3rd Place Essay Winner
Be Someone’s Hero – Stand Up to Hazing
By: Nicholas David Smith
Having been a three sport athlete for the past four years, I have seen occasional attempts at hazing. I think it’s more common in some sports than others but I also don’t think hazing is tolerated like it used to be either. When I think about this topic I think about my freshman football team experience. We had a boy tryout for our non-cut freshman football team and he was tiny. Chris was just below five feet tall and weighed 110 pounds clearly not “football material”. When you asked Chris why do you want to play football anyway you’re going to get killed? He would just reply that he wanted to be part of a team and instead of getting picked on by big kids like the football players he wanted to be one of them! Chris was prime pickings for the upperclassmen to target and haze. He was an easy victim and one that wouldn’t be able to stand up to the physical strength and size of not only the upperclassmen but the rest of the freshman team as well. However, the hazing never happened. The opposite happened. Chris’s effort and positive attitude became contagious and instead of wanting to single him out the freshman team gathered around him and protected him from everyone even the upperclassmen. Our coach didn’t tolerate hazing either. It was not allowed or accepted. Instead the coach found a role for every player on the freshman football team that year so that everyone felt included and validated as a member of the team. No one hazed anyone. Respect, honor, teamwork and support of your brothers around you were the lessons taught and learned on the team that year. One of my favorite football memories from that freshman year was about Chris. Chris practiced hard the entire season but hadn’t played in a single game yet. He was fine with practicing every day and wearing his team jersey on game days to school. He never questioned the lack of playing time because he trusted his coach and knew he had Chris’s safety as his number one priority. It was the last game of the season and we were playing against the Quincy Presidents and Chris still hadn’t gotten into the game because the Presidents were huge. We scored a touchdown with very little time left in the game and we were about to go for the usual two point conversion because we never kicked for the extra point. Coach called a time out and called Chris over. He asked him to go in and kick for the extra point. Chris ran onto the field no questions asked. He was half the height and size of every player on the field. You could see Quincy chomping at the bit to break through our line and squash him like a bug. That never happened. Our line protected Chris like I have never seen them before and he kicked and made that extra point. It was his first time ever playing in a football game and his last time too because he would not return the next year to play again. The entire bench rushed the field and picked him up like he was the hero of the game and carried him off in celebration. Chris was the hero that day and in my mind still is. He helped make every one of us a hero that season. We learned the importance of sticking together as a team and as brothers. We looked out for each other then and it continued for the next four years. My teammates and I looked out for kids like Chris off the field too. Our coach taught us and the experience with Chris taught us all to treat others with dignity and respect. We are a brotherhood wherever we go and we represent our football program wherever we got to and we must do so with respect and dignity. We never forgot how good it made us feel and how great it made Chris feel to be part of a team like ours and how he was looked out for and protected. We looked out for Chris for the next three years too even though he chose not to continue playing football. No one messed with him because of his hero football buddies that would stand up for him but little did anyone realize that he was actually the hero. He taught us how to work hard, to never give up and to rely on each other. I think of Chris anytime I see someone try to single anyone out because of their size, grade or seniority. A team looks out for each and doesn’t single a person out or belittle them. We are one and we are each other’s heroes. You mess with one you mess with all of us. We must never forget this lesson in life. I never will and I owe that to my hero, Chris.