Athens, 1954

You were eighteen years old,

when you received a letter

beckoning you to enter

into a world

previously unimaginable.

 

You were born to tired parents

as the third of six children

and the first and only

of them to go

to college,

a foreign place

to the poor.

 

Freshman nights were spent

on a single cot

in the locker rooms,

evenings as a walk-on

for the Bobcats’

football team,

days as a janitor

pushing a mop to the floors,

wiping the windows

that kept you in

the reality that lingered

within your dreams.

 

The coaches saw it all,

your talent and tactic,

your motivation

on and off the field,

and decided

to dress you

in green and white

as number eighteen

until you had received

yet another letter

beckoning you to enter

into a world

previously unimaginable

with the turn of a tassel,

making your mother proud

as your father stood

distant and indifferent,

 

 

only congratulating you

on finding a way

to leave the house

and go on your own.

 

You taught, coached,

married, and fathered

three children,

bringing my mother to life

and making it possible

for me to one day

listen to you rock

back and forth

on your rocking chair

in the living room,

mumbling to yourself

about plays made

on a flashing TV screen

and chuckling,

maybe reminiscing

on the days when

you were the one

running the play.

 

And here I am,

commencing on a journey

to another green and white:

the Thundering Herd,

a type of place

I was always

expected to go.

 

And I wonder,

as I go through the motions,

selling myself in words,

accomplishments, and character,

what if I were

to sell myself in blood;

what if I could show

that the perseverance

of number eighteen

accumulates in my heart

and forever courses

through my veins.

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