The Student News Site of Pinewood School

The Perennial

The Perennial

The Perennial

“Welcome to Football, Brandon”

Rose Xu
Brandon Ge catches football in stride during practice.

“You’re playing football? Really?” That was the usual shocked response I got when I told people I was joining the team. And to be fair, their surprise was probably justified. What made me, a lanky 135-pound kid with no football experience, think that I should join the team?

On the first day of school, some of my friends on the team tried to persuade me to participate in one of their workout sessions. I begrudgingly agreed, not expecting anything other than to get some cardio in. Surprisingly, when I took the field that day, something felt … natural. The turf pellets in my shoes and the cool breeze against my skin pulled me in with some sort of irresistible attraction for the game. That short 90-minute practice convinced me to commit to the team.

To say I was a nervous wreck before our home opener would be an understatement. I was scared of messing up and embarrassing myself in front of our home crowd. But there was something so much worse. When I looked around our tiny locker room, I saw the number 28 — Jonathan’s jersey number — plastered on the side of every helmet. This was the first football game since our beloved friend’s passing, and this game was for him. I couldn’t screw it up.

The whistle blew. Oliver sent the ball flying into the back of the end zone, and our defense took the field. I lined up at cornerback, frantically going through defensive assignments and tackling technique one last time. Seconds later, I was on the ground watching the other team’s running back run right by me after I missed my tackle. Right as I thought I had given up a touchdown, I heard the sickening crunch of shoulder pads as three of my teammates piled on top of him and brought him down. But before I could even start getting myself off the ground, Caden was already there helping me up, saying he should have been there to help with the tackle.

That series of events defined the first half: my teammates were always there for me. They kept bailing me out of bad situations I put myself into or mistakes I made. I felt like a bystander, pushing my responsibilities to my teammates and watching them do all the hard work. I started the second half hoping for much of the same.

But after I watched multiple of my teammates get carried off the field due to injuries, I knew I couldn’t shy away from big moments anymore. Here I was, perfectly healthy, not giving it my all while some of my teammates were literally on their last legs. Arjun was playing with a torn quad, Ethan had multiple needles poking him because of cramps and Jamie was being inspected for a concussion. Rohan was watching anxiously with a torn MCL, Jake was pounding the ground while he rolled out his hamstring and Thomas was nervously walking up and down the sideline with ice on both of his legs.

I realized then that, just like my teammates had always been there for me, I had to be there for them.

From then on, for every tackle, every route and every block, I put forth my best effort, desperately trying to repay my teammates for all they had done for me. With 11 seconds left on the clock, we found ourselves with an 8-point lead. All we needed was one stop. 

The ball snapped. The running back caught it and turned towards me. I saw Leo grab his jersey and George wrap around his waist. This was it: my turn to contribute. I threw myself at his legs, driving him down to the ground with everything I had left in the tank. The final whistle blew.

Cheers erupted from the Panther Pit. We had won. A wave of sheer joy rushed over me as I snapped off my helmet to celebrate, realizing that I had contributed to the winning tackle. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins as I joined the team’s victory lap and ran through the tunnel, but before I could celebrate any further, Coach Kim gathered the crowd around Jonathan’s framed jersey. 

“I know not everybody here knew him,” he said. I saw a quiet tear roll down from the corner of his eye. “I know he’s been watching this whole game, and I want to make sure he hears this. We’re gonna say ‘Jonathan’ on three.” 

The resounding “one, two, three… Jonathan” that followed sent a cascade of tears down my face. All the emotions I’d been trying to hold in boiled over in that one moment. As I laid down on the field to try to collect myself, I heard Coach Kim call out my name.

 “Welcome to football, kid.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Perennial Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *