Hey Kid: Make History

The opportunity doesn't come around often, and not everyone will get a choice, but when you get a chance to make history, take it.  You'll never know if you'll get a second chance.  The sooner you recognize the potential, seize the moment and go for it.  Live with no regrets. We just celebrated the last football game of the year for the Pacific University Boxers.   There are 38 seniors remaining from the original 130 freshmen that started the program and brought football back to the school after a 19 year stretch without the sport.  These 38 young men will be remembered forever in the history of the school.

As we left the field that day, I gave my son a proud hug and reminded him that it was much better to be on the Pacific side of the field that day.  They may have lost the game, but no one will remember the opponent's senior class.  They did what was expected of them.  They were just like the classes before and after.  They were ordinary.  The original 38 seniors on Pacific's side persevered and realized a common goal.  In 4 years, they accomplished much more than was expected.

They were extraordinary.

Below is an article about this remarkable story.  We are so proud to be witness to this wonderful experience and that Steel was a part of this extraordinary group of players and coaches.  (I've enclosed the text for archival purposes.)

By JD Humburg | The Oregonian - November 25, 2013

It was either late in the first season or early in the second.

Actually, now that he thinks about it, it might have been during spring ball freshman year.

At any rate, the timing doesn't matter. What's important to Eric Gietzen is the memory of scanning the locker room and being struck with an epiphany.

"At one point I looked around and I realized, dang, these guys, they all have the same goal in mind," he said. "They might not all be playing, but they all want to stick around and work really hard and make Pacific football successful.

"They all want to leave an impression on the Northwest Conference and on the nation."

That goal was particularly important to Gietzen, a graduate of Forest Grove High School whose father taught at the university.

Now, not only can the kid from Forest Grove say he was a four-year starter on the Boxers offensive line, he's also one of 38 players who remained with the program from its reinstatement in 2010 through the end of this season, when Pacific posted a 7-3 record, spent time in the Division III coaches top 25 poll and nearly stunned national power Linfield in the season finale.

The renaissance started four years ago with more than 130 freshmen in camp.

Some succumbed to injuries or homesickness. Family responsibilities claimed a few.

Others grew frustrated with their place on the depth chart and decided it wasn't worth their time.

And, of course, there were also those who simply couldn't handle the beatings. The Boxers went 1-17 those first two seasons, getting outscored by 438 points.

"They were all really talented," Gietzen said of the players who left. "Sometimes it's like, 'What if this guy stuck around? What if that guy stuck around?'

"Well, they didn't, and we still did what we did without those guys. So, it's their loss, I guess, for not staying and building something special."

Every class at every school -- or at least most classes at most schools -- talks about being a tight-knit bunch. These seniors believe their connection is extra special, though, and insist the camaraderie will extend far into adulthood, no matter where life takes each of them.

"Oh yeah, no doubt about it," safety Bryan Mills said. "We've been through some stuff that not many people have. It's been an amazing ride, that's for sure."

After the four-year journey had come to an end, P.J. Minaya had a message for his teammates.

"Everyone on this team is my brother, no matter what, and anything they ever need in life, come to me and I'll be there for them," the quarterback declared following his final game. "It's been the greatest experience of my life the past four years. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

When asked to put into words just how much the Class of 2014 has meant to the program, the Boxers coach fought back tears.

"You know, when I got hired here, I didn't know what we were going to get, and four years later we've built a winner," Keith Buckley said. "That's not me. That's them. That's the drive that they had to get their teeth kicked in for two years and come back every single Sunday to get better. 'Thank you' isn't enough. I owe them everything.

"They're going to be great people, successful people, tremendous husbands and fathers, and I'm just proud I played a little role in that."

Some have wondered what will happen next year, when the inaugural class is gone.

Without those 38 resilient and strong-willed founding members presiding over the program, will the Boxers take an inevitable step backward?

Not a chance, according to everyone involved.

Mills said new leaders will emerge and the younger classes will pick up right where the seniors left off. Next year's seniors could prove to be even better, he said, since they've had experienced players to watch along the way.

"When we started, we were just clueless," he said.

Buckley emphasized just how beneficial it is for players to have older teammates they can learn from. It also helps create a "hungrier" attitude, he believes.

"This first class, there was nobody ahead of them, so they walked in the door and all they were doing was competing with each other for spots on the field," the coach said.

"Every subsequent class now is competing with people above them. When you're chasing guys, you work a little bit harder to get there. Snaps are precious."

Brandon Harms, a junior who earned an academic all-district nod for his performance as a cornerback and in the classroom, vowed that his class will not be responsible for any sort of regression.

"They're not going to be here physically," Harms said of the seniors, "but the foundation they set is here and their legacy lives on through us. If we drop off now, go back to a three-win football team, two-win football team, that's just disappointing them.

"They'll be in the back of our minds and in our hearts. They're our family, and we're going to go out and try to do them proud."