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To play or not to play

A few months ago, my colleague Christopher Heimerman wrote a column about Rock Falls senior Alex Leaf, who was mulling over whether or not to play sports in college.

Leaf is one of hundreds of high-school athletes in the area asking the same set of questions. 

“Where can I go?” 

“Am I good enough?”

“Is it worth all the effort?”

“Should I focus on my studies?”

I understand these questions well enough ... not that I was ever as athletically gifted as Leaf or many of the other kids that we cover. 

My senior year, the letters came in to play football. Not a lot, but a few, from Division III schools where athletic scholarships were not provided and tuition costs were astronomical. 

I probably would have qualified for some academic scholarships, and then loans would have had to pay for the rest (loans that I am sure I would still be paying off). 

So I ran through the questions in my head and eventually came to a conclusion. 

I loved playing high-school football. I didn’t necessarily want to play college football. I decided Northern Illinois University made the most sense to me, and then I focused on finding a career path.

That being said, the competitor in me was tempted to keep playing.  

I was thinking about this as men of various ages arrived at Angelo’s II in Sterling on Tuesday night for the meeting regarding possible alumni football games between Newman and Morrison, and Sterling and Rock Falls. 

Some of the faces I knew well from teams that I’ve covered over the last 8 years. A few others I recognized from my playing days. Some I didn’t know at all. 

I can’t deny that much like my college decision, I was tempted by the plug that Bob Cazet of Alumni Games USA made. 

I understand what moved these men to get off shifts from hard jobs and scurry to Angelo’s to hear what Cazet had to say. I also understand why they stapled $100 to an insurance waiver and signed up for the July 27 games. 

I also understand why some will be flying in from around the country to participate. 

For some, the training for the game might be a step toward a healthier lifestyle. That’s a good thing. Hopefully, they make it through the actual game without any lasting injuries. 

But for me, I came to the same conclusion I did back in the late fall of 1999. 

I loved playing high-school football, but when I took the pads off after a playoff loss in Metamora that
November, that option was over. 

I was never going to have as much fun playing the game than with a group of longtime friends, with dreams of a state title dancing in our heads.

What happens in July will be a form of football. 

I don’t doubt that these men will have fun doing it, and I hope the fundraising aspect brings in a ton of money to the local causes in the communities. 

But I’ll stick to pick-up basketball games for glimpses of my former athletic glory.

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