A Football Life

Captain+Ryan+Klimkewicz%2C+no.+75%2C+takes+down+another+opposing+team+member.
Captain Ryan Klimkewicz, no. 75, takes down another opposing team member.

Captain Ryan Klimkewicz, no. 75, takes down another opposing team member.

Captain Ryan Klimkewicz, no. 75, takes down another opposing team member.

Ryan Klimkewicz

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Throughout my five years of playing, I’ve always been asked one simple question: why? As simple a question as this seems to be, there is no simple answer. At first I played because my father bought me to the highly exclusive seven-year-old flag football league at Shen. When you’re seven, you don’t really question much; I was dropped off at practice and attempted to play football. I then took a six-year hiatus during which I don’t really remember exactly what I did with my life. I do remember my first (and only) flag football touchdown. I received a handoff on the outside and ran for a TD. The amazing part is that I can still vividly remember scoring this touchdown, and I remember nothing else from the entire season.

I returned to football the summer going into my sixth-grade year. I joined Shenendehowa Junior Plainsmen, and was “drafted” to the Warriors. To put things lightly, I was not the best at football. I had no idea how to block or what blocking even was – a bit of an issue for a tight end, and I wasn’t a fan of the whole hitting thing. To put things not as lightly, I was the worst on the team, and my draft stock was quickly falling. I needed to make an impact play and show the coaches what I could do. My first full contact football scrimmage finally arrived. I’m not sure what changed or how it happened, but I became an All American that day. I finally realized that if I ran really, really fast and didn’t stop, that tackling wouldn’t hurt me and would look really cool. I had something like twenty tackles that day, and the coaches noticed. I quickly became as much as an all star as a twelve year old on a kids team could be. I loved every second of it.

This continued the next year, but I was not able to play my eighth grade year as I couldn’t play modified football due to the fact that I did not attend Shenendehowa. Freshmen year I returned, and started on JV. Sophomore year I made my varsity debut and loved it, even though I didn’t play very much. Junior year, all 150 pounds of me won the starting position of center. For some reason I could snap well. Now this might seem an easy task, but it is anything but easy. Imagine having the pressure of starting the offense and remembering the snap count, while a 250-pound defensive lineman stares you down the entire time, just waiting to hit you. See, that lineman can make life difficult. Luckily, I was quick, I could get underneath all my opponents very fast, and drive them back just enough for the running back to get by. Junior year was also the first time I received a concussion. It was not fun.

Senior year I became a starter on both sides of the ball, center and linebacker, and was also elected captain. This meant the world to me; the pride and accomplishment I felt cannot be described. I also suffered another concussion, but it was worth it. I loved every second of my Senior season. It was hard to say goodbye to a program that took me in as an idiot freshman, and spit out a not-as-much-an-idiot Senior.

So why football? Football has made me who I am today. Maybe at the time I started I didn’t realize how life-changing it would be, but I knew I had to play. Football has taught me how to get up after being knocked down. It has taught me there’s a difference between losing and learning. Football made me a part of something larger than myself; it gave me something to be passionate about. I understood what it means to give everything for your team, and that those kids you start practicing with in August become your brothers very quickly. I believe it is a disservice to yourself not to play football at least one year of your life. Despite the concussions and bruises, playing football has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I am eternally grateful to my coaches and teammates for guiding me and sticking with me for this experience.

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