As my first summer without football begins, I’m a little sad that I won’t be strapping on the pads again. I’d give just about anything to be able to run out onto the field at Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium one more time. But even though I won’t be wearing a helmet, I’ll always be a Red ‘Dog, and out of all the advice I could give next year’s team (and all future teams), one piece of advice really sticks out.
Being teenagers, it’s hard to see ourselves as “role models.” We don’t realize that young kids watch our every move and want to mimic everything we do, good or bad. I remember coming to Springdale football games in 6th grade and watching Mitch Mustain, Damian Williams, and the rest of the legendary 2005 team, and thinking, “I want to be just like them.”
When I finally got to SHS, I thought there was no way any kid would look up to me. I mean, come on, I was a 5’9” 145 pound BACK-UP wide receiver. The coaches were always telling us that kids in the community looked up to us, but I didn’t think they were talking about me personally. I thought it was just the star players, and I definitely wasn’t Tony Dennis or Henry Hernandez.
It wasn’t until my senior season that I began to realize that maybe your skill level or athleticism didn’t matter that much. What mattered is that you wore a jersey and a Super ‘S’ on your helmet. Little kids could care less how many touchdowns you scored or how many tackles you had. If you were on the team, you were famous to them.
In my Service Learning class, I was paired up with a third grade reading buddy (I eventually got two buddies). Both of them wanted to talk all about being a Bulldog and playing football. I also helped coach a 5th and 6th grade Kiwanis Kid’s Day football team. When the head coach introduced me as a Bulldog football player, you would have thought they were getting Peyton Manning as an assistant coach. Even my six year old cousin thought I was a super star. He informed my aunt that his two favorite players were “D.J. Williams and Andrew Hutchinson.”
I am not even close to being on the same level as D.J. Williams, but because I was a Bulldog, I was on that same level in his eyes.
So my advice to the current and future Bulldogs is simple. Wear your jersey with pride and respect. Do not go out and do stupid stuff. If you go out and get arrested, it will be noticed by the public. You never know when a little brother/sister/cousin, a neighbor, an elementary student, or even a common young fan will be watching. Don’t influence them negatively.
Whether you believe me or not, that Super ‘S’ gives you more than a spot on the football team. It makes you a local legend, a hero to little kids across the city, and gives you the opportunity to positively impact a child’s life.