For those of you uninitiated, my football journey began in the summer of 1993 in the western suburbs of Chicago playing 6th-grade football as a 3rd grader.
Dear reader, this writer spent most of his youth as the biggest kid in the class, so much so that the first year he played football, it was against kids 3-4 years older because of his size.
I don’t remember much except that our starting quarterback’s name was Shiloh and if I remember correctly, he played at Northern Illinois (he could’ve just attended, and also, we could’ve just gone to a game as a team. I’m THAT old now.)
I was a Tri-City Charger.
I was fortunate enough to be the child of a multisport athlete (my dad ran track and cross country in addition to wrestling and playing basketball at Austin High School in Austin, Indiana where he met my mom.) When we moved and my mother didn’t feel comfortable with me playing little league football in our new town, Mooresville, Indiana (which is an important story note), apparently it wasn’t the end of the world. Instead, I played basketball and baseball as a freshman and wrestled in addition to playing football in high school at the varsity level.
I was a Mooresville Pioneer.
I graduated from Mooresville High School in the summer of 2002 (20 years ago a week from today, roughly) and attended Purdue University. I wasn’t recruited to play sports but literally got an opportunity to walk on because of a high school teammate of mine and a coach at another school. When I got to Purdue’s campus (having always wanted to play quarterback), it was early June and the only place you could catch me outside of the classroom, library, or lecture hall was the co-rec, or the campus gym. One day, I saw a sign that directed me to another building where, if I showed up to a percentage of open workouts, I would be asked to walk on to the Purdue football team. I was asked to come back a second year to play fullback and was basically a clipboard holder the first season and scout quarterback.
The economy crashed, the FAA went on a hiring freeze (eliminating the job I was going to school to do) and my parents had gotten a divorce the summer after my freshman year of college, so I panicked and dropped out before finishing my degree. I moved back to Indianapolis. I worked two jobs, lived in a shitty apartment (got my car broken into), ultimately wound up losing 100 pounds in less than 90 days, and enlisted in the Marine Corps infantry.
I was a Purdue Boilermaker.
A lot of veterans I know have a much different story of their time in service, but during my time in the Marine Corps, I was fortunate in that the unit I originally had orders to was on the tail end of their 5th straight deployment to Iraq (2nd Battalion 2nd Marines) and when they came back, we were sent on the 26th MEU (I was aboard the USS Bataan for 9 days!), and my battle buddy RJ Rady and I were sent back to get surgery as part of 8th Marine Regiment. I had shoulder surgery and RJ had knee surgery.
In April 2007, RJ died of a prescription drug overdose, they found cocaine in his system so posthumously, they gave him an Other than Honorable discharge, buried him in a pine box, and refused me leave to bury my best friend.
I am a United States Marine Corps Veteran.
For the better part of 15 years now, I have been in anguish thinking that I let my battle buddy and the Marine Corps down. I have lived with PTSD, depression, and anxiety, have been called bipolar by my friends and family, shown both manic and depressive behaviors I did not show prior to my time in the Marine Corps. I have tinnitus, my shoulder constantly hurts and again, for the better part of 15 years have not been able to fully feel the fingers in my right hand.
About four years ago now, RJ’s wife Paola reached out to me with a revelation. RJ didn’t kill himself. He passed out drunk at a house party and the host struggled to wake him up, so the party host put cocaine in his gums and it made his heart explode. The host had admitted it and even disclosed to Paola that RJ wasn’t the only Veteran she’d killed this way. To my knowledge, the person that murdered my best friend still walks free.
I am a disabled Veteran.
I called the Onslow County Police immediately. I called the Jacksonville Police that same day. I have friends that are police here in Indiana that know my story. I have told the doctors at the VA. I have spoken publicly about this prior on social media. Four years and I don’t know the name of the person that killed my battle buddy and am searching for justice for my best friend.
Of course, I’d love closure. There’s nothing else for me. In fact, I know a bunch of service members that are owed awards for injuries sustained in combat among other benefits, and would gladly spend my life helping other Veterans get closure.
I figure since going through normal channels doesn’t do anything I would need a job that comes with a public profile. I have spent the majority of my life either playing, coaching, journaling, or even scouting football. I hit my breaking point after the Colts lost that Playoff game against the Bills a couple of years ago. I feel like coaching cost them that game and posted on social media that I wanted to get into coaching shortly after.
I got invited to coach quarterbacks with a local semipro football team called the Indiana Cutters. They’d gone 3-5 the year prior. With a first-year lefthanded quarterback, the Cutters went 5-4 and were undefeated at home. I coached that first-year left-handed quarterback, who only got sacked twice all season, and got an opportunity to play arena football for the Seattle Rush afterward.
I realized after the season that the Cutters had no depth at quarterback. I wound up getting COVID-19 the week of the playoffs last year and decided after getting a clean bill of health in December 2021, that I would lose weight to become the backup quarterback. I have lost 75lbs in the last six months or so and have managed to stay healthy into the regular season.
I am an Indiana Cutter.
I decided after my wife spent $1,500 to buy me a Microsoft Surface and after I built, installed, and play-called my way to a 5-1 record (4-1 in actual games plus our last regular-season opponent forfeited making me technically 5-1 as an offensive coordinator and primary play-caller), that I would get my 2022 Soldiers to Sidelines Football Coaching certificate. Tonight is the third session and the second coaching session.
I’m (almost a certified) football coach.
Additionally, my wife and I have decided that if I can find a head coaching position, we can sell our house and move out of state if necessary. I feel like I’ve sat and watched bad decision-makers run billion-dollar organizations my entire life. I figure I can use the platform that comes with a head coaching position to motivate multiple communities into action whether its young athletes with a former Division 1 walk-on and multisport athlete as head football coach (and currently still playing football at 38 years old) or if the veteran community will allow someone that isn’t a combat veteran to start the conversation for his brothers and sisters that are owed.
I am willing to risk it all to make a difference.