Each and every day, as I travel into work, I drive into the North side parking lot of NRG Stadium. The stadium has a way of blocking out the sun and other things, so it isn't until I turn on McNee, into the parking lot, that the Astrodome is in full view right in front of me. Trust me, this isn't really about the 'Dome'; I'm not kicking over THAT hornet's nest today (or ever). But, each time I see the 'Dome, I think about December 1, 1989. Yeah, a long time ago.
It was the first time I'd ever been on the floor of the Astrodome and it would be my last high school football game. We lost 10-7 to Port Neches-Groves in front of about 28,000 fans and it remains a memory, albeit not a great one due to the result. As it is for many that play high school football in Texas, I didn't want it to end. There's something special that those that didn't play in this state will never understand. I was sad. I was exhausted. But, in the locker room, I somehow had made it through our coach's postgame speech without really losing it, with tears and the sort, as I thought I would.
Then, my dad walked in.
Take a look at photos from the second day of veteran minicamp.
At the time, he was the sophomore/junior varsity team defensive coordinator, which meant that most Fridays he missed my games, as he was in charge of advanced scouting future opponents. But, on that night, that Friday night, the team he had scouted, PNG, was our opponent, so he was in the building. When he was at the games, he was normally helping in the press box, so I rarely saw him leading up to, or during, the game. As such, that was the case against PNG.
As I sat in my locker, slowly pulling off all my gear, I heard pats on the back and some crying. As I turned around I saw players, my good friends, his surrogate sons so to speak, hugging him. When he finally found where I was, he made a beeline to me and gave me a huge hug. He didn't say anything other than, "I'm so proud of you."
The brain works in mysterious ways. In the span of about 60 seconds, I flashed back to all of the moments, good, bad or otherwise, that we shared together as both coach-player and, of course, as father-son. I knew, in the back of mind, that he probably saw me play for the last time. As a high school coach, there was no way to coach a Friday night game, then fly to the northeast to see my college game that always started at noon eastern time.
Sharing the Texas high school football experience with him was something I'll have forever. When I see the 'Dome' every day, I can't help but think about that loss, but mostly that moment with my Pops.
He and my mom moved back to Wisconsin a few months ago to be around family and friends in retirement and I'm so happy for them. I've missed them both, but I'm lucky to have parents still here.
Father's Day is on Sunday and most of us have memories that come flooding back on that special day. I'm fortunate that the memory of my dad hits me around 8ish every single morning.
Have a day, Pops! I'm proud to be your son.