Jeremy Mug

I envy Andrew Luck. The now retired Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback walked away from the game of football on his terms last week.

Some criticized him but for the most part fans understood after their initial, knee-jerk reaction to boo their franchise signal caller.

I don’t envy him for his fame and money. I envy how he got to walk away from the sport. I know that it was a very hard decision, but Luck knew when his last game was and he wasn’t technically forced to leave the game.

Admittedly, I still get the itch. In no shape or form did I ever play at the level of Luck. My football days were always destined to end with high school or at a small Division II or Division III college. I miss the game. My last game wasn’t the one I expected it to be.

I didn’t go out in the state championship game like many of my fellow seniors did a decade ago. I went out with my last game action being some rotational snaps in a late-season region game.

The itch was never stronger in the last 11 years since I suited up for a real high school game than it was on Friday night.

Friday night hit a soft spot in my feels. I’ve covered a few games in Billy Henderson Stadium since I graduated. I’ve attended plenty of them to support my younger former teammates in the years immediately following leaving the school.

Friday felt a tad different. Time has a funny way of making you forget but then making you remember the good memories. This season marks the 10th anniversary of the team that reached the Class 4A State Championship game in the Georgia Dome.

Of course, as you know by now, I didn’t play a snap that season due to a torn ACL. But those memories have faded in and out of my mind for the last decade.

Friday was the first time I’d been in the stadium and truly felt the nostalgia. Of course I didn’t have any vested interest in the game’s outcome. I was there to cover the game and that comes first.

Pre-game as well as during I couldn’t help but think about how much things have stayed the same and how much they have changed. I walked through the pines on my way to the sidelines and remembered the feelings I felt prior to running into the stadium for my first game. I remembered the knots in my stomach and excitement building for the carnage I hoped to cause on the defensive line of our opponent that night. I could hear our student section singing and chanting the same things that were flowing into the air on Friday. The band played the same songs I’d heard for four years. Former Georgia Bulldog and Gladiator Damien Gary was even back orchestrating the Gladiators’ offense as he had assisted in doing in my day.

There was a lot of different too.

The Gladiators’ warm-ups were different. The vibe of pre game was different. For the first time I had to deal with the post-game traffic. My hands were numb for the rest of the weekend after only throwing the ball around pre game with OCHS quarterback Dylan Manders.

Maybe it’s a good thing I got out when I did; football hurts when you’re old.

Jeremy Johnson is the sports editor for The Oconee Enterprise. Opinions expressed are those of the writer.

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