Memories of “Canes” Football

By Steve Connolly

Having spent my early years in Miami, I have many fond memories of the city. I found Miami  an ideal city for a boy to grow up in. We lived on the edge of the Everglades, in a then small suburb, only a short bike ride to the wilds of the Everglades.

They were filled with dense trees and inviting canals. It was years before the exotic snakes and other wild things began to encroach on the landscape. Gator populations were lower, too.  Occasionally, we would come across a snapping turtle. Having no fear at that age, we would sneak up on them, touch their backside with our foot, and watch them jump into the canal. We would spend hours exploring, climbing trees and digging under rocks. To a kid, it was like heaven. I hated that we soon left Miami and moved to northern New Hampshire.

Before I knew it, I was grown and in college. Seeking a less expensive way to pay for college, I left New Hampshire briefly and was living back in Miami. Being a student, there was always a shortage of funds for gas and entertainment for a young fella. I found myself working a part-time job at a large bank in South Miami. Because they had a drive-in facility with extended hours, I found it worked perfectly for students.

During this time, I bonded with my coworkers, also students.  What I soon learned was that everyone was “into” football games at the University of Miami.  I had always been a Dolphins fan and had not paid much attention to college ball.  But the enthusiasm among everyone was at such a high pitch it soon rubbed off on me.

Everyone planned to attend the Saturday afternoon games at the Orange Bowl to watch the Hurricanes challenge their weekly teams. At first, I did not want to think about driving west of downtown to see the games, not the best part of the city.

And parking? I remember going to Dolphin games. Besides the dolphin tanks at the end of the field, one thing that stuck in my mind was the nightmare of parking. Hey, at the time I owned a classic Mustang and I was quite fussy about it getting banged up. You know how the priorities of a young teenage male run.

However, with a bit of prodding, I soon gave in and found myself volunteered to drive a bunch of us to a Saturday afternoon game. I found a spot in the surrounding neighborhood where I could safely park my car. I was never much on parallel parking and the spot I’d chosen would require skills in driving I had not yet obtained. It would have been easier to slide my car in sideways if that were even possible. But after a lot of biting my tongue to keep from cursing I got the car parked.

It didn’t take long for the infectious atmosphere to catch me. Everywhere I turned there were hordes of laughing students all hyped up and ready for the game to begin. Climbing into the stands, our gang became just like the rest of the fanatical fans. Yelling Go Canes! Soon I was filing the names of the players in my memory banks so it would seem I was totally engaged in this game. And you know what happened? I got bit by the college football bug. All these years later you’ll find me on a Saturday looking at schedules to see who’s playing and what time the games begin.

What further ingrained this fanatical love of the college football was our move to Alabama a few years back.  I tell all my out-of-state friends that before you can officially become a citizen of Alabama, you must sign a declaration of what team you will support, Alabama or Auburn. I have often thought of making up such a document to further emphasize this point to my friends. Of course, I declared my support to the Alabama Crimson Tide. My son, however, declared his loyalty to the Auburn Tigers. But that’s another story!

Last year, I went to my first Alabama Crimson Tide game in Tuscaloosa. As I stood in the crowd waiting for the players to take the field I was overcome with excitement. I guess the infectious cheers of the crowd took me back to those days at the Orange Bowl. Except for sitting in the nose bleed seats (which I did not budge from), I had a great time.

Recently, I decided that I needed to go back to my roots and support the team of my younger years, the Miami Hurricanes. Part of my justification is that it would drive my friends crazy, and would separate me from the never-ending feud between Tide and Tiger fans. By supporting the Canes, I can harass them all. It is all in good fun.

What about the professional teams? Yes, I still enjoy them as much as the college teams. And love to see the college players who get booted up to the Pros do a great job. What team do I support you may ask?

Go New England Patriots! Go figure… 

Click to tweet: I now support the team of my younger years, the Miami Hurricanes. #ncaaFootball #NFL 

Writing Prompt: I ran to the middle of the football field, clutching my Miami flag, when suddenly…

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It’s September. Therefore Football!

I am not a huge sports fan, but Tim and I have two teen boys. One is a Senior who plays football, the other a Junior who’s into soccer. So, most Friday nights you will find my husband and me sitting through a high school football game. We love to cheer both of them on!

If you’ve read many of my past blog posts, I love to refer to my childhood for a good story. Growing up, the favorite sports team tended to change from season to season. I seem to remember that the Miami Dolphins was the team of choice for my brothers in the early 70’s.

My father worked swing shift at a cement plant for many years. He was either working or sleeping, but on Sunday afternoons during football season, he would spend his day off watching a televised game. There was never a particular team he liked. He would just pick a side and cheer for them.

The reason I recall watching America’s favorite pastime with  Dad is because of  the exuberance he expressed when his team was winning. We didn’t see my Dad in a good mood very often. He was always kind of a grumpy guy, but we found ourselves cheering too. It was a good time, and a great memory.

How about a good show? I can admit that there are a few “sports” type movies that I have loved watching for inspiration and entertainment.

There are two from my childhood that I remember well. One is Brian’s Song. I would rate this one as a two-tissue box movie. This ABC Movie of the Week aired in 1971, with James Caan playing the part of Brian Piccolo. After Brian is recruited into the Chicago Bears franchise, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. This story is told by his friend, the legendary Gale Sayers. It’s a real-life journey about friendship between teammates, and Brian’s courageous struggle battling cancer.

Another made-for-television story, which aired in 1977  is titled Something for Joey. A three-tissue box movie if ever there was one. Based on the life story of the relationship between Penn State football player, John Cappelletti (played by Marc Singer), and his younger brother Joey. Joey is diagnosed with leukemia. John would do anything for his brother.

Joey expects touchdowns from his older brother. John pushes himself to the limits to give Joey what he wants, so much so that his efforts win him the Heisman Trophy in 1973.

More recently in 1993, the movie Rudy gave us a real-life tale of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger. Despite being told he was too small to play football, Rudy has a dream to play for the University of Norte Dame. He has neither the money, nor the grades to qualify for scholarships. After overcoming all the odds stacked against him, he fights his way onto the football team. I was recently told by a male co-worker that this movie is the only one he ever shed a tear over. It was during the part when all the players on the Notre Dame team threw their football jerseys onto the coach’s desk to show they would not play unless Rudy did. It’s another great movie.

So, even though I don’t like sports much, I do love to watch a good game, and it’s even better if it comes on the big screen in a film.

Do you have a favorite motivational quote from a sports coach or a sports movie?

Click to tweet:  There are a few “sports” type movies that I love watching. #football #inspiration

Writing prompt: I grabbed the remote, flipped on the television, and leaned back in the recliner. It was time for…

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Alabama Football: NFL Ready

By Jennifer Hallmark

Alabama versus Florida State. The game of the year. The decade. The century. By the time you read this, it will be just another statistic in the history books. Hopefully, Alabama was the victor.

But whether or not Alabama scored the most points, its players are NFL ready. How do they get this way? What’s the secret?

If you ask Nick Saban, it’s the Process, a name he’s given to his style of coaching. Saturday Down South asked Ronnie Harrison and he said, “The Process is like a transformation, I would call it, from going from a young man in high school to a grown man in college,” he told me. “Off the field, with education and all the meetings and stuff that we have, all the player-development stuff that we have, that develops your mind mentally for it. And then on the field, all the workouts, all the hard work and stuff that we do, that’s The Process. If you trust The Process and trust the hard work and be dedicated to it, you’ll come out on top.” Check out Saturday Down South’s website for more on the Process.

No matter how you explain it, it works. The players are expected to play for the team, not their individual glory. They don’t try to beat their opponent each week. Instead, they try to better themselves each game. You don’t want to be the weak link if you play for “Bama.” Unless you want to watch the game from the bench.

The quarterback position seems to be the one exception. Starting in 2007, when Saban took over the team, John Parker Wilson, Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron, Blake Sims, and Jake Coker have all played quarterback for Alabama. McCarron is the only one still on an active roster.

Click to tweet: Alabama players. How do they get NFL ready? #SEC #NFL

Could Jalen Hurts be the one to take it to the next level? He runs and he throws. Far. He’s young but the best hope for a true NFL career that we’ve seen in a while. Bama fans hope he stays in school a long time before going to the bigger stage.

The most NFL ready players may be the cornerbacks and safeties, who are coached by Saban himself. Other coaches think Saban is unsurpassed as a secondary authority. His detailed coaching on DB technique stands alone.

Marlon Humphrey and safety Eddie Jackson were the 13th and 14th defensive backs drafted since Saban has been in Tuscaloosa. And the other defensive players are no slouches either. Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Ryan Anderson, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Tim Williams were all drafted in 2017. Ten players totaled, the most in school history.

And the new season has just begun. I wonder how the draft on April 26-28, 2018 will go? I’ll have my DVR set so I won’t miss a moment. Which school will have the most players drafted?

I don’t know, but I bet you’ll see a lot of Crimson.

And if you like Alabama football, make sure and check out my “Roll Tide” Pinterest board at https://www.pinterest.com/jenlhallmark989/roll-tide/

Writing Prompt: “Roll Tide?” The woman in orange squared her shoulders and faced the elephant mascot. She then proceeded to…

And do you like tailgating? Then try this hearty recipe for goulash that you can make ahead…

Danny’s Goulash

Ingredients

2 pounds lean ground beef
2 large onions, chopped
1 or 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
3 cups water
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 (15-ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Nature Seasoning
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 or 2 cans of whole kernel corn, drained (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste at end

Directions

In a skillet, sauté the ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium-high heat until no pink remains. Break up the meat while sautéing. Drain on paper towels. Place in large Dutch oven and add 3 cups water, along with the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, soy sauce, Nature Seasoning, and seasoned salt. Add corn. Stir well. Place a lid on the pot and allow this to cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the elbow macaroni, stir well, return the lid to the pot, and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste, adding salt and pepper if needed. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to sit about 30 minutes more before serving.

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WORLD DIABETES DAY

Today is World Diabetes Day. To educate a little about diabetes and football, I’m sharing a post from my son’s devotional book – First and Goal – What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up published by Harvest House Publishers.

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photo by Sean O’Toole

Jake is a type 1 diabetic who pushed hard, fighting against diabetes highs and lows to climb to the pinnacle of football success and play in the NFL.

This month, National Diabetes Awareness Month, Jake is giving $1 from each AUTOGRAPHED copy of his book sold to the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.) 

First and Goal is filled with short anecdotes and stories about overcoming and faith. Below is a devotional story, the first one in Jake’s book where he shares his diagnosis story. This A-Z football devotional is filled with short inspirational clips of his life, faith walk, and journey into the NFL.

Audible  – When the quarterback changes the play at the line of scrimmage, based on the defensive formation, he calls an audible, which is a better-suited play.

01f5b5aca74f53007313ae467f0f98784ea4d3f3edBeginning my freshman year in high school, through hard work, dedication, and by the grace of God I’d earned a starting spot as an offensive tackle on our football team. Standing at 6 feet 5 and weighing in as a 240-pound 14-year-old, I was one of the team’s biggest players. With early interest from college scouts, I ran full steam ahead, thinking I had life all figured out.

By the time the season had ended, I’d dropped 40 pounds and suffered from constant fatigue. The drastic weight loss confused me, my parents, and the coaches. I ate like a ravenous wolf and worked out constantly, hoping to gain weight. Instead, I shed pounds like a German shepherd sheds fur.

An unseen offense had launched a full-scale attack against my body. First, relentless hunger and weight loss. Then, the thirst. I guzzled gallons of Gatorade and water. My constant bathroom breaks annoyed my teachers and had me worried.

At the doctor’s office I expected a prescription for a bladder infection. Instead, I got rocked by the hardest hit I’d ever taken: a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 ).

Diabetes meant a major lifestyle change. My endocrinologist assured me I could still play football—but only if I did everything by the book. I had to call my own audible. This disease forced me onto my own personal line of scrimmage, where I had to come up with a new game plan and change my mind-set. Controlling my blood sugar meant huge dietary adjustments. I had to act as my own pancreas, injecting proper amounts of insulin each time I consumed carbs in order to maintain healthy sugar levels.

Support from family, friends, and coaches carried me through difficult moments, along with a peaceful reassurance that God cared about my plans, hopes, and dreams. Have you been there? Believed you had your game plan all figured out, only to take a hit from an unexpected challenge? Have faith and listen to the audible God is calling. Trust that He has plans for you—good plans for a future and greater plans than you can ever imagine.

Houston JDRF Ad 3Want a copy of First and Goal autographed to you or a special someone? $1 from the sale goes to support the JDRF. Click here Great motivational devotional for anyone. 

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12016186_10156044039905635_176705038_oWRITING PROMPT: Know a diabetic? Type 1 or Type 2? Think of a character with high goals and dreams. Bam! They get hit with a diabetes diagnosis. How do they react. Also, if you use a diabetic character in your writing make sure you do some research into the differences between type one and type two. Type 1 diabetes has no cure. It’s an autoimmune disease. It means you are completely insulin dependent. Type 2 is curable.

Jake Byrne grew up in Rogers, Arkansas. A type 1 diabetic since the age of fourteen, he has since been proactive combating the disease and mentoring diabetic youth. He played football for the University of Wisconsin as a tight end, and went on to compete in the NFL. Originally an undrafted free agent who signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2012, he has also been a Houston Texan, Kansas City Chief, and San Diego Charger. Jake lives in Dallas with his wife, Emma, and two four-legged kids: Duke the Dogo Argentino and Yeti the Great Dane.

Jake blogs at www.typewon.net. He can be reached through the following social media:

Facebook Page (Type Won): www.facebook.com/typewon1

Twitter: @sugarfreejb82

Instagram: Jakebyrne81

Email: typewonquestions@gmail.com

High School Football and the Age of Innocence

by Harriet Michael

On a late August night, the temperature still sweltering and people still sweating even as the sun went down, I stood on the field with my fellow cheerleaders. A harvest moon rose over our heads and our hearts filled with hope as we eagerly awaited the opening game of what should be a great season. We had most of our starting players returning. I was the co-captain of the cheerleaders. The outlook for this season, my senior year, was promising.

BHS football #2

It was the fall of 1975–many years ago. Much has happened since that warm August night. Karen, the captain of the cheerleaders, and my close friend, died just three years later in a double murder which is still unsolved. Her death shattered the innocence of the sleepy little mountain town in southern West Virginia where I lived. Other members of that team have passed away as well, but we have a few success stories. Donnie, the offensive captain, played football at Wake Forest University. He is now the CFO of an Atlanta-based business. Wayne, a junior that year, also played football at Wake Forest, setting some Atlantic Coast Conference receiving records while there. Joey, the quarterback, is a tenured professor now. I married, moved to Louisville, raised four children, and eventually became a writer. Those of my classmates who remain see each other once in a while at class reunions.

Reunion weekend always starts with tickets to the Beaver-Graham game. It is tradition for my high school, the Bluefield Beavers, to start their season playing cross-town rivals, the Graham G-Men. This annual match up in the same stadium we used in 1975 has much the same feel as it did back then. There is still the cracking of helmets, enthusiastic cheerleaders on the sidelines, excited fans, and the hot August night sky still boasts a harvest moon.

Young Again

As I sat in the stands on such an August evening a few years ago, my mind could not help but wander to bygone days and I was once again on the field next to my friend Karen cheering our team on. We lost only one game that year. Hopes faded as our team dropped into fifth place in the statewide poll. Back then, only the top four teams in the state earned the privilege of moving on to post season play-offs.

But in the middle of the last game of the season, our luck changed. Over the public address system, the announcer loudly proclaimed that George Washington High School was beating Charleston in their season’s last game. A cheer rang out, first in a low rumble then building to a frenzy as the impact of the news sank in. If George Washington could pull out a win against #4 Charleston, it would change the ratings. Charleston would fall to fifth and we would move up into that much coveted fourth place position, gaining a right to post-season action.

As the second half of both games progressed, forgetting our own game which we were handily winning, we waited with bated breath for each update on the other game, several hours away. Finally, the last announcement came–Charleston lost! Our own win a few moments later was rather anticlimactic. We were flying high just the same because we knew we were headed to the state football play-offs!

Play-offs, Here We Come!

The semi-final game pitted my high school, fourth-ranked Bluefield, against first-ranked and unbeaten Buchannan–Upshur. The Buck–Ups had a player named Tinker Jackson, reputed to be the top running back in the state. Our lead scorer’s name was Donnie Jackson. Someone in our fan club had made a huge sign that read, “Our Jackson is better than your Jackson.” The game ended with Bluefield routing Buchannan–Upshur 42-0! Donnie scored three touchdowns in that game. I guess our sign was right.

November 22, 1975 was the coldest ball game I have ever participated in. It would have been bad enough if I was sitting in the stands under a blanket, warming my hands around a cup of hot cocoa; but I was on the field in a cheerleader skirt which barely covered my bloomer clad butt. The layers of shirts under my thick white sweater and the gloves I wore did nothing for my exposed legs that had only a pair of sheer panty hose between them and the frigid air! I think that’s the coldest I have ever been in my life. But it was worth it. We came from behind at the half to claim the title with a 20-7 victory.

That was many years ago and much has happened since. But hidden away in my heart will always be the treasured experience of cheering for the 1975 West Virginia AAA High School Football Champions. Every fall when the leaves look festive, the air feels crisp, and harvest moons hang in the sky like giant pumpkins; America turns attention to its favorite pastime and my mind remembers days gone by, dear friends I have lost, and the glories of high school football in the age of innocence.

Showcase of Photos for Beaver-Graham Games


 

HarrietMichaelBorn in Nigeria, West Africa, as the daughter of missionaries, Harriet Michael is a writer, gardener, wife of over 35 years, mother of four, and grandmother of one.

She holds a BS in nursing from West Virginia University but has discovered her passion for writing. Since her first published article in 2010, she now has over a hundred and fifty published articles and devotions.

Harriet is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Louisville Christian Writers. Her book, Prayer: It’s Not About You, a finalist in the 2011 Women of Faith book contest, is set for release in September, 2015 by Pix-N-Pens Publishing Company.