I had heard about it leading into my freshman year of high school. We had all heard of it. What exactly would they try to do to us? Push pennies across the floor with our noses? Pound us? Tie us up and put us in a locker? The bigger of my classmates and the tough guys solemnly swore that anyone who tried to “initiate” them would pay the price. But what about me? I was a little twerp. I was the smallest of all freshmen in a class of 300. Oh, I talked tough too, but inside I was terrified. I wasn’t really afraid for my physical well being, I was afraid of being embarrassed. And in particular, I was afraid of being embarrassed in front of the girls. I wanted to be cool and it wasn’t cool to be humiliated in front of everyone. So, I was worried.
It turns out that my fears were mostly unfounded. Yeah, there were two guys that chased me around the first week of school and tried to sit me on a water fountain. I managed to elude them long enough that they lost interest. The junior and senior football players ignored me and that was fine with me. Hazing, as we call it now, was something I was able to avoid. But over the years I have heard some stories of very severe hazing and even heard there was occasionally some under my watch as a teacher and a coach. If I had seen it, I would have stopped it. I always talked to my athletes about being leaders to the younger guys by helping them. Give them a great role model to look up to, to emulate. “Remember,” I told my players, “you’re a hero to these freshmen. They watched you play varsity ball last year and they look up to you. Don’t ruin your image with these guys by being a jerk.” Did they take my advice to heart? I think most did, but I guess there were a few who thought it was a rite of passage. Let me tell you a story about a great example of the kind of senior I wanted my players to be.
On one particular day my freshman year I was running late to class. I was hustling down the hall and passing the boy’s restroom when the door exploded open as I hurried by. The door nailed me full force and I was sent sprawling on my belly down the floor and my books scattered all over. I looked up to see Larry Elmore standing over me. Now, Larry Elmore was known as THE baddest dude in the school. He was a 6’0” 200 pound all conference defensive lineman that always walked around with a scowl on his face. In addition, he wrestled in the 180lb. weight class on the wrestling team. So there I was, lying on the floor staring up at mean, bad, angry, Elmore. I figured since I got in the way of his door and maybe slowed him down, that I was dead meat. He looked at me, looked at the books and began reaching down – to pick up the books! Larry apologized profusely for flattening me and began picking up my scattered books. I jumped to my feet and started helping. “It’s OK”, I muttered, “no big deal”. “Are you OK?” he asked as we rounded up my stuff. “Yeah,” was all I could say. We finished picking up my books and he said, “I’m really sorry about that.” I just smiled and started hustling to class. I turned and looked over my shoulder to see him headed off the other way. I had a new found respect for a senior football player who had a little compassion for a scrawny freshman. It was a great example to me how a real leader helps those less fortunate.
Later on that school year, to my great surprise, we became teammates on the varsity wrestling team. I wrestled 95 lbs. and as I mentioned earlier, he was our 180 pounder. How did I become the varsity 95 pounder? That’s another story. Wait until you hear that one. Keep checking www.chiefpigskin.com and I’ll fill you in on the details someday.