What matters is legacy
BY: RANDY WINTON
Countless little boys have grown up in this community, dreaming of those autumn evenings playing under the glow of Friday Night Lights.
There is something truly powerful, and yet at the same time rather poetic, when a young man puts on his school’s jersey and spills every bit of his energy and passion on a 100-by-53 1/3-yard field of green.
In a former life, I was a sports writer for 17 years in Chattanooga. With 27 high schools in our coverage area and 14 magical Friday nights each season, I covered a lot of football games through Tennessee’s version of the Super 7.
If I had to put a number on it, I’d say I wrote some 900 stories on high school football during those years. They came from big city schools, private schools and schools, like the ones in Brewton, which lie within small, tightly woven rural communities.
One thing I have learned is the football in the small communities is just better. It’s more special. I think it’s because, somehow, it means more. These are the places where the little boys dream of the day they will finally wear that jersey. Year after year they grow and play, and one day, they reach their freshman year and really begin to understand what it all means. Then come their sophomore, then junior and, all too quickly, their senior years.
Then, just like that, it’s over…and what remains – what is most important – is the legacy they pass down.
Over all those years in sports writing, and the 17 or so since as a youth minister and T.R. Miller Quarterback Club president, I have been around many senior classes. Some won state championships, while some won only three games.
Some senior classes were identified by their character, and some by their characters. But none I have ever been around can hold a candle to the 13 football players who made up T.R. Miller’s senior football season of 2015.
Those 13 young men include Alex Daugherty, Jake Najor, Brooks Brown, Tripp Floyd, Kishan Patel, Chardian Johnson, Ahmaud Taylor, Markail Mitchell, Austin Holmes, Carlos Thomas, Brennan Jordan, Ethan Bollenbacher and Tamerick Jenkins.
They captured our hearts by how incredibly hard they played, how they kept things loose, provided encouragement and ultimately pulled some 60 kids together to form a “team” in every sense of the word.
In today’s world of entitlement, especially in sports, one can measure the strength of a team not by what happens on the field, but by how healthy the locker room environment is. This senior crew chose team over self.
It played every second of every game for the name on the back of the jersey. The brotherhood it formed inside that field house spilled over onto the field. I would argue – and I’m not speaking for anyone but myself – that’s what helped make 2015 one of the most memorable and magical seasons in T.R. Miller history.
This team provided so many great “moments” throughout the season, and I believe they were all set in motion the second it walked off the field following a humiliating 25-0 opening-night loss. Instead of throwing in the towel these seniors helped a young team regroup and began a memorable journey to 10 wins and the quarterfinals of the playoffs.
All the moments that make up 13 games are locked in time now. And, in reality, few will even remember most of those plays. But, in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t really matter.
What matters is legacy. What matters are relationships. What matters are the memories never forgotten by those who played alongside these seniors.
Ultimately, what will never be forgotten is how this group of 13 held together a team that could have resigned itself to the expectations of outsiders, and instead led them to an unlikely region championship and within an eyelash of the semifinals of the playoffs.
I believe we are created to evoke emotions and motivate others by how we live. What this group of seniors has done has inspired an entire community and modeled for every senior class that follows what it means to put self to the side, the team above all, with the belief that – together – 60-plus guys can accomplish great things.
Randy Winton serves as T.R. Miller Quarterback Club President and is the current sports announcer for the TRM Tigers.