As the 2017 college football season is now in full swing, we are settling into our customary game weekend routines. We wake up early, count the number of beers in the fridge for the fourth time before we start prepping the grill. We have the truck loaded, ready to hit the road to set up our season-opener tailgate. We hyper-extend our thumbs flipping back and forth between games on different channels. We point at the scoreboard during halftime, when the stadium airs a different game than the one we are attending. We text friends and family, asking if their team’s defense knew there was a game today. We lose our voice because of touchdowns and turnovers. And when all’s said and done, we read and watch recaps and highlights from every game that was aired on any given Saturday.
Behind the Line of Scrimmage: The Little Things in Life
In the hustle of game day, sometimes we miss the opportunity to appreciate the little things in life because they get lost somewhere between 97-yard kickoff returns and 98-0 shutouts. Here are a couple stories behind the line of scrimmage that will restore your faith in humanity and make you say, “This is why I love college football.”
UAB: Blazing, Serene Hope
There is this quote by Corozon Aquino that I was reminded of when I heard that they were reinstating the football program at University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past. Rather, it is a spirit that bears things – with resignations, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope.” I know the Blazer faithful certainly had their spirit restored as the team took the field on Saturday.
In 2014, the Blazers program was disbanded, not only football but bowling and rifle as well. President Ray Watts and VP of Financial Affairs and Administration Allen Bolton produced a strategic planning process for the university, citing the decision to end the programs was financial. UAB was first major college football program to shut down since Pacific did so in 1995.
“Football simply not sustainable”
To no one’s surprise, students, athletes, and supporters marched through the UAB campus, rallying for the school to save the football team, taking to social media with petitions and the hash tags #UABFootball and #FreeUAB to spread the word. Ironically enough, the Blazers were actually on the rise and bowl eligible for the first time in a decade. The school upheld coaching contracts and scholarships, but players transferred as hope seemed to diminish.
The following year, the news spread like wildfire that the efforts to reinstate all three programs were successful. Funding through private individuals and local businesses had made the reinstatement possible. It was estimated that $27 million was raised through the UAB Football Foundation, the city of Birmingham, and the UAB Undergraduate Student Government Association.
Blazing, serene hope.
Fast forward to Saturday, September 2, 2017. The new UAB Blazers took to Legion Field, in front of a record-breaking school attendance, to take on the Alabama A&M Bulldogs, and won. The score was 38-7, but it was the third win of the day.
Yes, third. The first win being able to take the field again as a team; the last was the taking home a W. And the real win of the day was Tim Alexander.
Now, if you are from Birmingham, you already know who he is and what his story entails. But for the rest of the world, the video shared across Twitter pulled at heart strings across the college football world. Alexander was a football star at Erwin High School, but was in a car wreck in 2006 that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Over time, with treatment and intense physical therapy, he regained feeling and use of his upper body.
Alexander graduated from UAB in 2015 and now works as the school’s director of character development. He is also credited as one of the people most responsible for getting the program back on its feet. Which, in turn, was exactly what he promised to do himself, and boy, did he deliver. With assistance, he was able to step out of his wheelchair, walk, and present the game ball to the official.
Blazing, serene hope.
Don’t put the tissues away just yet.
Jake Olson: Blind Faith
The University of Southern California’s long-snapper, Jake Olson, lost his left eye to a rare form of retinal cancer when he only was 10 months old. He completely lost his eyesight in 2009 when he was 12 years old.
Olson snapped for his high school football team in Orange County, CA, after being guided onto the field by his fellow teammates. He is no stranger to USC, as he has been around the program since Pete Carroll was head coach. He enrolled at USC on a special scholarship, and participated in practices in 2015.
“I tried to suppress my emotions as much as I could because I have a job to do, and I wanted to make sure I got that done,” Olson said after the game. “Then tonight I can look at videos and get all emotional over it. It was very special, hearing my name being called over the P.A. system.”
USC head coach Clay Helton said Olson will have more opportunities to play in the future.
As we continue to read reviews and wait for the latest poll to publish, take the time to appreciate the little things in life.