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As my football career ends, my purpose and passion still remains.
By Godfrey Mpetey
I stood on the sidelines with my cleats cemented to the muddy grass. Gazing out at the Royals defense as we played Augsburg University on Nov. 4, I echoed play calls, critiqued players and cheered. Thirty minutes felt like an eternity. The first half whizzed by, and I stripped the navy jacket from my torso. My blood boiled as I entered the game after serving my first half suspension.
An Oct. 28 game against the University of St. Thomas presented another test in my football career. We traveled across I-94 to face our violet enemy who were ranked number four in the nation for Division III football. Two weeks removed from a dominating win over Gustavus Adolphus College, my confidence burst through the roof. Despite our 2-4 record, I believed our team had the ability to win this game, often coined as the battle of David and Goliath.
The score quickly became lopsided, as the score was 13-41 by halftime. Things turned sour with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. I sprinted toward the opposing sideline to defend their patented stretch play. Multiple offensive linemen held onto me as I fell to the turf. The initial blow began when their offensive guard smashed my helmet, slamming my head to the ground. In retaliation, I sent a swift jab to his facemask as the referee blew his whistle and floated his yellow flag in the air.
The right hand jab resulted in an ejection, missing the remaining of the St. Thomas game and the first half of the following week’s game. After speaking to the coaches, they told me to use this as a learning experience. The following week featured me taking second team reps during practice. This would be the first time in several years that I wasn’t the premier player. This would be the first time the coaches hadn’t created a package around me. This would be the first time in several years where I doubted my purpose of playing football.
From the age of 6, Sundays were meant for awing at Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper tearing the down the Hubert H. Humphrey Dome in Minneapolis. In my Farmington basement, I acted like wide receiver Randy Moss as he trotted into the end zone. My winter gloves replaced the pigskin ball as I folded them together and tossed them over my head. As I caught the gloves in dramatic fashion, I envisioned tens of thousands of fans cheering as I broke the pylon for six.
Constant battles against my older brother in Madden created my competitive edge. The continual losses sent me into a rampage, mostly resulting in slamming my Playstation 2 controller and leaving the room in tears. In need of a way to release my energy, my friends at school told me about football signups.
“This would be the first time in several years where I doubted my purpose of playing football.”
My first year of football was in third grade. My team was the Philadelphia Eagles. Though the memories of my first year of football are fuzzy, I remember scoring my first (and unfortunately last) touchdown. My coach put me in as a tailback. I positioned myself behind the quarterback as my hands trembled and mouth felt as if I attempted to swallow a stack of saltines. The ball was hiked while I instantly had tunnel vision toward the end zone. I caressed the ball as if it were the folded gloves. As I crossed the plain for a touchdown, I spread my arms as far of the wingspan of an eagle.
Several years later, I decked myself in orange and black each Friday night, apart of the Farmington High School Tigers. My biggest goal in high school was to fill each inch of fabric on a varsity letter jacket with numerous awards and achievements. By my senior year, I earned an All-Conference award and received attention from universities around the area to play collegiate football. While I reaped the benefits from individual success, I sought to take my talents to the next level with a successful team.
After much consideration and hesitation, I enrolled at Bethel University. To me, Bethel Football was the MIAC team who feature huge white guys with long hair. I unofficially declared my major in football, spending most of my week watching game film rather than studying for my Christian Theology test. I held myself to the standards of players prior to my arrival like linebacker Seth Mathis, quarterback Erik Peterson and offensive tackle Bubba Friedlund.
On the field, I felt closer to God than any church service, chapel or Vespers could give me.
My aspirations for our team was to stand atop of the MIAC. I dreamt about defeating St. John’s at Collegeville, visualizing picking up a fumbled ball and trotting through the end zone as their fans jeered and screamed absurdities. I wished to stand bruised and battered as my Nike football gloves grasped a plaque recognizing our MIAC Championship. I hoped to play in frigid weather during playoffs and travel to Salem, Virginia for the Division III national championship game.
Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. For the last three seasons, our team went 5-5 and placed fourth in the MIAC. We didn’t travel to Salem for the national championship game. I didn’t grasp a MIAC Championship plaque. But the question remains: what was my purpose?
From an early age, I was blessed with the ability to play football. Football gave me the ability to let my light shine. God kept me healthy, courageous and passionate for this game. Saturday afternoons at Royal Stadium was my sanctuary. On the field, I felt closer to God than any church service, chapel or Vespers could give me.
This game gave me the greatest memories and best of friends. It also presented me with the highest platform to display my passion, leadership and talent. It taught me in whatever you do, let your light shine.
In football, there is no time for timid souls. Even though I failed to attain the success I had hoped for, I succeeded in knowing I took what God blessed me with and ran with it. I am filled with gratefulness of the opportunity to play this game. As I close the chapter on a vital part of my life, I seek to replicate my passion of football towards all I do.