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The football column

September 21, 2011|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com
(Tammy Abbott )

"Football is like life — it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority."

Vince Lombardi

Upon these fields of grass and turf and endless possibilities, thousands upon thousands of young men sacrifice their bodies, their minds and their time to play football.

For most — whether they be students, administrators, teachers, parents, fans or even players — a high school football game is simply an event they are drawn to, though they're not completely sure why.

Perhaps it's something only football players get — real football players, anyway.

Some will simply scoff and color players as jocks or meatheads, the Al Bundys of the world. They just don't get it, though.

There is an "it" factor to football unlike any other athletic endeavor. It is summoned by the violence of it all, the camaraderie, the magnitude of every game and the simple fact that it is irreplaceable once it is gone. There is no band, no cheerleaders, no helmet and no shoulder pads when you're playing catch in the backyard. You can't go to any playground and strike up a pick-up game.

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There is an aura that surrounds the game and those who take part in it, it is the sport that most often sets the tone and the identity for a high school.

But you have to do more than put on a jersey and strap up a helmet to really get it. You have to do more than set foot on the field and take a snap to really understand what it means to be a real football player.

It is an aspect often lost these days. It's lost in newspaper stories and message boards and box scores and all the pomp and circumstance that adds to the grandeur and greatness of the game, but also confuses just what it's all truly about.

High school football at its purest is about winning alongside your teammates, playing for your school, yourself, those in your stands and the coaches working hours on end to make you the player you can become.

Some who play this game get this, some will get it later and some will never know.

There is a difference between being a real football player and somebody who simply played the game. It has nothing to do with whether or not you sat on the bench or got your name in a headline, it matters not if you went on to play at the next level or simply did your best to help your squad by giving your all on the scout team.

A real football player treats the sport of football as it should be treated, right along with everything that surrounds it.

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