Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

September 8, 2002


Retirement living is rather demanding during the football season


            A friend asked me if I had become bored with retirement.

            “Boredom is not an option for a man with 12 grandchildren,” I told him, “especially if nine of those grandchildren are boys.”

            More especially is that true in the fall, when real men, and boys, enjoy football.

            This fall I miss greatly being on the sidelines with my Opelika Bulldogs. I enjoyed seven wonderful years serving as chaplain for the Dawgs. And I still believe this could be the year for my Dawgs to go to Birmingham in November and win the state championship game.

            So what is life for this retired geezer like this September now that football season has begun? Let me tell you about it.

            Monday nights Joseph, who is 14, plays fullback for Evangel Temple, a private school in Montgomery. More than once Joseph’s dad has called on me to pick Joseph up after practice.

            Last Tuesday night we drove up to Harpersville, north of Sylacauga, to watch Joseph’s Junior Varsity team play Coosa Valley Academy. To our great surprise Joseph scored the first two touchdowns for his team, which went on to win 30-6.

            Joseph played middle linebacker on defense and made several key tackles to the delight of his parents who sat beside me cheering for their boy. I remembered cheering for Joseph’s dad, Tim, some 25 years ago.

            Was I proud? You bet I was. Joseph, who is quick and tough, played extremely well for a ninth grader. He will get better and hopefully I will see him play many more games.

            Josh is seven. He plays quarterback for a Wetumpka team, public school. His dad, Steve, our youngest son, is Josh’s coach.

            Josh is quick also, but small. He plays for the first time this Saturday in a three-team scramble. His games will be played on Saturdays so I may have to miss some of the college games to see Josh play.

            Will I be proud of Josh? You bet I will. I am certain he will be the greatest seven-year-old quarterback in America this fall.

            Mark and Sherri have three boys. John, a senior, is the oldest. Anthony is in the 11th grade, and Robert is a 10th grader.

            Imagine my surprise last Friday night to see all three of these grandsons playing first team for the Jemison Panthers! We drove up to Clanton and watched the Panthers beat the Tigers 30-14.

            I could hardly believe my eyes when Robert lined up at right tackle beside his older brother John. Their dad Mark explained that the first-string tackle was injured, giving Robert the chance to start.

            Anthony is a wide receiver and defensive end. He and another boy alternated running in the offensive plays called by their coach.

            We are especially excited about seeing John play in his senior year. He is a strong and talented offensive guard who is called upon to play defense also. John is a good student, weighs 260, and has surprising quickness for his size.

            John has a lot of potential, so much that he has received letters of inquiry from more than a half dozen colleges. Several schools, like Alabama and Georgia Tech, have invited him to be their guest for some of their home games this fall.

            My friend Thomas Samford would be interested to know that John has received letters from Princeton University inviting him to consider playing football there.

            His parents and family members are drawing straws for the privilege of going with John to some of these games. Several of us have volunteered to go with John to see Georgia Tech play Florida State.

            John tells me he hopes he can play for Auburn. I hope he can too. And I hope Auburn will take a good look at him whenever the NCAA rules permit contact with high school seniors.

            Last Friday night John looked sharp. He missed few assignments. He made several tackles, and his brothers Robert and Anthony were in on some bone-jarring tackles themselves.

            Was I proud? You bet I was. And I expect to be proud again and again this autumn, whether the leaves turn pretty or not.

            Will I be bored this fall? Not hardly. Not as long as I can find my way to the stadiums in a dozen Alabama towns to see my grandsons playing football on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

            I must admit that I am mighty thankful that Clair, Hannah, and Sarah have not gone out for football, yet. They don’t even play soccer. Thank goodness.

            So, if you are bored, come see me, and I will take you to see some exciting football games. Then, if we have time, we might even watch Auburn and Alabama play.

            Yes, friends, I love football. Bring it on!