It was a cold Friday night in November and none of us wanted to be there.

We missed the playoffs by one game and even though we had no hopes to move past the first round, the simple chance to compete at the next level would’ve tickled us silly but there we were on that cold and rainy day playing Watching Hills. They too missed the playoffs and found themselves facing us sorry bunch.

We were both losers playing a consolation game to tide over our schedule until we had our final rivalry game against Edison High on Thanksgiving Thursday.

2004

It was third quarter and the light rain suddenly turned white and fluffy as it took everyone at the game a minute to recognize that it had actually started to snow.

It was forking on.

Playing football in the snow is every idiot’s “shoulder pad” dream.

The game was grueling but we needed a good stop. Our punter pinned Watching Hills back towards their own endzone and so we were ready to go. This team likes to pull their guards on a run-pass option to read the weak side defensive lineman to see if they would crash or float. Unfortunately for me, that dummy target would be me the whole game.

But at that point in the game, I was done being made to look like a fool.

Story time.

If it even looks like the running back has the ball, the down defensive lineman (me) has to tackle the running back to cover our bases.

but I saw the fake. I saw the QB take the ball back out.

No one was going to fool Jongdae on this play.

I made the beeline straight toward the qb and knocked the shirt out of him.

I still remember that hit too. I got into my form, cocked by hands and arms back, lowered by shoulders and ran through that forker like he talked shirt about my mom.

I broke his ribs clean through and he was left in a puddle on that field crying like the baby I knew he was. That’s right punk. Stay down

Then the ref came screaming with his whistle with his hands put together like the prayer emoji above his head. I thought I committed a foul and walked off the field cursing up a storm only to find out the signal that the ref gave me was that I had scored a safety by tackling the QB in the end zone. I scored two points and we got the ball punted back to us.

Wow. The glory you feel when you make a highlight play. It’s pretty indescribable.

And this is when I knew..

football is awesome.

Seven months earlier, I was sitting in homeroom doing my usual.

sleeping

I was up all night playing Starcraft and neglecting my school work when my alarm rang and I was in starting to fall asleep during the shower.

My homeroom teacher (forgot his name) tried to get me to wrestle for my school but I quickly and firmly declined. Have you ever seen those tights? No thank you.

Then he said I should try football.

Met the coach, tried it out. Seven months later, I felt like I was on top of the world after making a highlight play that sealed the game shut. I was that BA. The asian kid that made the last play to win the game.

But greatest takeaway from my first season playing football brought something out of me that I didn’t have. Maybe it was always there but I knew that I never accessed it.

passion

Up until I was in the middle of my sophomore year at JP Stevens (my high school alma mater), I didn’t get the point of my life. It was school, food, studying and church. I didn’t have a lot of friends, I wasn’t social, and I knew that these relationships would be temporary so I didn’t feel the need to interact.

I wasn’t well-versed in how this worked. No one ever taught me how to be sociable. My MO has consistently been: take care of business and go about your day.

I never got passionate about anything. Everything just was.

But to be fully locked into what I cared about to give it my all. I never experienced that … until football.

It wasn’t just one thing, but a lot of moments were building up to that Friday night at Watching Hills, snow and everything.

I never felt physical exertion like I did playing football. Two-a-days, conditioning, working out, hitting, concussions, all the physical work that I put into this sport. But playing on a team, having teammates, sharing a common goal and learning to knock people the fork out. Rallying before games, chants and code-words.

Just imagine (LOL), eleven teenagers being in sync over a play that works out perfectly and we accomplish what we wanted to do.

passion is NOT what we preach.

passion is what we love to do despite the circumstances.

The end of that game is when I learned for the first time:

true glory is when passion is communicated into action and thus goals are met..

football saved my life.

if it weren’t for football I never would’ve went to college.

if it weren’t for football I would never be asked to coach flag football for a college ministry

if it weren’t for football I would never be a part of a ministry that put me on four consecutive missions projects for four years

if it weren’t for football I would never consider seminary because of my time in missions

if it weren’t for football I would never have started working at this church

I never had the assurances of a physical sign or manifestation of God’s confirmation. But it had to be Him.

To put 16 year old jongdae in that homeroom was no accident, shoulder pads and all.

Football holds a special place in my life because without it, I would’ve wasted my life.

Also tackling people is really fun.

senior night ’05

cheers

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