It was very hard moving to a new town in the summer of 1996. This event meant having to attend a new middle school and re-establish myself in a new environment. Even though I had moved a couple times before, that did not make this time any easier. I still had to make new friends and ground myself all over again. Yet I had no idea the positive impact this move would have on me.
Middle School, like most other middle schools, had an "in" crowd. At Mandalay, it was mainly the football players. After I started school at Mandalay, football tryouts were being staged. I saw this as a very significant event in my path through adolescence, a chance to get recognized by my new school, as well as a chance to make some friends and gain some glory along the way.
Getting up one Saturday morning and going up to the school, I was very nervous about whether I would make the team or not. I've always had athletic ability, but since this was a new town, I was unsure about how my skills would compare with the other kids. Football tryouts were a grueling event. When tryouts started, it was explained to all of us that the coaches would run drills in order to gauge our individual skills, and then place us in specific position groups. After the drills, which I did exceptionally well in, Coach Jones placed me in the receivers group. He told me that I was extremely fast, and that I would make a good receiver. It felt so good, not only making the team, but being singled out by Coach Jones as one of the better players on the squad.
Throughout the next couple of weeks, the Mandalay Wolverines held football practice every day after school from 2:45 until 5:00. We always started with some team stretching and then we moved to our positional drills. As the days and practices went by, I made many new friends. All the starters, me included, began to hang out together, in and out of school. That is just the way it went. Mike, Brandon, Eric, Tim, Derek, Ben, and I were hanging out together all the time. Eventually, they introduced to me to all the cool kids in school and the feeling of being the new kid went away. I was now a football player. And best of all, our first game was coming up.
The most exciting day of the week for an athlete, the day of the first game, was suddenly upon us. I reminisce about proudly wearing my football jersey to school on that day, not concentrating on anything but the game. We were playing Oberon Middle School that Friday. All day long I couldn't concentrate on anything but playing football. Everything my teachers said in class was a blur. I didn't see anyone else in the hallways except for the guys in the blue and white jerseys. I was very anxious to begin play in the most significant game, perhaps the most significant event, of my life.
After the 7th period bell rang, I rushed to the locker room. Walking into the locker room, every one of us started screaming and yelling...