From the basement: Farewell to football

Justin Walton, Contributing Writer

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Elana Bush | Photo Editor
Sophomore Justin Walton cherishes his time on the Tulane football team

At 5:30 a.m., before the sun has even broken across the horizon, there is almost nothing I would rather do than remain tucked under the security of a warm blanket, my head, like a rock, planted firmly atop two pillows. Indeed, a deep sleep may be the preferred state of being for any college teenager, but for a year and a half I forced myself to be awake at this ungodly hour.

What could possibly be so compelling to a college student that he would choose to wake himself up so early in the morning instead of continuing to sleep?

I’ve spent my entire life playing football – at least, up until recently. I spent a year-and-a-half on the Tulane football team (as a walk-on … I wasn’t that good). Football has always been in my life, even from my first memories, where all I can remember is a blurry image or an incomplete phrase. From early afternoon games of flag football in kindergarten to the first semester of my sophomore year when Tulane football won a bowl game, every autumn has been defined by the football season.  

Those mornings when I dragged myself out of bed were full of mentally and physically exhausting workouts, but workouts I cherished. Morning after morning, day after day, I continuously put myself through the pain of taxing lifts or chest-wrenching conditioning all in the name of football.

Football games were a world unto themselves, a place where I was free to express myself, encouraged to unbridle all my inhibitions and just play the game. On the football field, the nagging social pressures that permeate everyday life evaporated from my conscious. On the football field, I was the most in-tune with myself. I found a place where I belonged, my own little niche.                

So, needless to say, when I was given the opportunity to continue to play football at Tulane, I jumped at the chance. It was a great privilege to participate and compete in collegiate football, something most people never get to do.

I am grateful to Tulane football for allowing me to be a part of its team. The friendships I’ve made, the value of dedication, the opportunity to run out onto the field and feel the excitement in the air are all great privileges presented to me by Tulane football. Most importantly, Tulane football forced me to work harder than I ever have. It pushed me to my limits everyday, only to then push me even further the next. The growth and maturity I’ve gone through over the past year and a half I owe to Tulane football. Trainers, coaches and the other players gave me a strength I wouldn’t have found without them.

New commitments and passions have led to the decision to say goodbye. With reluctance, I quit the football team. The childhood memories of playing flag football or two-hand-touch in an empty grass field may fade with time, but football will forever be a part of my existence. The days I’ve spent on a football field when red autumn leaves drift casually to the dirt are irreplaceable. I built myself within the burning furnace of the gridiron and emerged as a better version of what went in.