• John Macon Gillespie

Column: Don't Waste Your Influence

Originally published in the 2016 SES Mississippi Season Review.

When I played football I did a lot of the same things while getting prepared for a game that players do today. I put the pads in my pants, made sure I had the right game socks and fished my belt through my pants with a coat hanger. I put my jersey on my shoulder pads before I put the pads on. This always created a nice little dance in the dark while trying to shimmy them on over my head. After all of the mandatory stuff was in place, then came out the roll of white tape. I didn’t tape my wrist or fingers or anything like that but I did put a few layers around each cleat. Not the entire shoe, just the middle part and just enough to cover the laces. My dad told me that it was called spatting. I didn’t care what it was called. I did it because that’s what Archie Manning did.

The influence that athletes have over youth is outright amazing. The professional level is a completely different beast. With the media exposure and them marketing everything they touch, it is tough to keep up with all of it. However, the influence on the game’s most basic level is perhaps the biggest and by far the most important.

If you caught a Clinton High School game this season there is no doubt that you saw little kids, elementary aged, running around the bleachers wearing a Cam Akers jersey. How cool is that! Cam has done nothing but played the game. He hasn’t signed any endorsement deals. He hasn’t gone on national television and declared his talents are superior. He has done nothing but played the game for his school and because of that, there are kids running around on the Clinton playground that want to be just like him.

Down on the coast, Myles Brennan re-wrote the record books. He played his game year in and year out while being fully committed to his St. Stanislaus Rock-a-Chaws. Down there you will find a playground filled with kids wanting to be a quarterback just like Myles. They want to break the records like he did.

It is a lot to put on a young man that is still in high school, but there is a great responsibility that comes with wearing those jerseys under the lights on Friday night. Whether they choose to accept it or not, someone is watching them. I don’t mean just watching them run plays and score touchdowns. I mean someone is watching them on the sidelines, on campus during the week, on Twitter and everywhere else they can.

I want to encourage all of the high school football players here to not waste their influence. It is a fleeting moment that what you do matters a great deal to those you may never realize. Be the kind of player and man that makes this great state even better. By doing that, it can create a chain reaction that will endure and produce for years to come.

I can’t wait to see the crop of players that grew up watching Cam Akers and Myles Brennan. They not only played the game great but they also have lived their high school lives setting a great example to all the little eyes that see.

**Follow Webb on Twitter @WebbLewisSES


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