Heart, Sweat and Sweet Potatoes

The basics of football are quite simple, put your hand in the dirt, focus on your task, fire off the ball and never stop moving your feet.  So how do you go from a good football team to great?  Writer William Arthur Ward once wrote “Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.”  The 2017 South Granville Vikings Football team may want to consider having this quote inscribed on the walls of their locker room.  You might not notice it by looking at their record, or checking the weekly scores, but if you take a closer look on the back of their helmets you can see the reminder of days that didn’t go as planned.  October of 2017 was filled with those days, and will likely go down as one of the most memorable months in the lives of this year’s players and coaches. From football fields to farm fields and heart attacks to heartbroken, this group of young men took the opportunity to turn tragedy into something positive.

The Tar-Heel Foot logo, added to the Vikings helmets on October 13, was in Honor of Head Coach Mike Hobgood who suffered a massive heart attack during practice earlier that week. His inspiring return just a few weeks later was an amazing example of  faith and appreciation.

The Purple Ribbon, added just one week later, was in memory of fellow classmate Brooklyn Boone, who passed away on October 18. Two years earlier, Brooklyn had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Her journey, “Brooklyn’s Miracle”, was a testament of courage, grace and unwavering faith. While cancer may have invaded her body, it did not conquer her spirit. 

  It’s seasons like this that remind us of the important role that high school athletics plays in the lives of student athletes, how it provides them a place to face adversity, the opportunity to feel defeat, and the tools to develop the character to overcome both.  If you’re a fan of sports or you participate in a fantasy sports league, you’ve likely heard the phrase “Off Field Issues”.  It’s the phrase that sports reporters often use when talking about the problems or distractions that athletes face when they’re not at practice or a game.  It’s the phrase that sports reporters use to tell you that “he’s a great athlete, if only he could get it together off the field”, you know, that place where life happens.  Understanding that only a select few young men will continue to play football after high school, South Granville’s football staff decided to help tackle some of those “Off Field Issues”.  Starting in the 2016 season, Head Football Coach Mike Hobgood committed one hour of practice each week to addressing issues away from the field, life after football.  For the first hour of practice each Wednesday the football players gather in the school’s media center to hear guest speakers talk about life’s issues, life’s successes and how to prepare for both.  From preacher to mayor and financial planner to CEO, the titles of the guest speakers over the past two years has been quite diverse, and then there was the day that Henderson, NC native and former St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Jason Brown came to speak.  Jason still does his best work on a field, except now instead of goal posts and yard lines it’s a field full of sweet potatoes at his First Fruits Farm in Louisburg.  The concept at First Fruits Farm is very simple, grow a lot of food, harvest it, then give it away. In 2017, his fifth year on the farm, Jason hoped to harvest over 300,000 pounds of sweet potatoes for food pantries.  On October 7, the South Granville Vikings Football team and family, along with hundreds of other volunteers, visited First Fruits Farm to participate in Yam Jam 2017.  I guess the name makes if sound a little more exciting, but harvesting sweet potatoes is actually quite simple, you bend down, put your hand in the dirt, focus on your task, grab the potatoes and never stop moving your feet.  Harvesting sweet potatoes is a lot like the game of football, start with a great plan, make sure everyone knows their job and work together as a team. Those who participated in this event learned a lot about farming, food and hopefully themselves. 

Through the use of the “Off Field Issues” program, the Vikings football staff hopes to create an environment where community service becomes a habit.  The Vikings football team will continue to be active throughout the off season, and players are always encouraged to volunteer their time at charities and organizations that have special meaning to them.  If you happen to see one of these young men out and about volunteering in our community, take a moment to congratulate them on a great season, and don’t forget to thank them for their community service.

To learn more about Jason Brown and what drives his passion, I recommend that you view his Keynote Address from the 2016 FFA National Convention on YouTube, and to learn more about his First Fruits Farm and how you can play a part, visit his website at wisdomforlife.org/firstfruitsfarm


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