Looking Through the Bars

by Coach Jason Jackson

This picture is what makes football different….Looking Through the Bars. As the years have moved by, we have forgotten exactly why high school football is so special. We can simplify why it’s special just by observing this picture and looking through these bars. Unfortunately, we all have a numbered set of days that we can look through these bars. While in high school, any type of person has the opportunity to have this view. Large, small, fast, or slow it does not matter, there is a place in football for every type of athlete. Add to this fact that football takes numbers to play and there is no doubt high school football is for everyone. Sadly, beyond high school, football becomes a different game. In college, size and speed become the deciding factor and it’s all that matters. In professional football, it’s only about business. If you look at all these factors, it’s clear that high school football is a game that can be played by every single person. In high school, it is a pure game that is played the way it was intended to be.

But what is the point about looking through the bars? Four years total is all you are guaranteed to look through those bars. For the rest of your life you can always pick up a basketball, you can grab a glove and a baseball or even a set of golf clubs. You can play those games till you are 80 and we have all seen the videos of 100 year olds running the 100 meter dash in track!… but your chance to play football and look through the bars…. is limited. Once the clock has struck midnight on the last football game of an athlete’s senior year – he can never look through those bars ever again. Oh maybe that 5% will get the chance in college and then 2% in the NFL but 95% of young athletes will never experience looking through the bars again. It’s one of the most unique things about football. It’s what simply sets it apart from every other sport. You get to put on a piece of equipment that becomes part of you. That helmet and mask become your identity on a Friday night. No one sees your face. No one sees your smile after a TD, no one sees your scowl as you drop the QB on a blitz…no one sees the anguish after a hard fought loss. All those facial expressions and emotions are on the inside of the bars. The view from the outside and all they see are the bars. But the view through the bars on the inside is exhilarating. Seeing the ball spiraling toward your outstretched hands through the bars, the close up of the football as you plant your facemask perfectly causing a fumble, looking through the bars into your teammates eyes in the huddle when you are going for 2 to win or lose the game….there is nothing else like it…..nothing.

Looking through the bars…. It changes your demeanor. You become a warrior. There is no other sport like it, so many positions, so many possibilities – 88 positions! So many teammates depending on you – eleven players executing a play at an exact moment. You depending on all of your teammates – your number was called to kick the game winning field goal. It is a game that allows violence but also requires finesse – on first down, a full back puts all his might in a head on collision with a linebacker to lead the running back. Then on 3rd and 6 he catches a finger tip pass on a playaction roll out and tiptoes down the sideline like he is on a tightrope for the first down. What other sport is like this? There is no other.

As we head to into the last month before August practice, I want to challenge everyone – players, coaches, and individuals who played the game to share this and show the young men who are playing and show it to those considering not playing. Share with them your stories of looking through the bars. Those who decided to not play the game – tell the athletes about your regrets choosing not to play. Tell them of your teammates regrets of choosing not to play.

I looked through the bars for 15 years of my life. I think about that view through those bars all the time, I still have dreams about looking through those bars. I still see those tight ends I lined up against. I see the grass coming up through the bars from being stuck at the bottom of a pile, but most of all I see are my teammates faces….I would do all over again. The only regret I have?…I cant put the helmet on and still play… I can never “Look Through The Bars” ever again!

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