You were delivered to us on a beautiful June day, 22 years ago. When you left my body, I shivered and they piled on warm blankets. I laid there listening to the doctor and nurses guess your weight. 10lbs 12oz. I thought you looked like a baby sumo wrestler!
As a young boy in a large body, you were often thought to be older than you were. Many a time I had to remind myself! You were so affectionate; gentle and tender hearted. You would have been about 6 When the Principal of the little Christian school you went to in Yellowknife told us how much she loved your hugs…..and then asked us if we would ask you NOT to lift her off the floor!
You have always given the best hugs. It’s virtually impossible to ignore your size, but those you got to know you also knew that your stature was outmatched by the size of your heart, by your compassion and care of others. As you’ve grown, we’ve watched how you love people, without discrimination. You don’t see age, race, gender or disability and that is a rare and beautiful quality, my son. When company came, you greeted them at the door. If they had suitcases, you carried them to their room. I remember when poppa brought John down for a few days before he passed away. You’d never met the man, but you spent real time with him; you took a genuine interest in him and that’s not common in one as young as you were. I know he appreciated that.
That protective instinct we saw in you became a passion of yours that has been played out in the game you love. It is impossible to think of you and NOT think of football. You were 7 when dad first took you for tryouts where he was told you were….seriously? He’s too BIG for football??
“Bring him back next year” said the men in charge.
“Do you think he’s going to get smaller?? Look, I’ll pay the full fare; just let him practice with the kids. You don’t even have to give him a helmet….”
I think you and dad did the trek to the football sign ups 3 times; Tyke football was just not part of the plan. At 12 you told your dad you were going to lose the 40 lbs necessary to play football at the Pee Wee level. That’s a lotta’ weight for one so young, but you did it.
It was brutal.
And it didn’t get any easier the following year after growing several inches, but you were determined to play your last year with your team at the Pee Wee level. You had the support and encouragement of your family and coaches….well, most of your coaches. There was Hobbs.
His name became akin to a four letter word in our house. Men like Hobbs ought not to be coaching children; they should be drill sergeants or….border guards. Rather than encourage you, the man-with-a- Napoleonic-complex-if-ever-there-was-one told you to quit, more than once. You had to learn to drown out the negative noise that fell from that man’s mouth.
It was brutal. Despite the difficulties, challenges and setbacks you encountered, sometimes at your own hand, you pulled it out and lost the weight. Don’t think it could have been any closer; wish I had a picture of you with that shirt made of netting that you and your dad bought prior to weigh in! I don’t expect you’ll ever forget the cheer that arose from your mates, their parents and the other coaches.
Your dream became to play in the NFL. There’s no easy path to getting there; no guarantees or golden tickets. When we moved you to Ogdensburg so you could play American high school football, 5 minutes from a border you couldn`t cross for 10 months, you were 1 of about 1,000,000 athletes to play high school football in the US. To get to Division 1 football from there, you had to overcome odds of about 1 in 1,000. AND YET you are currently 1 of about 12,000 athletes who play Division 1 College football.
Your position as an Offensive Lineman is reserved for the biggest players. Thanks to stats your dad has kept, WE KNOW that you are 1 of roughly 2,400 Offensive Line athletes currently on the rosters at 128 Division 1 teams across the U.S. When considering both size AND weight, in comparison to the other 2,400 OL athletes in Division 1 football, you rank in the top 27 guys returning this fall.
Or roughly 1%.
Going to games and watching you pace the sidelines last year; that was tough and at the end of a long and difficult season, you considered leaving Eastern. You didn’t WANT to, but you found yourself in a place where you were forced to consider your options.
One was to allow your name to stand in the CFL draft held this spring. Had you done so, you would NOT have returned to EMU for your senior year. However, any thoughts about leaving Eastern for the CFL were shut down last fall when the CFL amended a long-standing draft rule to eliminate as draft prospects all Canadian-born athletes playing Division 1 football in the U.S. and currently in their Junior year.
That one rule change affected only 5 athletes on the face of the planet; you were one of them.
That rule change eliminated your chance to leave Eastern before your senior year, and without that change you very likely would have never played for the new coaching staff at Eastern. Now you are being guided and assisted by a completely new staff of coaches at Eastern, many of whom are Christians.
You’ve lived away from your family since you were 15. You’ve battled with negativity; that of others as well as your own. You’ve enjoyed great relationships with coaches and have learned how to be a team player. You’ve known winning, and you’ve also known loss: games, seasons, Coaches and, most tragically, a team mate.
Every step gets you closer.
Every lesson makes you wiser.
Every battle makes you stronger.
Today you’re 22, and though we aren’t able to gather around a table and eat cake, we will be thinking of you and celebrating the young man that you are. I’m thankful, Cam, to have been able to walk through this life with you; thankful to be your mom. I’m thankful to have witnessed the disappointments and celebrated the accomplishments; you have challenged me. Whatever lay ahead, I am so very proud of you; the compassionate, encouraging, loving man that you are.
Don’t ever stop.
Don’t ever stop believing in yourself.
Don’t ever stop working hard and doing your very best. (Col 3:23)