It was late Summer of '85. I was nine years old and just finished up my first season of little league. After the all star games were over I got bored rather quickly. So I decided I wanted to give football a try. After all, I played with my friends all the time and my Brother had spent the last year teaching me the techniques he learned during his first year of college. So after lunch one day I told my Mom, "I want to play football this Summer". She told me that she would find out when the registration was, and she would sign me up.
She came home a few weeks later and told me, "Registration is in two weeks for Pop Warner". "Cool", I said. I didn't really think much of it. After all, my Father was all for it. Granted, I was a little nervous because I never so much had even wore pads. But, I played with my friends all the time. And I practiced with my Brother (who I idolized) and his friends. So I figured no big deal. I remember going to the park district for registration. My Mom gave a person all my medical papers and her permission releases. After that one of the men asked me to step onto a scale, which I did. 124 Lbs. he said out loud. Awesome I thought. I remember hearing my Mom talking to some guy about my age. As it turns out, there were weight limits in Pop Warner. I distinctly remember Mom telling some dude that her "BABY" wasn't going to play football with a bunch of 12 and 13 year old kids. The same guy told my mom, "Let Jonathon come to the first practice and see how he does".
She obviously agreed, because three weeks later I was walking over to a shack on the the practice field at Trinity Christian College where I would be fitted for equipment. As I walked over to the practice field, I saw the other kids, and was not that impressed. I knew they were three and four years older than me, but they weren't that much bigger. we started by lining up in a formation for stretching and calisthenics. As we did this, two coaches walked up to everyone asking what position they would like to play. When they got to me, I told them Linebacker. I just loved the idea of hitting someone, with pads. They wrote on their chart and moved on to the next kid.
My first ever drill was the three on three. Two down lineman on both side of the ball. A running back and a line backer. I was the linebacker. The coach screamed Hut, Hut. the Lineman engaged. I remember the running back making the move to the right. I paralleled and buried my helmet right into his chest. I think I heard his breath expel from his body. My first hit in pads, and I was addicted. The force, the contact, and the end result was exhilarating. Practice went on for two hours. It included numerous drills with we always feeling like I did well. It seemed like hitting and heavy bodily contact almost came natural. I remember looking at the other kids after practice. They were carrying there shoulder pads with their jersey draped over it. They were carrying them by the facemask of their helmets which was inside the opening in their pads. As I went to imitate them, one of the coaches came over and said, "Just leave all your pads here Jonathon". I was confused, but I didn't ask any questions. When I got to the car where my Mom was standing I told her what happened.
"I'm sorry Honey, but you're not going to play football this year". "Why not?", I asked. "Honey, you're nine years old. Those kids are twelve and thirteen years old". "But I did good, didn't I" I asked. "Yes Honey, you did great. But I do not want you to get hurt". We got into the car and started driving home. My Mom asked me, "How about that martial arts stuff Honey?" "Sure" I replied in the most sarcastic nine year old voice you can imagine. We pull into a parking lot that says Muay Tai kick boxing. While we're walking in she looks down at me and says, "This is for the best Honey".
A bigger mistake could not have been made. Thanks Mom.