Bob Richards, the former pole-vault champion, shares
a moving story about a skinny young boy who loved
football with all his heart. Practice after practice,
he eagerly gave everything he had. But being half
the size of the other boys, he got absolutely nowhere.
At all the games, this hopeful athlete sat on the
bench and hardly ever played. This teenager lived
alone with his father and the two of them had a
very special relationship. Even though the son was
always on the bench, his father was always in the
stands cheering. He never missed a game. This young
man was still the smallest of the class when he
entered high school. But his father continued to
encourage him but also made it very clear that he
did not have to play football if he didn't want
to. But the young man loved football and decided
to hang in there. He was determined to try his best
at every practice, and perhaps he'd get to play
when he became a senior. All through high school,
he never missed a practice nor a game but remained
a bench-warmer for all four years. His faithful
father was always in the stands, always with words
of encouragement for him.
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When the young man went to college, he decided
to try out for the football team as a "walk-on."
Everyone was sure he could never make the cut, but
he did. The coach admitted that he kept him on the
roster because he always puts his heart and soul
to every practice, and at the same time, provided
the other members with the spirit and hustle they
badly needed. The news that he had survived the
cut thrilled him so much that he rushed to the nearest
phone and called his father. His father shared his
excitement and was sent season tickets for all the
college games. This persistent young athlete never
missed practice during his four years at college,
but he never got to play in a game. It was the end
of his senior football season, and as he trotted
onto the practice field shortly before the big playoff
game, the coach met him with a telegram. The young
man read the telegram and he became deathly silent.
Swallowing hard, he mumbled to the coach, "My
father died this morning. Is it all right if I miss
The coach put his arm gently around his shoulder
and said, "Take the rest of the week off, son.
And don't even plan to come back to the game on
Saturday arrived, and the game was not going well.
In the third quarter, when the team was ten points
behind, a silent young man quietly slipped into
the empty locker room and put on his football gear.
As he ran onto the sidelines, the coach and his
players were astounded to see their faithful teammate
back so soon.
"Coach, please let me play. I've just got to
play today," said the young man. The coach
pretended not to hear him. There was no way he wanted
his worst player in this close playoff game. But
the young man persisted, and feeling sorry for the
kid, the coach finally gave in.
"All right," he said.
"You can go in." Before long, the coach,
the players and everyone in the stands could not
believe their eyes. This little unknown, who had
never played before was doing everything right.
The opposing team could not stop him. He ran, he
passed, blocked and tackled like a star. His team
began to triumph. The score was soon tied. In the
closing seconds of the game, this kid intercepted
a pass and ran all the way for the winning touchdown.
The fans broke loose. His teammates hoisted him
onto their shoulders. The kid was given the loudest
cheers you can ever hear.
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Finally, after the stands had emptied and the team
had showered and left the locker room, the coach
noticed that this young man was sitting quietly
in the corner all alone.
The coach came to him and said, "Kid, I can't
believe it. You were fantastic! Tell me what got
into you? How did you do it?"
He looked at the coach with tears in his eyes and
said, "Well, you knew my dad died, but did
you know that my dad was blind?"
The young man swallowed hard and forced a smile,
"Dad came to all my games, but today was the
first time he could see me play, and I wanted to
show him I could do it!"
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