August heat and championships

By BY MARK H. STOWERS FOR THE E-T,

Good Mornin’! Good Mornin’!

Ahh, the insufferable August heat is upon us. The cotton fields in northern Mississippi will greatly be enhanced, the south Delta flood waters will hopefully continue to drain and evaporate and football fields across the Delta will begin to flourish with championship dreams.

Football practice will officially begin this month.

Two-a-days will commence. The dread of what should have been done all summer to get in shape will soon separate the men from the boys. Wind sprints, grass drills, popcorn, Oklahoma and other drills (that haven’t been outlawed yet) will pit friends against each other. Tempers will flair, Gatorade will be on demand and one of “Coach Bellipanni’s cold towels” will bring much needed relief and cooler heads. Actual blood, sweat and tears will combine with the humidity, freshly fertilized grass and proper coaching to bring about the desired winning level.

Football practice was the most hated and most loved event. Yeah, what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger.

I’ve hiked Suicide Hill at Camp Tallaha but more than that I survived Coach Paul Ervin’s wind sprints though one day the huddle had to keep moving due to my regurgitations.

The repetitions to get it right, the stressing of fundamentals, the constant sharpening of technique that could spell the difference between a few positive yards and a touchdown, the difference between a win and loss are all found on the practice field.

I don’t miss the heat, the salt pills and the one water hose we had to re-hydrate with.

I don’t miss running the same play over and over and over and well, once again all because somebody missed their assignment or snap count.

I don’t miss the burning of my skin from a freshly fertilized field combined with grass drills.

I don’t miss two-a-day practices, getting up early and staying up late.

I don’t miss that soggy, sweat marked practice uniform with Delta dirt and grass stains intertwined.

I don’t miss a coach’s whistle or the “gentle” twist of a face mask that was used to get my attention by a coach.

I don’t even miss the exhaustion and barely being able to move after a long, scorching practice.

No, I don’t miss those things at all.

But what I do miss is the comradery of a team and pulling together to encourage and inspire.

Ok, maybe it was just yelling for someone to hurry up during wind sprints so we didn’t have to do more but it was encouragement.

I miss that crisp blue jersey with gold numbers that we put on Thursday nights and washed on Fridays.

I miss the mostly bright lights of a home game and a crackly PA system that sounded more like Charlie Brown’s teacher than anything else.

I miss the winning and the joy of a long bus ride after a road win. Reliving moments of glory and missed blocks or my quarterback running the wrong way when I blocked my man the right direction only to have him cream Mr. Phil McClellan on an all-out bootleg.

I miss the smile of a head coach and hearing my last name called out after doing something right on the field. I miss lining up with friends and accomplishing something great – a championship.

The August heat brought us together and forged a team – a team of winners. Yes, it’s August and the time to find out who has what it takes to be successful, to be stronger, to run one more wind sprint without puking, to run one more 32 Power and clear a path for the other McClellan twin (Bill), time to dig down and see what exactly you’re made of.

I reckon maybe I’ll spend more time outside today, maybe think about doing a grass drill and sprint a few yards to see what’s in the tank.

Maybe, I really do miss it all because without what I “don’t miss” I would never have gotten the things I miss – friends and a championship team. All of that hard work, sweat and repetition forged a winner.

Yeah, I reckon I do miss it all…

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