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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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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In the Beginning

The first memory I have is waking up on Christmas morning when I was four years old. I have no idea why, but it is.

I woke up in our home on Elizabeth St in Eden, WI. I got out of bed and peered down the stairs through the bright green painted wood railings and I could see our Christmas Tree. That’s all I remember of that day, I don’t even know what presents I got.

My next true memory is walking to school across the street for my first day of kindergarten. I always loved learning and I’m glad for that because according to my Grandpa B if I didn’t I’d be dead.

Toward the end of his life he would tell me the same stories over and over. He’d tell me about an article he wrote called “Smoke I’m a Gopher Hole” for a local paper (I still don’t know what it was about), he’d tell me about wading through snakes to an island in the Pacific during World War II, about how he danced in a tutu with his unit on stage and showed me the picture of them in black tank tops, black socks and tutus and finally he’d tell me the one and most important lesson……

The lesson is simple,”If you don’t learn something new everyday you might as well be dead.”

I honestly try to share that with everyone I can and I truly believe it. I hope you will too, share it and believe it.

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The picture is of Grandpa B’s house that he made using Popsicle sticks, he called it his “Pop Art.”

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