The Day, August 9th. The significance. The first day of Fall sports practice for Nebraska high schools begins now. Somewhere around 266 schools will begin Football practice today with their sights set on a trip to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln in November or UNK in Kearney for the 6-Man warriors.
There is nothing more Magical than high school football and Friday Night Lights. There is no sport on the planet where players put in so many practice hours for so few Game Days. But the blood, sweat and toil is worth it.
There is no game that bonds brothers together like the sport of high school football. Coaches lean on their seasoned seniors to instill the passion of the game to the next generation who will carry the banner for their school. That positive learning experience alone is like no other.
Small town football especially illustrates the fire and pride a community has when it comes to their football teams. The toughness of many of these communities through the years were often measured by the success of the high school football teams. Pride and spirit runs deep in these towns, but don’t think for an instant that it isn’t the same in every city in Nebraska.
Only high school football could do that.
Rivalry games are circled before Fall practice ever begins. Bitter losses, especially those that ended deep playoff runs, have burned in the guts of the returning warriors who clench their fists, waiting for a chance to make amends.
Then there’s the Omaha Public schools who waited TWO years to strap on the pads. How sweet this day must be for those young men and coaches to actually know that today is THE DAY, the day that never came a year ago.
For those football players, today will seem like Christmas. They know the pain of missing the opportunity to experience Friday Night Lights. But that’s in the rear view now, men. Seize the opportunity today and give it all you’ve got.
The medical community is preaching the fact we are not out of the woods, by a long shot with this new virus strain. But look at it this way. The NSAA, in their infinite wisdom and strong courage, led us through the dark times a year ago.
They started the season and saw it through to the end, knowing it could be done with the right approach.
There were State Championships, albeit not in Lincoln, but the games were played from beginning to end. Some states never played a down. The NSAA knew better. They had faith we could play the games if we all followed the rules and protocols. And we did.
We enter this 2021 high school football season with renewed promise. Nebraskans know how to do it when it comes to high school academics and extracurricular activities, which is the reason this day, August 9th, 2021 is a special day. A day seemingly normal in many ways. The start of something big.
So to every high school football warrior who hits the practice field today, feel the glory of the best game on the planet. I can promise you those who embrace the Game will be a better person for it. The love of the practices and Friday Night Lights will never leave your mind and body. You will be a football Lifer.
I am 72 years old and can remember every single game and every carry I had as a running back at GICC in the mid-1960s. I can also recall every block I missed and wished to God I could go back and make amends to people like Randy Flanagan, Jim McDermott and Carl Tesmer. But it’s part of the game, a game that is so addicting that the positives far override the missed blocks because the lessons the Game of Football teaches you will shape your life.
And it’s a game that teaches unity, brotherhood, the ups and downs of life and the ability to pick yourself up after a “bad” play, knowing there are brothers to lean on and encourage you along the journey.
It all begins TODAY.
Now go out, embrace the game, and form the bonds that will take you to the Promised Land. That Land may not be Memorial Stadium in Lincoln or UNK in Kearney, but I can promise you without reservation, that if you give The Game 110%, the joys and life lessons learned from it will be immeasurable.