Twenty-two years old, you have your whole life ahead of you. That’s what most people are saying these days. Yet, at what point do you no longer have your “whole life ahead of you”? At what point do you realize that time is moving?
Time is really moving. One second you are a youngster diving for footballs on a trampoline for hours on end with your Grandpa at the helm quarterbacking. Next thing you know you are states away from your family sitting in a rural Midas waiting on the news if the rear-brakes to your car are shot or not.
At what moment do you no longer say you have your whole life ahead of you? To me, that youngster catching Namath like spirals on a New England fall day had his whole life ahead of him. I didn’t.
I mean I did and still do, but, I definitely didn’t always view the present with the special focus it so deserves, as I do now. I am here to write to you how the Three Fs changed my life for the better in rather unorthodox ways.
Family, friends, and football.
I was more than fortunate enough for my parents to nest our family on the sands of Cape Cod. There is something to be said about nature that truly helps you understand the world around you and its purpose.
I grew up the oldest of four. I have two awesome brothers, Cooper and Tate, and one wonderful sister, Symone. We have a big and caring family on both sides with phenomenal grandparents, aunts and uncles, and vast amounts of cousins who all keep everyone thriving.
With their help and support (or force, we will never know) we all were extremely active children. Whether it was sports, swimming in the ocean,or skiing, you name it we were doing it.
We were fortunate, extremely fortunate to have a childhood that allowed us to explore many opportunities and make mistakes in an environment that helped us to learn from them. My parents worked hard to help us maintain happiness and our dreams. As I have grown older, this has been the easiest lesson to realize.
Our parents and truly genuine parents everywhere are nothing short of incredible people.
Football was my favorite sport. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the others too. However, I wanted to be like my dad. He was a great athlete as well and still is, too. He went on to play Quarterback at Columbia University in New York City before dabbling around in the National Football League for a bit before blowing out his knee, which ultimately led him to calling it quits.
Naturally, I wanted to follow in his footsteps, even if baseball was my best sport. I attended Nauset Regional High School, and after taking multiple official visits, I ultimately settled on playing football and signed with Elon University in February 2012.
Starting football at Elon in the summer of 2012 was a new world. It was difficult. I was a cornerback in high school who was transformed into a wide receiver before the start of my freshman year at Elon.
I was a smaller sized kid. I needed to live in the weight room and eat enough for a family of six every day if I wanted to get bigger and see the field. I redshirted in 2012. I existed in 2013. I received the opportunity to be the Phoenix starting kick returner in the 2014 season.
Midway through the year, I suffered a grueling ankle injury. It resulted in sidelining me for the rest of the season and into winter workouts. My thought was “this sucks but it is okay; I have next year ahead of me.”
My senior campaign was cut short again after tearing my Lateral Collateral Ligament and Meniscus half way through the year. It was depressing. Deciding not to play a fifth year and to move on with life, I realized that my football years that were always supposed to be “ahead of me” were now “behind me.”
How did that happen so fast?
I could go on forever about the actual events of games, practice, workouts at dawn, injuries and more, and they are found at every university nationwide so no need to drag on about those experiences. It is what I learned from all of them that is truly important.
During my time, football was not that important to many people from Elon University and the surrounding community. We were not very good. It was rather embarrassing. We didn’t have many fans in attendance. Students didn’t know anything about games besides the emails they would receive to remove their cars from tailgating areas to protect them from getting towed.
Being an athlete wasn’t exactly royalty at Elon like at many other schools you see on television. This led me to look for the value in the other things around me. I found comradery in my teammates. I found knowledge in my classes. I found understanding with the student body, and I found reason at Elon University.
Reflection became a huge part of my life. Elon boasts one of the best, if not the best, study abroad programs in the United States. As an athlete, it is hard to go abroad; you have too much commitment. It was difficult to see so many people go off and explore the world while I was docked in Burlington.
Elon made it feel natural that the student body should travel abroad. The athletes seemed like the odd ones out in this instance. I then changed my major from a double major in Business Management and History to International Studies.
Why? Because to graduate with an International Studies degree, one MUST travel abroad.
It is a requirement. I played the system. I was able to escape the United States to Copenhagen in the summer before my senior year for a little bit.
I felt a new sense of being; for everyone who studies abroad, it opens up their eyes and realities. It opened up mine even more. After living, sleeping, breathing, and eating football for the last three solid years and about to go into year four, you realize there is more to life.
While trying to impress coaches, working your tail off, and trying to play the game you love, it is hard to see that there is much more to your world than just football. Entering my senior year, I became infatuated with my friends and the idea of what would be next.
All while trying to stay in the present.
Senior year our football team was rather unsuccessful again. The odd thing was that I learned how to appreciate life through being a bad team. I, of course, wished we were winning games. I never woke up and smiled knowing we were losing.
If we were winning, the sport of football would have been truly fun once again, and all the work I put in with my teammates would have been rewarded.
However, I was rewarded in a different way. If we were winning, my mind would be solely focused on the gridiron. By losing, I was able to see into my realities and that it was coming to an end soon (and it did prematurely). I would soon move on from my life here in the bubble that is Elon.
But I thought I had all my college years ahead of me.
Kudos to my brothers who are still there though. They just knocked off the #8 team in the country at William & Mary. They are recieving votes for a Top-25 spot for the first time in a long time this week. It is rewarding to know that the happiness felt in that locker-room was a resounding gulp of confidence that this program needed.
I am proud to have worked through the ups and downs to help get them to that point. We experienced some hardships as a team that taught me the value of life and the purpose of being in other peoples’ lives. This was greater than our game. This was greater than my classes. It was the meaning of why we are here to me. Relationships.
I graduated early after the fall semester in 2015. I pondered the idea of taking my redshirt senior season to play football but ultimately knew there were better things I could do in this world. I was then excited to take a job without really fully understanding what I was doing.
“Go to college, graduate, get a job.” That was the plan, right?
I then realized I didn’t need to rush that. I was originally supposed to graduate on time in May 2016. I needed time to breath. I was able to postpone my starting job into June.
I spent the Spring at Elon as a ‘yes man’ so to say. I did everything I possibly could. The semester, which wasn’t supposed to be, helped me reveal that world does in fact spin at 1,040mph and probably even faster.
Those days went by quicker than you can know unless you have lived it. A few days ago I went back to Elon to work a booth at the Elon Career Fair for my corporation. I saw many old friends that are going through the same things, and they asked me, “what’s life like,” “how’s the real world,” “do you miss football,” “do you wish you were back at Elon,” etc.
If they asked me before I arrived at Elon “if I wanted to be back at Elon,” I would have resoundingly said “yes, of course.” However, the truth I found in those questions was something greater than what I thought of before.
I said “no, I don’t wish I was back.”
I had four years of an unbelievable experience that I will forever be grateful to have. That being said, I am good with being gone and onto a new adventure. But I did tell them that I missed being surrounded by friends on every street. Waking up and knowing my best friend is on the other side of my bedroom wall. Taking for granted that I am surrounded by some of the most enjoyable people I have ever encountered.
I didn’t realize it until the end because “I had all my college years ahead of me.”
It was normal seeing the people you not only loved being with but who you also grew with over the last four years. It was a tremendous period in my life, and I would bet I could say the same for any college student. Nonetheless, when you grab that diploma, that will be the last time you see the people that you have seen for the last 1,460 days for a while and some forever.
That is what you will miss, that is what I learned in college from my family, friends, and football: the importance of people and the world around you.
They are the reason we are here and breathing. To enjoy each other. There is plenty of garbage out there in the world and the media. Just filter on through. In the end of any event in your life, the denominator will be the same: people.
Childhood, going to college, leaving college, weddings, funerals, and more are a celebration of people. The ultimatum of death rectifies the pollution of modern day materialistic thoughts and brings people back to understanding what they truly value. The value is in each other, no matter the gender, race, or religion.
People bring you into this world, and your hearts will leave with them when they go on as well.
Football and the structure of life helped me see a clearer way of my time spent here. Always find ways to make the days brighter in the environments surrounding you. I have learned the importance of truth and compassion, two things that when put together are pretty powerful in nature.
I will miss sprinting, trash talking, and diving in the dirt. Football holds some real estate in my mind and soul. Knees, back, and ankles too. Those days come and go.
The thought of friends leaving you forever is a little bit more haunting. The fact is you can’t change that we will all leave Earth one day, so while you are here, enjoy it. Take the bad you see or feel and turn it into good. Cherish the people who surround you and the people you have yet to meet. Go see the world. Make it yours.
Because while you are still breathing, it is yours.
So when people say you have “your whole life ahead of you,” listen but beware. Time waits for no man. Prepare for the future, live in the present, and smile.