A Non-Career in Review

While I sucked at basketball and baseball, I was not a terrible football player.

Before my seventh grade year I attended the summer football camp at St Mary’s Springs. It was the first time i did anything remotely related to organized football. I was 6′ 2″ tall and weighed 300lbs. (I am the exact same height and weight today.)

I was also relatively fast and agile given my size, but growing up in Eden there wasn’t a football team for me to play on.

One of the coaches from the camp just happened to be the coach for Saint Mary’s grade school in Fond du Lac and my mom’s next door neighbor. Somehow I ended up on his team even though I didn’t go to school there.

The team went undefeated both years I played there. In fact I never started a game one of my teams lost ever.

Now there were losses I was part of, but my team my junior and senior year of high school team went undefeated as well.

I dreamed from the first time I put on a helmet that I would play pro ball and even when I knew the NFL was out of the question I still felt I could find a professional level I could succeed in.

That all changed though in one game in Two Rivers Wisconsin in my junior year.

Right before that season I was in the best shape of my life. I broke the 4.8 second 40 yard dash mark, benched a max 520 pounds and squatted a max of just under 1200 pounds. I also could do a seven mile run once a week just for the hell of it, but the coolest thing I could do was slam dunk a basketball.

At the game in Two Rivers I tore my ACL, MCL, LCL and a bit of meniscus to boot in my left knee. I was never able to dunk a basketball again and spent the next two years in and out of surgeries and on a mix of painkillers of various strengths and types.

I eventually did get a football scholarship to St Cloud State in Minnesota and even got a visit in my home from the Wisconsin Badgers head coach, Barry Alvarez, during the recruiting process.

It was cool to be recruited and cool to get the scholarship, but three days into practice before we even had pads on someone rolled my knee and I never wore pads as a college player with the exception of picture day.

It wasn’t easy for me to decide to quit playing football. In the letter giving up my scholarship; I summed it up as I didn’t feel I was quitting football, but accepting a new path and challenge in life.

I had no idea what I was going to do in reality, but it sounded good on paper.

I eventually ended up where I’m at today, but I definitely did not take the shortest distance between two points. I actually ended up taking several paths and accepting numerous challenges.

Life does not come with a roadmap, so you do need to be willing to navigate a bit in the dark when detours come up. It gets easier though because every experience you have and person you meet will help light the paths a bit more.

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A Kick to the Nuts

Well, for all my Minnesota Viking’s fan friends, they are probably thinking this is about them after that Monday night beat down. While I would like to rub it in this blog is not about them.

In a way the game inspired me to finally write about this topic, however I picked the topic almost right after I finished my last entry. Because when it comes to memorable, sequential events of my life a single kick to the nuts is a moment I will never forget and fits in right about here.

When I was eight years old I was at least as big as the eighth graders in the booming Village of Eden, WI. I was wearing your Pappa Jim’s clothes already too. This all meant I had no possible way of being high fashion and I was a clear target for the Village Bully to stake his claim.

Whenever the Village Bully would get his chance, I would get a pink belly, a wedgie, a charlie horse, pushed, shoved or embarrassed in some other fashion. One fantastic winter afternoon the Village Bully would get his due.

It all started with a game of king of the hill on the snow hill across the street from our house, and with your uncle Mike watching from the front porch I ventured out to knock the king off the hill and with one trip up the hill I caught the king not looking and watched him roll to the bottom.

The king was the Village Bully who was in his first year of high school. I was so proud of myself, I had my moment of glory. I was eight, he was a ninth grader and I was king of the hill. Only one problem, he was pissed!!!!

He came up the hill determined to get his spot back, so I relinquished it before he even got there and started to run down the other side of the hill. However, his spot had nothing to do with the top of the hill. He was going to get his spot back by kicking my ass.

I remember getting tackled, hit, getting up, trying to run away, getting tackled, getting hit, crying and trying to get away. It seemed to go on for hours, but was probably only minutes.

Then I remember hearing through my own crying. “Get away from my brother.” Your Uncle Mike had come to my defense and was immediately ignored. Big mistake.

He knew from all our own fighting the quickest way to end the fight. Literally seconds after being ignored, that’s how he ended my fall from being the king of the hill. He was four, no where near the bully’s size and that bully got his nuts kicked. The bully’s status as a bully was never quite the same.

This ultimately is one of those stories I will never forget and there is actually a lot that I learned from it. The simplest is stand up to bullies and they eventually will stop, I think mine lived in fear that my little brother might be around.

One of the other lessons is about the power of family. The power of family and the fearlessness it provides in protecting those you love is something that has been demonstrated in many acts throughout history. My most vivid experience in this was that single kick to the nuts.

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My Best Friends

My first real friends, Damien and Shawn lived on Elizabeth St in Eden WI, hometown of Baseball star Jim Gantner, just two and three doors down from my house.

As I’ve already established, my memories of my childhood are spotty at best. What I remember about Damien is that he had a cool red non-motorized go-cart that we would take down to the ballpark and drive it down what seemed to be a huge hill. He also had curly hair and almost every Star Wars action figure that he kept in a Darth Vader case.

What I remember about Sean is that he had yellow hair, his dad last part of his hand in a hunting accident and I dropped a wrench on his head that caused it to bleed what seemed like more blood than the human body would hold.

Sean and Damien both went to public school, while I went to St. Mary’s and they both moved away by second grade. I have no idea where they are today, and I often wonder where they are and what they are doing as I do with all the friends I have had in my life. I also call a lot of them including Shawn and Damien my best friends.

Best to most people implies the top one or a single one. When I got married to your mother though I figured out what best really means to me, it means that at one point or even one moment they were and therefore will always be my best friend.

Therefore, while some think I took the easy way out by selecting four best men, it was the only right thing to do in my mind. Your Uncle Mike became my best friend over time, once he got passed being the annoying little brother. Your Uncle Scott in FL, became my best friend in high school. Your Uncle Steve in AZ, became my best friend when I became a college drop out. Your Uncle Sonny became my best friend when I went back to college.

What really got me thinking about this is that your Aunt Amy, who you have never met called this week out of the blue and it seems like forever since I’ve seen her, but she too is one of my best friends, because for what seemed like a moment in my life I could talk to her about anything.

Life goes through many changes and your geography, circumstances or you may change, but if your lucky you’ll have as many best friends as I have had.

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How I Met Your Mother

I guess I’m feeling a bit excited about this whole blogging thing today so I might as well just keep going. Don’t worry my energy will probably fade and life will interrupt as it always does.

I just posted on Facebook last weekend that my pointless accomplishment for the year was watching every episode of How I Met Your Mother. Your mother actually liked watching that show and I just didn’t get it so I always gave her a hard time for watching the openly gay guy who used to play a teenage doctor play a womanizer. I finally gave the show a chance over Labor Day weekend at your Uncle Steve’s urging and I loved it.

The show is actually about a father telling his kids about how he met their mother, this is the short story about how I met your mother.

As I am sure I will get to at some point, I dropped out of college the first time I went because my football career came to less than a glorious end. As a result I found myself back in good old Fond du Lac, WI and when I met your mother I was working in a feed mill mixing animal feed and driving a bulk feed truck.

On an evening where I was hanging out with my friend Steve, who had also lost his way when it came to higher education a bit, we went to his house and your mother was sitting on the couch wearing a friend’s pair of packer mittens. She was a friend of Steve’s brother Paul.

A couple of days later she had got my number and called to ask me out on a date. About seven years later we got married.

The lesson you can take from this post is, your mother is always right. After all she picked me and she knew well before I did that How I Met Your Mother was a great show. I could come up with a lot more reasons, but let’s just stop with those because most of them make me look much more stupid.

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