By Justin Dottery Sun Staff on 11/29/18
As a former football player I've had my fair share of injuries. But even after hurting my knee, shoulder and head, I would still encourage my son to play.
While I know first hand how dangerous football is, I believe the benefits are worth the risks. Football is a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding sport that brings out the best in players, both on and off the field.
For some it can be an escape or place of tranquility. For others, it represents a way to possibly provide for their family by earning a free education thanks to their physical gifts.
Athletic ability landed me on the Grambling State University football team. Being alone away from my family in a different part of the country, I had to grow up from the spoiled kid I was to a man who had to learn to do things for myself. Though those times were challenging, I am glad I endured them. Those struggles forced me to mature faster than I might have without the experience.
For me, playing football meant personal growth.
In high school, football helped me develop leadership qualities. Being a quarterback meant holding myself to a higher standard than others, as well as learning to put others ahead of myself for the betterment of my team.
I sprained my shoulder during the final game of my high school career. I ran off the field in pain and almost unable to throw a ball.
After a few plays, my head coach, Duane "Lou" Horn, called a timeout, brought the offense to the sideline and called me over in front of them. He then asked me a question that put all attention on me.
"Can you get back out there?" Horn said. "Or do we need to get someone else out there?"
As I looked my teammates in the eyes, I realized that as their leader, I could not abandon them. Though it was not easy, I finished the game with a passing and rushing touchdown. At times I wanted to give up, but I learned to fight through pain and not quit when things get hard.
I first stepped onto a football field in the ninth grade. I was the youngest child of three and not used to having to work for the things I wanted. That part of me quickly went away as I learned that giving the minimal effort would not get me very far.
I realized the only way to get ahead of the competition was to do extra work that not everyone was willing to do. That persistence led me from being a player who struggled mightily and throwing only one touchdown in my freshman year, to my senior year, when I threw 25 touchdowns, won player of the year and earned all-conference honors.
That dedication and maturation transferred over to my academic and personal life. I went from not meeting GPA requirements to walk the stage with my middle school class to having a 3.2 GPA and honor roll/dean's list awards in high school.
I want my future son to go through the same maturation process I went through and learn values that can only be learned through experience. While I understand that there is a chance for injury, I want my son to understand that a bit of pain and discomfort can leave a person stronger than they were before.