Before I begin, I'd like to thank Dr. Russell for making an appearance in the comments section to the previous post. I hope your students enjoy their PR Campaigns class as much as I did and, subsequently, learn as much as I did in the process (though I have no reservations that they are). And for the record, Dr. R, I took the Dismantling Persistent Poverty campaign with Dr. Sallot (Fall 2003). I'm not sure what PPA is, but if that's what it's being referred to now, then yes, that's the one I took. Please tell Dr. Sallot I said hello.
Moving on, I wanted to touch briefly on what it means to be a head coach nowadays in the world of college football. The title of "The Father Figure" stretches farther than many could have ever imagined merely 20 years ago, and the job of leading a team to be ready for a game week after week entails much more today than it ever has.
You see, in today's world you have athletes from zero stars to five stars who come from great homes and many who come from broken ones. All too often you read about a guy like DeAngelo Tyson, who came from a foster home and used his God-given athletic ability to make something of himself on the gridiron, so that maybe one day he can enjoy the fruits of a college education, or in the best case, an NFL (and life-changing) career.
When Mark Richt recruits these kids nowadays, he's not recruiting kids to be the next starter at the Cornerback position. He's recruiting kids. Kids like you and I used to be. Kids who never thought they could make it to a school like the University of Georgia.
Since I was a child, my parents equated going to the University of Georgia to winning some sort of lottery. It's not that I came from UGA money. It's more like I didn't come from hardly any money at all. When I got that UGA acceptance letter, it was a day unlike any birthday or Christmas I can remember.
Now its unfathomable to put myself in the position of A.J. Bryant, whose dad hung on to life until he found out his kid was going to play at UGA, and then passed the next day. Or in the case of Michael Lemon who accepted a scholarship from UGA only to lose his mother in a very tragic way. And let's definitely not forget about kids like DeAngelo Tyson who's had no idea what it's like to even have a family, PERIOD.
For Coach Mark Richt, and for many coaches across the nation, it's their job to turn high school pros into collegiate stars. However, for a select amount of coaches (those that choose to do so), they have a heavier burden. One that means guiding, chastising and leading these young men into becoming grown men. Ones that are ready for life on and off the field. Ones that have experienced the thrill of victory and the life lesson that comes with an agonizing defeat.
Sure, some of these kids have come from fantastic families. Some of them have a blood-bond support structure that rivals that of what you would see on Extreme Home Makeover. However, for every good one, there is a bad story. A yin to every yang, if you will.
It's in times like these, where kids make bad decisions, that they need that "father figure" the most. I know I'd be less than half of the half of the man I'd be today without a family (and particularly a father) that showed me what it took to be a productive member of society. To stand up for what's right even when you don't want to and to grin and bear it when times get tough, because by-God, the night is darkest before the dawn.
So I write this today with respect for our program and respect for the men that run it. Now, more than ever, we have to applaud the actions of a few grown men who have been given the daunting task of raising 85 scholarship, and countless others not on scholarship, kids who need to know more than when to turn their hips before being burnt deep on a post pattern. This is a salute to the men who say "Son, you had a bad game. How's your family? What can I do to make you a better man off the field?"
To those men, all across the NCAA, and definitely the ones at UGA, I salute you. I understand and appreciate that football games are still just games. What I hope we never lose site of are the times where a young man becomes a man, and learned it from someone who cared enough to spend to the time to teach it after practice.
Until next time kids.
Labels: College Football, General "Kit" stuff, UGA Football