the team. The decision to play football changed my life. I worked as hard as I possibly could day in and day out this year to help my team. I am looking forward to the next season, and hopefully we can do the improbable again.

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