As football season gets closer I usually wrire as much as I can about a sport I never played but have closely followed since that cold November night in 1989 when I left Williams-Brice Stadium early into South Carolina’s 45-0 loss to Clemson.
The highlight of that night as a 4-year old was me seeing Cocky stuff the Tiger’s tail into a grill and casually walk away pulling the cart to rip the tail from the body of the orange clad Tiger. The score did not matter at that point in my young eyes. That was pure fun in the moment and when I became hooked on the great sport that is college football.
Fast forward 30 quick years and we are within a month of kicking the 2018 version of this edition off and I am nervous, excited, impatient, ready to run through a wall jacked, second guessing everything that could go wrong with the teams I closely follow and pull for all wrapped into one.
I am weird — I know.
The last few years have come and gone but not without trying to actually share my special passion and live in each moment at all of the games we are able to attend (or watch) together. From his first (at 4 months old in Atlanta to watch LSU play Miami in a bowl game) to his most recent (USC vs Wofford in Williams-Brice in 2017) and many more in between each game is now an experience that I hope he never forgets — or least remembers a small nugget from like a mascot pulling the tail off of the other mascot!
Then, there are experiences like tonight that I hope he never forgets and actually takes the words he heard to heart.
My employer, Colonial Life, holds many fundraisers throughout the year to support the United Way of the Midlands. One of those efforts includes a tour of Williams-Brice and hear from people in the athletic department. I had done it before – albeit solo – in the past but knew the proceeds were going to a great cause and decided to add Eli to the mix this year.
We arrived a little early and grabbed a seat as I looked around for who was going to represent the speaking portion of the evening. As more people arrived 2 gentlemen entered the room with ultimate confidence and being the sports nut that I am I knew right away it was B-Mac and T-Rob — and I anticipated it was going to be a great night. Boy, was I right?
I have not heard many coaches over the years speak in this type of low-key setting but I have heard stories of how great Dabo, Saban, Richt, Spurrier, Stoops, and many others are in settings like this.
Each coach spoke about the sides of the ball they coordinate and they provided some keys to the season with a little Xs and Os discussion upon request. It was great insight for everyone in the room but that part was, for me, trumped by the message that both of them spoke to with passion and fire.
And, with an almost 10-year old in today’s world I believe that God put both of us there to hear their messages – especially Eli.
They spoke on how talent gets you noticed but then they want to see what type of person you are. Are you a good down to earth person who is going to do the right thing? I was inside like, “Yes, coach, preach!”
“Eli are you hearing this?”
Then, they moved to academics and as Eli put it before I could say anything, “Dad, I am good in that category.” While, all I was thinking, “I hope you are still saying that in 5-6 years, my boy.” Each coach talked about how doing good in school is important and doing well there leads to confidence in other areas and no unnecessary worries when on the practice and game field.
“Again, preach it, Coach.”
Then, both coaches mentioned how they want players that will make the right decision on and off the field — especially in the family setting that Coach Muschamp has instilled throughout the program. Both coaches mentioned how they want guys that they feel comfortable with my kids hanging around in the locker room after a practice or a game.
“Yes, sir. Eli are you still listening or thinking about your next move in Fortnite?
I must have nudged Eli 10 times or more during their conversation and Q&A. I was making sure he was hearing what they were saying. I even asked before he fell asleep if he took what they said to heart. He said yes, but I reminded him that his actions would provide the true answer.
It really does take a village to raise a kid! Thank you to everyone who has or will be a part of our children’s lives — Hiliarie and I are so blessed and we can ever return the favor please let us know.
Thank you Colonial Life for organizing this and providing this opportunity!
Thank you to the USC Athletic Department for taking the time out of the crazy calendar that is the weeks leading up to football season to host us and being super-hospitable. The tour was super cool and yes – the visitor’s locker room is plain and tiny.
Thank you, Brian McClendon for your offensive insight but most importantly hitting home on things we have mentioned to Eli many different times. It was awesome for him to hear it from outside influences other than his mother, close family / friends, and myself.
And, to you, Travaris Robinson, first of all, thank you for sitting down with just Eli and I at our table for a solid 10 minutes. I don’t think the magnitude has hit Eli yet but it will one day and I can’t wait when that light bulb goes off. We talked golf, upcoming September birthdays, and my plane ride 2 years ago alongside defensive end Javon Kinlaw — who is going to play well in 2018 — no doubt! Thank you for hitting on what type of person you are trying to recruit and hammer home the idea that you guys at South Carolina want good humans at the end of the day.
The time with both coaches cemented the fact that this was an overall great night spent with my son. I hope when he is 34 years old that those messages he heard tonight resonate in his life and in his family because I am going to continue to mention it as often as I can up to and beyond that point.
Thank you, B-Mac and T-Rob! You guys were awesome and whoever thought that a small part of Eli’s village would be the current offensive and defensive coordinators for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
College football and its people are unreal, I tell you!
I will find the utmost respect in watching South Carolina this season and seeing if T-Rob’s goal of holding opponents to one less point than B-Mac’s offense scores each game all season comes to fruition.
But, to me, it will not be about the Wins and Losses as it is the men leading those offensive and defensive units for USC.
And for that, I am thankful!