The high school, college, and yes, even the younger athletes have a football season that is now in full swing. Naturally, there is a lot of talk about the strengths and weaknesses of teams, along with their chances of winning against difficult opponents.
Recently, my friend, Shannon, who is a senior at University of Georgia, and I had a good talk about football, coaching, winning at life, and honestly what is most important in this whole ball game thing.
Here I will relay a couple of University of Georgia “behind the scenes” player stories. No matter what team you cheer for, I believe you will be inspired by these accounts. I am sure there are many tales about players and coaches at other universities, however, I chose UGa, because after all, that is my Alma mater. Athens is where I met my husband on a blind date, October 7, 1978 for an Ole Miss game, thanks to our lifelong friend, Keith, who introduced us thirty-seven years ago this fall.
JAMES EUNICE Did you know that James attended high school in Valdosta, GA, with a current, wide receiver UGa player by the name of Malcolm Mitchell?
Take time to love someone. Today, Tomorrow, For the rest of your life. Because when that unexpected day comes that they pass on, you’ll be left wondering what you could’ve done better. How you could have made them feel more welcome, and show that you do care for them. Don’t wait until it’s too late like I did. Show the love that Jesus has for you to everyone you see. Let your heart break for what breaks His.” James Eunice, On his Facebook page in April 2010, entitled “The Clock Is Ticking”
Unlike his classmates, Mitchell and Jay Rome, as a senior, Eunice was not recruited to play for the Dawgs. However, after an early acceptance to UGa in December 2010, Eunice had contacted Coach Mark Richt to let him know that he planned to “walk on”.
I think about what if something were to happen to Jon or David? Your heart goes out to them. If there’s something I can do to bless the family right this minute, however small, I’d like to do that, so that’s what we did.” Coach Mark Richt referencing his own two sons, at the time of James Eunice’s passing
Sadly, in January 2011, during his senior year at Valdosta High School, at the age of 17, James Eunice drowned while duck hunting. The Eunice Family presented Coach Richt a T-shirt with “The Clock is Ticking” on the back, which was sold to help raise money for a scholarship fund. Months later, Richt still had the t-shirt on his desk. James Eunice was listed on the team’s roster as #23 for the next four years, as Coach Richt told the family: “James made the team.”
Following his friend’s tragic passing, MALCOLM MITCHELL went onto play for the Georgia Bulldogs. However, this story about Mitchell has nothing to do with the game he plays between the hedges in a packed stadium of over 92,000 exuberant fans. This story began in a Barnes and Noble Bookstore where Malcolm and a friend were looking for some good books to read. Most are unaware that this top recruit could only read on a junior high level when he started at UGa, and he truly wanted to work on his “reading game”. A chance encounter with Kathy Rackley, an Athens resident and book club member led to a journey no one could have predicted. The only man and youngest by a generation, Mitchell soon joined Rackley’s monthly book club meeting. Watch here to see the complete, remarkable story: YouTube Video—Malcolm Mitchell. In addition, Malcolm Mitchell, a fifth year senior at UGa, is now an author of his debut children’s book, The Magician’s Hat. Two of Mitchell’s favorite books happen to be two of my favorites, as well: The Glass Castle, By, Jeannette Walls and Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.
These two real-life accounts remind us that these men who dress out in shoulder, knee, thigh pads, cleats, a helmet, and gloves, to play this game that we love so much are just that: young men with a beating heart, who have dreams and desires they hope to achieve, many which have nothing to do with the game of football.
The Bible is the greatest playbook. If you’re going to be successful and it’s going to be sustainable, you have to delve into the playbook.” Derrick Moore, Chaplin for Georgia Institute of Technology for the past 14 years
The building of their character by the countless coaches who work with these young men will have an eternal impact, one which will remain long after the time clock runs out.
You can live by biblical principles, and you can teach by those principles and still be a winner. So many coaches think you’ve got to kick your players in the rear end. You’ve got to cuss them out. You’ve got to hit them across the head. No. You don’t have to do that.” Coach Bobby Bowden
The best coaches and fans are the ones who remember this, the ones who are mindful of the truth that Winning At Life Is More Important Than Winning A Game.