April 2004–It’s a dark Saturday night in the beginning of October. The lights in the sky blind me when I look upon them, and the adrenaline in the air makes my heart beat twice as hard. I join the men around me as they roar and run into a bright green field where a crowd of onlookers cheer us on. Where am I? Joe K. Butler Stadium, the official Houston Independent School District home stadium where, as in this night like many others, all of the varsity athletic games are played. This was where I learned the meaning of teamwork. This stadium is located on South Main , between Beltway 8 and Highway 6-10. An area surrounded by drug dealers on every street corner, police sirens going off because of gang related events, and the upsetting sight of men and women living on the streets. It was my battle field.
This was in part a place where I grew up. I would go to this stadium as a child and watch on as my sisters’ high school team played their games and I awaited their performance at the halftime show. Both of my sisters were Flagettes for Jesse H. Jones High School and were also varsity softball, volleyball, and basketball players when they attended in the 90’s. I would be at each and every of one their games. That stadium was in part a big part of my sisters’ lives then as it is now; they got to be in the spotlight and perform in front of people they knew and loved. They used Butler the same way as I did, to escape from the day to day stress of high school life and to make the ones watching proud.
A broken down, rusty rock of concrete split in half by 110 yards of aged grass surrounded by a corroded metal wire fence. A sight that the average parent saw as disgusting down to the point of being an unacceptable environment for his or her child to compete in. Yet, then again, first impressions aren’t always the best impression. The screaming, the chanting, the cheering, and then the silence. The crowd waits patiently and all of a sudden….BOOM! The sound of the game’s launch as the football flies through the air and the real action begins. Two hours a week for four straight months, the same emotions, the same rituals, the same fans that come in week after week, the same parents who watch other their children proudly and remember their own childhood. But these emotions only occur for two hours a week for each of those players, because on every other day and night, Butler Stadium is empty. Seen to those driving home from work day in and day out who don’t know and experience what this place is. They see it as an abandoned field, worthless in every way, all in all a waste of good land. But then again, what about those who do know what it is or even what it means to the community and the city. Butler Stadium has become a big part of that side of town and simply for providing the support to unite teams all around the city together. But I don’t see it that way, I played football for a great part of my life, and the best games I played were in that stadium each game better than the last.
On that same cool, October night my team was playing one of the best teams in Houston , the Madison Marlins. This team had gone two straight seasons undefeated and for the first time made it to the state championship and all because of a young 6 foot 5 inch quarterback named Vincent Young. This 18 year old man-child was ranked number one in the nation and just as everyone had their eyes on him, they were about to have their eyes on me as well. This was the best athlete I ever played against and probably the hardest to tackle. It was 2nd and 7 in the beginning of the 3rd quarter and I was on defense. Young snaps the ball and runs to his right. My heart pounded under my shoulder pads and my bright blue uniform as I mirrored his every move across the line of scrimmage. He juked left, I followed, then right, and I was still with him, and finally straight into my direction. My mouth watered as I saw my opportunity to put the great Vincent Young into the dirt. He over powered me but I connected with my hit and in doing so brought him into the ground but not without taking a hit myself. As I brought him down two linemen fell on my knee and bent it one way then two other in another and finally laid flat by the ground. I laid there motionless, my entire body felt numb and for a few seconds I could hear complete silence from a crowd that was screaming. When the numbness went away, here came the pain of a thousand needles pinching away from every nerve in my body but all I wanted to do was get up. So with all of my strength I raised off the sweat drenched grass and limped my way to the sideline. The pain was unbearable but I was given the choice to sit on the bench and rest or continue the fight. I got 4 more tackles in that game and caused a fumble. It was a game that I would always remember because it was the day I was tested to my fullest. At the end of the game my knee completely gave out and had to be carried off the field. I slightly tore two of the three ligaments in my knee and stretched the third. I was supposed to be out for at least 6 weeks therefore my entire junior season would be gone. I returned two weeks later, probably in terrible condition but just as stubborn. When I look back at my high school football career, that game sticks to me because I never quit when logically I should have. My best years were played at Butler Stadium. The emotion, the adrenaline, the passion for the sport. I was on an ultimate high and I continued that in my recovery and my final senior football season which I made my best because of what happened in the past.
This was the place where champions were made, and lessons are learned. In this sport, you learn how to stay committed to your team and begin to build responsibilities for who you are, but most of all you truly realize how much strength have inside you. All around the Houston area, athletes came here every week to compete to win and to be seen in the spotlight. Some others got even farther and got to taste the sweet fruit that awaits them on the other side like college and even professional football. I had the honor and privilege to play against some of these great athletes such as Vincent Young who now plays for the University of Texas . Playing against him caused me a lot of pain but also showed me a lot of myself.
I remember it as where I was pushed to the limit and rewarded for the pain. All the sweat and blood I shed, and all the pain and tears I unleashed were well worth it. Some still ask why I did what I did, and why I fought so hard. I think back and remember the smile on my family’s faces and how proud they were of me and how I would forever regret letting them, my team, and most of all myself down. I was part of the elite and overjoyed to be a Wolf. Week in and week out I would give my best in front of a crowd of people of whom I love and make me proud. I remember it as the place where I had the chance to show I was better than the man across me, and since my final game, what I greatly remember is that bus ride home, looking back towards the stadium through the cloud of dust and gravel, and watching the lights turn off and realizing that all the good and bad that I went through in that stadium was fading away just as the sight of the stadium in the distance did from my eyes.