I love watching boys grow up, develop and mature into young men. I think that is genetically programmed into me. In many ways I wish I had a house full of boys. I consider myself fortunate to have fine young men in my life.
Tonight I got to see Hunter Skains debut the 2013 season as the Quarterback of the Cherokee High School JV team. He is a ninth grader. Hunter has just moved back to town after being away in Tyler, Texas for the last five years. Hunter and I met through the Big Brothers mentor program about seven years ago when he was only seven. So from his perspective he has known me for half his life.
His team got beat up pretty bad tonight. For the three quarters he was in as quarterback the team didn’t make a single first down. I was getting impatient. As a former QB myself, I was seeing all the things he was doing wrong and all the things that he needed to improve on. The truth was that the other team was obviously bigger, stronger and better coached than Hunter’s team. He had almost no blocking and was mostly running for his life on every play.
Still I noticed the fumble and the times he took a sack when he should have thrown it away. I noticed how he needed more energy and to take command of the offensive. Of course I was not thinking too much about how he missed all the summer work outs and the first two weeks of school. Nor did I consider the coach still thought enough of him and his ability to allow him to be the starter.
And I was disappointed when the coach put in their second quarterback in the fourth quarter with the team behind 36-0. It didn’t occur to me that both coaches were putting in some of their reserves to see how they would play. I noticed the coach put Hunter in at wide receiver and on his second play at wide receiver they sent him long and this reserve quarterback threw him a perfect strike for their team’s only touchdown.
All I could think about was that with the reserves in that Hunter could have had time to throw that pass.
As the final seconds were ticking off the clock I was wondering what I should say to Hunter. I thought about what I might say if he were my son living under my roof full time. I realized that what I would say in that situation would be different than what I would say tonight. I thought about instructing him, but decided I should leave that to his coach, though the thought entered my mind that I could out coach him. (Probably not)
When the horn sounded I walked around the track toward the only open gate leading on to the field. No one but players were on the playing field and spectators are generally not allowed. I took to the field anyway because I wanted to say something to Hunter. I knew I wouldn’t see him after the team huddled up to hear the coaches perspective and then load up to go home.
He saw me striding across the grass and he came to meet me. When we met I shook his hand and said, "That was a great catch in the end zone." A big smile crossed his face. I winked at him and turned and walked away.
I had realized in my short walk out to the see him, that the score didn’t matter. The fact that they didn’t make a first down didn’t matter. The fact that he needs to improve didn’t matter. What did matter was that some man in his life lets him know that he has what it takes. He is going to make it.
As a male, we all have needed some other man to believe in us and that we have what it takes to be a man. My father did that for me. We need more fathers doing that. Hunter Skains has what it takes and he is going to be fine.