Archive for November, 2010

   There is very little in my thirteen-year Farmington Valley Youth Football career that I am more proud of than the founding of the Distant Replay Award. It began more as a tribute to the first recipient, Carl Morrissey, for setting the standard of how I believed players should carry themselves on and off the field.   
   Carl was a fierce competitor as well as a gentleman on the field. If you think that’s a bit of an oxymoron I’d beg to differ.  He never missed a game or a practice (and as the child of a board member his parents expected him to pitch in on Sundays before and after his game). He excelled in school and gave back to the community as a volunteer. He and another player set-up the league’s first website and Carl maintained it even while in college. While in high school he was in charge of the announcer’s booth on game days.
   The award quickly catapulted to a level that took me by surprise and now every year our little panel agonizes for days and days until we agree and come to a decision on who will be the recipient.    
   This was the 11th season that a “retiring” A-squad player was presented with the Distant Replay Award. The premise behind the award is to promote a sense of lineage within our young league.

     Distant Replay is a book that details the 25th Anniversary Reunion of the 1966-67 Green Bay Packers as recounted by Hall of Fame guard Jerry Kramer.
   Mr. Kramer’s underlying message is one of togetherness and the satisfaction of knowing that you can always return home. As stated on the inside flap of the book, “It is the love story of a bond among men that has endured for two decades.”
   Each year the MudHogs welcome the previous season’s recipient as a guest speaker to our annual banquet to share some of his experiences since leaving us. He also has the honor of passing along the copy of Distant Replay that he has had in his possession for the past year. There is space inside the book for each recipient to write a message for those that follow.  
   The award is presented to a MudHog that has excelled both on and off of the football field. He is a positive influence for his classmates as well as his teammates. He is not necessarily the most talented football player on his team. He is respected by his peers; unselfish, unassuming, and unspoiled. He leads by example.
   The award is not for winning  a contest in the purest sense of the phrase. There is no competition involved. It is simply a means of promoting a MudHogs family that extends beyond rosters, seasons, victories, or town borders. It is more like an invitation to all former MudHogs, regardless of hometown or future high school, to come back for a visit, throw the football around, and say hello to the family.
   This past Tuesday we held our annual baquet where we announced a new recipient for the award as well as welcomed back last season’s recipient.

   For those that are interested, I’ve supplied the details of all the nominees and the speech of our 2009 Distant Replay Award recipient below just as it was read to the 550 guests in attendance:


(ME) When I announce your names please come up to the stage and line up here…

The nominees…

 Harrison Gill, Scott Bernard, Gabe Folkwein, Cam Daley, & Dan Hardiman

5 nominees

5 distinct personalities

5 extraordinary stories

5 wonderful young men

 How do you choose one of these young men from this group?

A panel of seven parents had the difficult assignment of narrowing 5 down to one.

Let’s learn a little bit about each finalist…   

Cam Daley

 From Coach Kennedy:
     Cam was an outstanding football player for us this year and some may argue that this is why his teammates looked up to him.  I would argue that what he did on Sunday only supported who he was on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.   Cam is the consummate team player, who never challenged a coach or disrespected a teammate or an opponent.
     I once asked what Cam said in the huddle after a second long touchdown had been called back due to a penalty.  The answer was simple.  Cam got back to the huddle and said, “Let’s try to do it again.”
     In asking my sons what they liked best about Cam, the response was “quiet football“.   I never heard the phrase before but it was explained that it meant Cam led by his actions with very few words. 

From the mother of a teammate:
     I admit Jimmy Murphy dazzled me with his ferocious tackles in A-squad last year.  But I have never seen a player like Cam Daley in this organization.  I can honestly say I enjoyed watching him as much as my own boys.  I’m just so glad my son had the good fortune to have Cam on his team!  He has made my son a better player…

How Do You Choose?

Gabe Folkwein

From Coach Aldridge:    
     There hasn’t been a practice all season where this young man hasn’t smiled and caused others around him to laugh and smile along with him!  Whether it was the hot days of late August or the cool days of early October, you could count on Gabe to say something that would be uplifting to our team… “Hey, look at that rainbow!”  Or, “Check out that full moon!”
     His attitude is as great as his smile!  He is a team player and role model who would make any parent proud!  His sportsmanship is as unyielding as his positive attitude!
     Our team has had its share of challenges this season.  We are winless at 0-7 as I write this.  This would be enough to make most boys lose hope.  Not this MudHogger!  Even with the news that he had fractured his wrist, he still smiled and talked about healing in time for the All Star game!

From His Parents:   
     Gabe may not be the best player in A squad, and he might not be the one that leads his team, but he has a huge heart…and I think that is something that is special and that not every player that takes the field has.  Gabe was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was 7 years old.  Back in Virginia, at that time, he was in his second year of pee-wee football.  He got minimum plays, but he made an impression on his coaches.  They gave him a special award for having the biggest heart on the team.  Six years have passed since then, and I still think that he proves, from season to season, on and off the field, that he has a huge, caring heart.
     This year, he is a totally different kid.  He has a huge heart but his head has been in the game, and that has shown on the field. 
     Gabe works hard at school; harder than some others simply because his disability requires him to do so.  And even though his grades aren’t straight A’s by any means, he works hard and puts his all into every assignment that comes his way.  He loves to help kids at school so he belongs to a club called Peer Support.  He works with other kids that have disabilities such as Down’s syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. 
     More than anything, though, he cares about his teammates.  This year’s team has been plagued with injuries.  Gabe has consistently expressed concern about what has happened to his newly found friends.  He just wants everyone to have fun. And that’s really what the league is all about.

How Do You Choose?

Dan Hardiman

From his mother:
     Dan started playing tackle football with the MudHogs in second grade.  That same year, Dan started playing the cello.  He soon started with private lessons through the Hartt School and most Saturdays during the school year are spent playing with the highest level Suzuki orchestra at the Hartt School.  He taught himself to play the guitar and the drums and now wows fans at IAR with the band he formed with his friend Rob Lynch and occasional others.
     In addition to his interests in football and music, Dan is also a Boy Scout with Troop 68, with the rank of Star.  He has spent countless hours serving his community through various scout projects, does lots of hiking and camping, and has so far earned 19 merit badges.  His recent work on the Personal Fitness merit badge inspired him to begin a regular program of weight lifting and running.

 From Coach Dlugolecki:
     This was my second season coaching Dan.  Although he has been one of the larger players on the team, he is typically a quiet kid on the sidelines despite his size.  He was a top player drafted this season demonstrating that he has certainly matured as a football player.  More important, he is a well rounded individual that truly cares about people. 

How Do You Choose?

Scott Bernard

From his parents:
     During the past 5 years, Scott has remained serious about his school work, typically maintaining an “A” average in his classes.  He has become increasingly more active in leadership roles at his school serving repeatedly as student council representative and now an Executive Board member, as well as the Chairperson for the Student Council’s Service Committee leading new service outreach programs for the Avon community. Scott has sought opportunities for continuous personal improvement picking up guitar, winning awards and becoming published several times as a poet and artist, winning the travel league championship as a soccer goalie, and representing Connecticut and the rest of the Northeastern United States at the Jr. Olympics Championships in Nebraska as a finalist in javelin.  
     You can tell Scott it can’t be done, but he won’t listen… The MudHogs have taught him to believe the impossible is possible when you are standing across the line of scrimmage from a guy that’s twice your size. And it only takes one last-minute sprint across the goal line to believe that you can accomplish more with a team than alone… that’s what Scott’s all about – that’s what MudHogs football has helped him learn…

How Do You Choose?

Harrison Gill

From Coach McLaughlin:
     Harrison is the type of young man every coach dreams of having. If you ask him to do something, he does it without saying a word and he does it to the best of his ability.  He was defiantly one of the leaders on our line offensively and defensively. He is a very quite kid, and leads by example.
     He is one of the toughest players I have coached.  During our 1st playoff game this year he was hurt and lying on the field.  I ran out on the field with the EMT and we asked him were he was hurt.  Harrison said he was ok, the EMT asked, then why are you lying on the field.  He said he was ok and it didn’t hurt anymore.  He is so tough and didn’t want to come out of the game.  He came out unwillingly for a few plays and was right back at it giving 100% effort again.

From his parents:
     Academically, Harrison has excelled in the class room.  He currently has a 92.8 average in 6 core subjects.  In addition to his class room work, Harrison plays the saxophone for the 8th grade band.  
     There is never a time when Harrison has a bad thing to say to a teammate or coach.  He is always a good teammate and a good sport.  He will help a player up after a big hit, congratulate a player on a good play, or try to encourage a player when things don’t go their way.  He is the first one to console his brother Tucker after a tough loss or help his sister Macy practice her MudHog cheers.  He tries to help them both learn the lessons he has learned: patience; persistence; and passion.

How In The World Do You Choose?

Before announcing the recipient of this year’s DRA, I’d like to welcome back the 2009 Distant Replay Award Recipient:

Terrence Brophy


When I began thinking about this speech, and as I was reading the book, “Distant Replay”, everything came back to one point: I just love the MudHogs! When I was remembering what the past recipients of this award said in their speeches, they mentioned hard work, determination, and team work. All of which were true. However, I thought there was more to it than just that, more to it than just on-field success.
     There was a bond made between the players in the book I received that was full of love and reliability in their own personal life. This book got me to thinking of things as if I was writing my own “Distant Replay”.  Just recently, my high school freshman team played Avon. This rivalry has always been strong, and I found a couple of my past MudHog teammates on this team. When I was knocked down, I found just as many of my old MudHogs teammates from Avon helping me up, as I did my own Canton team. When I got injured going out for a pass, I heard multiple, “are you okay’s?”  from Avon.
     There’s a certain bond that you make in this sport that you can’t find in any other. Down in that mud pit at Farmington High School, you are fighting, breathing heavy, sweating, bruising and picking each other up every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
     After that Avon game, I didn’t greet some of my old teammates with just a good game, or a nice seeing you. I found Jake Ernst, and Sean Neagle, some of my closest MudHog teammates, at the fifty yard line and gave them a hug as if they were my brothers. I was also thinking of my former teammates from Burlington and Farmington, Trevor Watts and Drew Invergsten.
     Additionally, in the book, the players loved their coach, Vince Lombardi. I learned so much from my MudHogs coaches, Mr. Neagle, Mr. Earnst, Mr. Watts and Coach Rob, and took so much from them. They always stressed it wasn’t the size of the player that mattered. It was the size of the heart. This was important to me as I was an undersized player. Also, when I did got knocked down, they were never mad, they knew that if I got back up and chased after that play, I was just as successful as the person who knocked me down. A memory that really shocked me was that in my favorite season, my team went winless. I knew that I played as hard as I could and had fun and that’s all that mattered.
     In conclusion, this award I received brought back memories, and reminded me of how great this league is. I hope all of you listening to me right now appreciate your time in MudHogs, and with your teammates, as much as I had. Take something from this league, and from this speech.
     Best of luck to the next recipient of this award, it is a real honor. Thank you all for listening, and have a great rest of the evening.

As one parent wrote to me in an email several years ago:
     “Being nominated is the same as winning.   It may not seem that way to a 12 or 13-year old.  This is a great reflection on them, on the program, and on the way they are perceived by their coaches and parents.  This award is important for just that reason.  We need to recognize kids that are doing it right, setting an example and giving the young kids something to look up to.   We choose one winner because that’s what tradition tells us to do, but we must be sure to let these kids know that we are equally proud of all their accomplishments and proud that the choice was so difficult.” 

 The recipient of the 2010 Distant Replay Award is:

Cameron Daley

 From Cam’s Mother:
     Cameron is such a great role model and teammate.  He has never offered anything but positive words to teammates and opponents.  He celebrates his teammate’s victories while helping to encourage them to learn from their mistakes. 
     Cameron works hard in school.  He is an honor roll student and a member of the CMS Band.  He represents his school on 3 sports teams.  He was a past member of the Substance Free Students club.  He is a member of our church youth group in which they do outreach community service work. 
     Cameron displays the same values in all those activities as he does in football.  To Cameron, if asked what his favorite sport is, he will say Football.  This is his passion in life.  I am proud to be the mother of a boy who has learned one of the most valuable life lessons with an organization such as this.  I believe the MudHogs have helped define who he is on and off the field.
     MudHogs Football isn’t all about winning and losing football games. To me, a MUDHOG is being your best!!  He handled the disappointment (of losing the Championship Game) with such poise and style.  He was congratulating the other team members – former teammates and friends he has made along the way.  True sportsmanship – to the end!

Ladies and Gentlemen… one more time for Cameron Daley.


Grandpa Me: Scene One

Posted: November 9, 2010 in Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

   I’ve been a grandfather for about three weeks. I’m sure a lot of you out there are grandparents too. But I’m thinking that most of you are not.
   I don’t think I look much like a grandfather. The only gray hair I have is sprinkled in- ever so slightly with my facial hair. I still have all of my teeth. In fact I’m still waiting for my turn to get braces. I have a black football practice jersey that makes my upper body look rather muscular. My thighs still bulge slightly beneath my cycling shorts. I don’t see a grandpa in the mirror when I shave.
   I don’t physically feel like a grandfather. I’m pretty sure that if I really had to, I could get on my bike right now and pedal fifty miles without training for it. 
   I don’t listen to grandparent music. OK that’s not completly true. I actually enjoy Ella and Sinatra as much as Dave Matthews and U2. 
   I don’t say grandparent things. Well I will admit that sometimes when addressing one of my kids it may take three tries before matching the right kid with the correct name. But that’s only when I get excited or angry.
   My Nana would collect packets of jelly and sugar from restaurants and give them to us just in case we didn’t have any in the house. I have collections but they all consist of non-perishable items. She would also have a little container in her pocketbook and fill it at the breakfast buffet. I don’t even have a pocketbook and I’d never even think of putting a food item in my laptop case.
   Nana had an underwear pad. I have an iPad. My grandfather shot pool and bowled. I like pool tables but not for pool.  I once threw a perfect game in bowling. Don’t let anyone EVER tell you that Wii Bowling is not like the real thing.
   I’m a grandfather. I’m just not sure how to wear it yet.

(Coming in Scene Two: Looking into her eyes)