My Son, The Phoenix…Along with the USA


Matt has been playing football since he was in 7th grade. When he was 12, he was overweight. He played the line on the Bloomingdale Bears team as a redline defense lineman. Red line meant those were the big boys. Boys who you didn’t want to mess with…the boys who could squash you like a pancake.

He played this position all the way thru Sophomore year. In his sophomore year, Matt made team captain for Lake Park High School. He was proud to lead his team onto the field and start every game. But, somewhere between Sophomore and Junior year, he decided he didn’t want to be overweight anymore.  He wanted to be muscle bound. A lean, mean, fighting machine. So, with his urgency and mom’s wallet, he worked with a personal trainer at Lifetime Fitness. Jason Runyon trained Matt for two years. His goal was to be a better football player and lose the fat. At the time he started, Matt weighed in at 240 pounds. That’s alot of weight for a 15 year old.

During his first year training, he lost a total of 60 pounds and increased his leg press to 1,500 pounds. The second year, he was able to squat 255 from 175 lbs. while putting on 10 pounds of muscle to bring his weight to over 200 pounds, but with a much lower body fat percentage of somewhere around 18%.

As you can imagine, the weight loss provided a predicament for Matt. He knew he would lose his starting spot as a lineman. A guy on the line needs to be at least 230 lbs in order to hold the offense and/or defense. So, with alot of thought, Matt decided to go out for Linebacker.

Linebacker his Senior year. That took alot of guts. There are probably a dozen linebackers who have played the position since they were in 6th grade and who are Juniors now on the same team. But, Matt was persistent. He loved the sport of football and didn’t want to give up. He continually showed the drive and dedication to his trainer, myself and his coaches until he had a concussion during pre-season practice.

That was something Matt didn’t expect. And, it set him back a few weeks. He was disappointed, but powerless as to what occurred. All he could do was focus on getting better. But, in the midst of this process he was seeing other people lining up right in front of him and he felt his position was no longer his. And, it wasn’t.

So, I pulled reverse psychology and told him to quit. I said, “You’ve worked for over two years to get to this spot and you’re not getting the chance. If you feel it’s out of your control, then quit.” He said, “Mom. Quitting isn’t something I do. It’s just not in me.”

That’s all I needed to hear. And, I think that’s all Matt needed to discuss, because the week he was able to start practice after his concussion, he showed his football coaches that he was worthy of a starting position.

Matt is goal oriented. If he loves something as passionately as football, he has no limits on what he can achieve, just as our nation has proven time and time again. Our nation has stood the test of time, battles, trials and tribulations with other countries and even within our own.

Matt will be starting on his football team come Saturday, September 11th. This day, as we all know, holds alot of emotion in our hearts for the country, and for those who lost their lives during that beautiful September Tuesday in 2000.

As Matt takes the field for his high school team in a hopeful Lake Park win, let’s also take a moment to remember what happened on that day, and never become complacent to the act of terrorism. We rose from the ashes of that tragedy, just as Matt has risen to the occasion of showing true determination and love for the sport of football.

Go Lancers, and God Bless the USA!

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