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  • (Written in 2006)

    We line up eye to eye, only ten yards apart from one another, waiting for the signal that would allow us to create havoc. Two at a time, one gets the ball; the other tackles the ball-carrier. "Down…" I get into my position. "Set…" I muster up the motivation to attack.”Red," I run with a full head of steam toward the running back. He runs with the same intensity and anger, but I have the determination to stop him. We collide, I get the better of him and the tackle propels me forward. Unfortunately, my left ankle twists on the ground. I grunt in pain.

    We line up again. "Down…" I drag myself into position. "Set…" I take deep breaths while my eyes glaze over. “Red,” I receive the ball and limp toward the best tackler on the team. We collide and I lay motionless in the middle of the field. The pain of my throbbing ankle is unbearable; I get up and limp toward the bench. There is no reason to think I would play the next game against the Bronx Colts or the rest of the season.
    I woke up to a hundred-and-one degree fever on the morning of the game. I lie in my bed for hours questioning “to go or not to go". The matter of could I do it, quickly turned into do they really need me anyway? Throughout my life I'd always had a huge inferiority complex; I believed no matter what I did, I wasn't good enough. However, as the day went on, I received emails and calls that made me feel wanted. But was it worth the sacrifice of my mental and physical health to take the field in forty degree weather?  I limped across my hallway and passed my equipment, my jersey wrapped in it. That jersey gave me purpose; it made me unique, made me feel important every time I put it on. That jersey gave me confidence, it was a motivator, and it gave me the inner strength to muster up my physical strength. By not playing, I'd dishonor the jersey that I swore to with the same respect I would show myself. In the end, I wanted to make sure that would be able to honor the #92 and myself.
    I arrived at the game, with both my sprained ankle and my 102 degree fever. Sweat dripped down my face and sickness was clearly on my breath. I limped onto the field and took a look at my adversaries, the Bronx Colts. They looked as though they were two to three times my size. I wasn't intimidated, more afraid of whether or not I would be effective. The first series on defense went well on my part, however it came at a cost: with every play I lost a lot of sweat and seemed closer to passing out. On offense, I was forced to pivot on the bad ankle; however I fought through it and kept my promise to protect the quarterback from getting sacked. Halftime came and I was exhausted, I stumbled into a corner and rested my back against the gate. In one swift motion I turned around and hurled. My throat began to burn, and I felt lightheaded enough to pass out. Something told me that I needed to ignore this and continue onto the second half.

    The 3rd quarter went much like the first two, a lot of action, pain, and daze and still no score. Nervousness and fear for my own health began to kick in once the 4th quarter began. My vision became blurry and tears streamed continuously from my eyes. With two and a half minutes left in the game, the quarterback of our team threw a twenty five yard touchdown pass to the wide receiver. About two minutes later, my dreams of an early exit out of the game were dashed. The game was tied and we were on our way to overtime.

    After three stops, on fourth down, with my last burst of adrenaline and power, I took down the quarterback for the sack, stopping them from scoring. We now had the ball. In one play, Patrick handed the call off to our running back, and ten yards later we were victorious. After a minute of euphoria, I placed my back up against the gate and laid down in exhaustion. I tried to pull myself up from the ground but my arms weren't strong enough, my legs were shivering, my body was cold. But I loved it. I loved every minute of the pain, every turn of my ankle, every turn of my stomach, every down I had to crawl to my position, it had been all worth it.

    I had pushed myself to the limit. #90 on the Bronx Colts, the man I was opposing the whole game, walked over to me and dropped a bottle of Gatorade next to my head. I clutched his extended hand; he nodded in respect.
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