If you are a high school senior, playing your last football game this Friday, please do this one thing.  I'll get back to what that is in just a few, but first, let's flash back 40 years.

It was early November 1981, I was a senior playing my last football game of the year for the Lockhart Lions.  I knew this would be the last football game I would play in my life.  I knew it...but it didn't register to me what that truly meant...until a few seconds after the game was over.

Lockhart had never been known as a football powerhouse, and we certainly weren't that year.  We had only won a single game going into that 10th and final football game of the season and I was ready for the season to be over.  I loved playing football, but I was tired of looking up to the scoreboard and seeing the other team outscoring us...by a lot.

Danny Merrell
Danny Merrell

Let me clarify something here, I was ready for the season to be over, but I still played with a lot of effort, I wasn't just going through the motions. I had heard all the cliches, 'Play your best', 'Give it 100%'.  I thought I had been doing all that, until the clock for the last game hit all zeros.

The game, the season, and my football career were over.  Now, it finally registered what that meant.  The finality of the situation was now crystal clear. With that, came the realization that I could have given more effort, I just didn't know it until it was too late. Every once in a while, still some 40 years later, I'll find myself wishing I had given more effort in that final game, even for just one play. I compiled a lot of memories playing football, but the ones that stick most in my mind are of the mediocrity of that last game.

So, back to my first sentence.  Seniors playing your final football game, please do this:

For one play, get out of your comfort zone and take your effort to a level that you've never been to before.  If you're a running back, tell yourself that on this play it's going to take 3-4 guys to bring you down.  If you're a lineman like me, tell yourself that you are going to explode off that line and bury your head into the chest of the opposing player and you're not going to stop driving your legs until you hear the whistle.  Give so much effort in this 5-second span, that you have a hard time catching your breath afterwards.

Even if you feel like you've been giving 100% effort throughout the season, believe me, you have more in the tank.  Jump off that cliff and for five seconds pretend that your life depends on you making the best play of your life. Get wild, go crazy...I think you'll surprise yourself with the results.  Then, try it a second time, and a third, and so on.

When the clock goes to all zeros, the finality of playing football no more will definitely register, but, when you look back to your football career, now and for years down the road, one of the first things to pop in your mind will be how you did something really special before hanging up the pads for the last time.  Don't let this last game pass by without doing something really special on the football field, if only for one play.

You won't truly understand why until it's too late. Just trust me on this one.


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