For the first time in ten-odd years, my end of summer will not be punctuated by the coming of football training camp. For the first time, my August will not be defined by two-a-days, the odor of mildewed socks, and post-practice dips in the ice bath. For the first time, I won’t be surrounded by my friends, my teammates, my brothers, as we work towards the goals we set forth for ourselves.
On the one hand, I’m not under the punishing August sun, which beats down the same from New York City to College Station, Texas to Cocoa Beach, Florida. I’m not driving a sled across a field, or taking on rushing defensive tackles in one-on-one drills, or running sprints after practice. I’ll never ride a bus to Florida again, never spend all my time away from the field in a meeting room, or start fast and finish faster. I’ll never again wake up scared. On the one hand, I don’t have to do these things ever again.
On the other hand, I never get to.
We all miss playing (winning) games, clean out blocks, great throws and catches, amazing picks, and knock out hits. That’s universal; everyone mentions this stuff in what they miss from the game. But, I think it is more than just the good times former players miss. Gone is the grind of the weight room, the tedium of the meeting room, but a part of everyone who has ever put on pads, or laced up cleats, or picked up a ball misses the part of the game that goes unseen. In some sort of masochistic way, we all enjoyed the grind, the hardness, the sacrifice. It is one of those unique things in life that you detest as you are in the midst of it, but the second it’s gone, you feel like almost a part of yourself is missing. Today, I’ve traded my life as a student athlete for something else; something that, to be honest, doesn’t even feel like me. My cleats for dress shoes, my playbook for a laptop, I’m reminded of this shift every time I walk into my new apartment, as my helmet stares back at me. Some people call this growing up, entering the next phase of my life. I don’t yet know what to call it, all I have known is what came before. And I miss it.