Yesterday I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Coach Jack Mead. He helped teach me and many of my friends to be great players and more importantly great men in high school. His actions always spoke louder than his words for me, and I just wanted to share a story as a small tribute for him.
College football as a freshman for many is not glamorous with long days and for me it was a long season. In my first year I didn't play a single play at Frostburg State University or make the varsity travel team once throughout the entire season. With the exception of my family especially my dad I didn't feel very important or good about myself as a player. Our last game of the season as a tradition is called the Regents cup against Salisbury University, and I found myself for the first time traveling to Towson University to play against our rival. It was an important game for both teams as the winner would be the champions of the conference. During the final night with the seniors I listened to them talk about how important this game was, and how hostile the environment was going to be. This is Division III football so there is not much separation from the opposing teams fans. I remember pulling up to the stadium in our bus and just watched and listened to the fans booing us and throwing garbage at our bus. We were in enemy territory without a friendly face which seemed like miles.
After making it into the locker rooms we got ready and prepared ourselves for the game. The next moments are blurry for me now, but we lined up as team and prepared to leave the locker room to take the field. Seniors lead the front, followed by starters, juniors, sophomores, and then freshman in the back. I lined up near the very end of the line, and held my breath as we walked our way from the cover of the locker room into a lions den. We marched past groups of opposing fans and I listened to one of the worst verbal assaults I have ever heard a group of men endur. In front of me police officers had cleared the groups back as we made our way towards the steps that lead down to the field. To my right against the wall high above the assault continued from the fans looking down on us. As a football player it was one of the lowest moments for me. I tried my best to look straight ahead but I couldn't help glance up as we marched closer to the field. The lower we descended the closer to the fans were getting until we were at a point they could physically reach out and touch us. The next few moments for me I will never forget.
I looked across the football field towards the Frostburg sideline where our fans were, and I couldn't wait to get across to be over there. In the wild mess of screaming fans and hostility, to my right I saw one man standing alone clapping for our team in enemy territory highfiving us as we passed by. I could see that he had on a Salisbury jacket, but he was the only person who didn't give a damn and stood away from the rest. I stepped down from the last step jogging towards him. I recognized the voice first and then I realized the man standing alone supporting us was Coach Mead. "There you are Robby I was looking for you. Go get em!" Those were the words coach said to me as he reached out to grab my hand. He had read my name in the game day magazine, and made a point to find me as I came out onto the field. It was exactly what I needed, and I will never forget seeing Coach Mead's smiling face in a sea of angry ones.
Most of the actual game is a blur now with the exception of a few plays. We ended up winning the championship, but that moment is now second for me. Coach Mead standing there for us is one of my fondest ones as a college football player. Though it wasn't easy for me coach helped spark the external inspiration I needed to continue playing. My flame was dieing out and he reignited it for me that day.
Thanks Coach for all the memories and lessons you taught us.
- Robby Silk