I could dazzle you with stats, stories, and coaches' comments about how wonderful John is; they would all be true. I could list all of the various injuries that he sustained this year; thankfully none of them were serious.
Instead, I want to share with you something that was given to John by his offensive line coach after his freshman season. It was written twenty years ago by a coach in New Jersey. I may have shared this before, but it's beautiful and it's absolutely true, so I want to share it today. There is no tribute more fitting:
Some come from the game with no scars, no pain -
We emerge with bloodied hands, and bones so sore that it takes a few hours the next morning before we can walk upright.
Some come from the game with pants still shiny, shirt barely dirty -
We are only faintly recognizable, as the mud and grass of trench warfare takes all the newness and shine from our uniforms and souls.
Some come from the game with impressive stats of yards rushing and passing -
We measure our progress in shorts bursts that no paper will ever keep track of, that no record book will ever immortalize.
Some come from the game with parents loudly bragging and fans cheering as names come over the P.A. system -
We deal in a world of brutal anonymity, silent except for the grunts of collision and the quick praise of our coaches.
Some come from the game with egos blazing, claps on the back, the sounds of the crowd in their head -
We measure our worth by the holes we open for players with smaller numbers; their brief nod is our only applause.
Some come from the game as prima donnas, barely working in the off season, giving lip service to the idea of self improvement -
We spend our time in the weight room, iron plates and shiny steel our friend, our enemy, our taskmaster.
Some come from the game with thoughts of I did this, or I did that -
We recognize that the parts build the greater good, that teamwork is not an outmoded concept in today's world.
Some come from the game thinking of us as swamp things in uniform, they joke about our speed, our hands, our seeming lack of grace -
We take the brunt of the jokes, even laugh along, as we take the brunt of the physical force aimed that them.
In our little world we stand. Our boundaries are the sleds and chutes. Our teachers are men who dwell in the dual world of detail and violence, who teach by a voice that can either wake the dead or gently ease two hours of pain.
This is our world.
It starts with us.
We are the line.
Today, I proudly honor my son and his brothers in the trenches. They fight together; they bleed together.
I honor two coaches who have daily given of their time to turn this ragged band of brothers into a group of men, working as one.
Rest well and heal; you've earned it.