When a Door Opens, Enter
By Jack Roberts
Last Friday, December 1st, “The” Booker T. Washington football team won a state championship in football for the first time in nearly seven years.
Generally, I watch football games eagerly from the student section cheering the team on only as a spectator. This year, I did not.
This is my story.
My junior year of high school was winding down and the thought dawned on me that I would only have one more year at Booker T. Washington High School. There had always been something I’d wanted to try and my senior year would be my last opportunity to take the chance and do it.
I wanted to kick for the football team.
Later that day, I found myself standing in front of a door I had never entered before. This particular door led to the football locker room.
I was scared. I was unsure. I felt alone. Most of me didn’t even want to take the chance of walking through, but I did. I looked around to see many faces I had never seen, and for the ones I did know, they were confused as to why a skinny, soccer player like myself was doing in a football locker room.
Previously, I had believed I was a somewhat athletic individual. I was horribly mistaken. It wasn’t that I’m not athletic, but that my new teammates had an abundance of athleticism that I had never seen.
It came time for me to get my pads and helmet, but I still had doubts on whether or not football was something I was 100 percent committed to. My coach walked me through the locker room up to the doorway to the equipment room. He entered and left me standing there with a crippling fear: Was I going to be able to do this?
The door was open. All I had to do enter.
I bolted out of the locker room, leaving behind with what I thought was my incredibly short football career. I could not do it. I was not good enough. There were far too many doubts. It wasn’t going to happen.
I went home with my head hung low and found my father who eagerly asked me how football was going. I updated him on my cowardice. He sat me down and we had a conversation. I figured he was going to tell me that doing football would be an incredible experience that I would remember for the rest of my life. As I expected, he did. I nodded off what he told me and talked to him about my fears, doubts, and gave him all the reasons why I shouldn’t play.
He stopped me and told me something incredible. He said that there will always be reasons as to why you should not do something. That nothing truly great can come if there is no risk involved.
“Don’t focus on what’s holding you back from doing it, focus on what you can accomplish if you decide to do it”.
Despite my fear. Despite my doubt. I took a risk.
I began to workout with the team on early summer mornings when there was just enough time to escape the scorching heat. Slowly but surely I realized that several of my fears were being eased. I felt that I had made some strides in meshing with the team.
Despite major progress, one major doubt I had was on whether or not I would be able to play.
I continued to work on all aspects of kicking not knowing whether or not I would secure any sort of starting spot. After summer practices had ended, it came time for the season opener against Edmond Santa Fe and I still had not secured a starting spot.
The game began with me on the sideline; however, after a couple mistakes on kickoffs made by our starting kicker, my teammates did something that I will never forget. They began to shout at our head coach saying “Coach, put Jack in!” My teammates believed in me. They had my back.
“Roberts, you’re in,” Coach Calip yelled. I think I almost crapped myself. I grabbed the tee, got a ball, and made my way onto the field.
I went out and did my job exactly as I was told. Later in the game, I got in again and did just the same. I had just played in a 6A high school football game.
After handling Edmond Santa Fe in a 35–21 Booker T. victory, my coach told me that I would be his “kickoff guy”. This was fantastic to hear, knowing that I would have a part in every game. A small part, but most definitely a part.
We did not look back after our first win. In fact we won eight of our nine next games putting us in the state playoffs. Tearing through the first round and the state semi-final game, Booker T. had earned a very deserving spot in the state championship game.
Before the game, I sat on the bench thinking of the journey I had been on the last sixteen weeks. About four months ago, I was scared. I was unsure. I felt alone.
On Friday, December 1st, I was starting in the state championship. I had no fear in my heart. There was no doubt in my mind. The feeling of being alone had long been replaced with brothers that will have my back for the rest of my life.
I am a Booker T. Hornet football player.
I have 58 brothers.
I am a state champion.
When a door opens, have the courage to enter. You’d be surprised what you may find.