Saturday, August 9, 2014

David Wilson and the Defining Moment of My Childhood

I was pushed back to the worst day of my childhood Thursday.

I say worst because that’s the sort of thing a teenager feels in the moment their small world comes crashing in. I had to quit football when I was 14 for the same reason David Wilson announced on Thursday. Like Wilson, burners (or stingers as my doctor called them) indicated a neck injury that made it too dangerous to play football. Like Wilson, both our playing careers ended before they really had a chance to begin.

As a middle schooler obsessed with football, all I wanted to play for my high school team. My older sister was a cheerleader, so my parents took me to every game. To a pre-teen from a small town, the how-ever-many-thousand seat stadium at Sevier County High School was awe-inspiring. I lived for the moments where I could stand close enough to the sideline to hear the players cuss and see the sweat under their face masks. They were god-like to me.

But like Wilson, just weeks before my dream of playing high school football began, it all ended. After having seven stingers the season before, I got my eighth during preseason camp with the freshman team. We were doing a typical, “show how tough you are drill”, and I was out to impress my coaches and teammates. I lined up against a bigger teammate, hit him with my right shoulder, and it was done. I knew my fate as soon as it happened. My doctor (who was a former team doctor with the Steelers) told me I had to quit or risk permanent damage. My mom cried. I just stared at the floor.

So when I heard Wilson’s story and watched his retirement announcement, I relived sitting in the doctor’s office 16 years ago. It was so devastating at the time, but as a 30 year old husband and father I see that moment so differently. That was the moment God pulled away what defined me and began creating a path to bring me to Himself. It was transformed from being the worst day of my childhood into the day I began becoming who I am today.

I hope Thursday becomes the same day for David Wilson that my day was when I was 14. His gleaming optimism makes me think it will.

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