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This is a very depressing photo for me, but the end of the story is very positive

… a season I always wanted to forget

When I saw this picture last week on Facebook, one sent by my sister who had no idea about this story, I wanted to just forget about it.

The photo above is one that was taken for our senior year of football. It is a year that I have tried to decades to put out of my psyche.

However, despite the negative of that, the year actually turned into something very positive and made me a much better person.

Here is that story.

The 1965 season

From the end of the 1964-65 basketball season until mid-August, I worked relentlessly in the old weight room that we had in the former biology lab in the old Lilly-Washington High School.

I was told that I was being switched to running back from QB for that season, and I wanted to bulk up and beef up for the season. It worked — until preseason ended all of my dreams of playing college football.

When doing something stupid that a coach had told me to do in practice — turn my back to the defenders while catching a flare pass — I was hit in the hip with another player’s helmet, giving me a hip-pointer two days before our first scrimmage.

It was downhill from there. I missed about ten days of practice, and I could not really run or keep in shape in many ways other than doing some bench pressing.

Before the season, I could bench press more than anyone on the team, primarily because I worked out three days a week during the summer while many did not spend much time there.

I could also lift more on our leg press machine built by Alex Bellock in shop class that was awesome. I also ran a great deal, too, so I had come into preseason camp in great shape.

All of that was gone.

First game

I started the first game of the season though I was not in good shape, had not been hit for almost two weeks. In the first quarter, I was hit on the sideline and twisted my ankle, causing a major ankle problem.

Quite simply, I limped through the season. The only way to correct something like that is rest, and with just 23 players, that was not an option.

Before the Laurel Valley game, I sat out practice all week, and in the first quarter, I was running like I thought I would all year. Until I was hit going out of bounds. Every time someone hit it, the ankle immediately ballooned in size.

I even volunteered to move into the line so that I would not be tackled and could possibly play an entire game without being injured. The coaches ignored that request.

In short, it was very, very frustrating for a young athlete.

Something very positive occurred because of that

However, while I was very disappointed that I would not have a chance to play college football — I never wanted to play it again — something else occurred during that interim.

I had a realization that if I was going to succeed in life, I would have to do so with my intellectual capabilities, not my athletic ones. I was at best an average athlete, but I thought that if I applied myself in college, I could compete with some very good students.

That took a great deal of effort, but it paid dividends. When I entered Penn State University, like most students, I was filled with trepidation. I started at the Altoona Campus — almost all then had to start at a branch campus — but still, knowing that there were about 8,000 new freshman that year was frightening.

With hard work and determination that came from the adversity that I left on the football field, I was able to do so. I managed to become what they called a distinguished scholar, winning some major academic awards for my efforts.

So, while I was disappointed in my senior season of football — and in my junior one that was destroyed with a separated shoulder — better things occurred because of that.

And, while my family likes to see that photo — because I had black hair and a full head of it and look a little macho — it still gives me a gut punch in the gut the first time I see it.

Not, however, after that.

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