Nothing quite restores your faith in humanity than taking in a high school football game on Friday night. It is there you see excitement and happiness. Kids hanging out and supporting the booster club refreshment stand. Looking around to see who is there with smiles and maybe this boy or that girl is noticing them. The booster parents talking to each other about where their son or daughter is going to college, how is life going in general, and a feeling of camaraderie in selling whatever they can to support the team or the band. Football parents talking about the upcoming game. Who will win? Will they go to the playoffs? Who will they play? And if there are any offers on the table for their sons to play college football? Everyone is happy. Everyone is excited. And the stadium where I went last Friday night is nothing short of spectacular. Pine Richland High School Stadium looks like a small college stadium. Well kept, beautiful field, and when the band came out to play……..WOW!!!! A lot of college bands could take a look and see an amazing spectacle. Even the tuba players were all ladies. With white tubas. What an atmosphere and makes you feel pretty good that the youth of America- at least the ones participating in high school sports and the band, were really on track.
So, the forecast looked iffy and I donned the rain suit to go inside to meet Daryl, Chris, and Craig Hasley. We were all there to see Daryl’s son Jeremiah play for the Pine Richland Rams. Now the interesting thing about the Hasleys is that they all support the football program and they all are excited to see Jeremiah play. The cousins, the uncles, the aunts, and even the matriarch of the family – Mrs. Hasley. Mother to Daryl, Chris and Craig and Jeremiah’s grandmother. No matter what the weather, she is there to support her grandson. That night it was senior night and the pride for Daryl and Kristin, when they escorted their son Jeremiah on the field, was evident in their bright smiles and happy conversation. Big night for the Hasleys for sure.
As the night went on, I was amazed at the announcer who seemed to say at the end of every play, ” Tackle by the senior- Big Jeremiah Hasley.” Or ” gain on the play by the senior- Big Jeremiah Hasley” Or ” reception by the senior, Jeremiah Hasley.” The young man is a human wrecking ball and it is not surprising that a lot of Division I football programs are interested in him. But he made his choice recently and accepted a full scholarship at Duke University. The young man is not only a good football player, who plays both sides of the ball the whole game, but is an excellent student and Duke should feel privileged to have him as a student athlete. This season is a wonderful finish for him seeing that he has state championships already in the bank as Pine Richland is the reigning Class 5 A State Football Champion. No small feat and unfortunate that their championship winning coach is no longer with the team. The school board had a perceived issue with him and summarily dismissed him despite his huge success and his cohesiveness with the team. The seniors were devastated that their coach was the victim of an agenda that was never really validated. But the team persevered and Jeremiah leads the team this year as the captain and soul of the team. At 6’3 and 225 pounds, Jeremiah is an imposing figure on the field and he is visibly the leader of the Rams as they wage their way through the 2021 season. But that is not exclusively why Jeremiah and young men like him restore our faith in humanity. It goes much farther than his scholarship and his athletic ability.
You see, Jeremiah has character. When Daryl and I went down on the field after the game, we came up to a completely exhausted player who leaves nothing on the field. He was tired and in a ball of sweat, but was the first to say- ” Hi Mr. McCloskey- how are you? ” Thanks a lot for coming to the game.” He summoned up all the positivity he could after a brutal hard hitting game to greet me and thank me for coming. Not the typical dead fish handshake, or someone who doesn’t look you in the eye when he greets you, but rather a polite, engaging young man who on senior night wanted to make sure that his grandma who was waiting in the wings was happy and that all his cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends like me had a good time at the game. How could we not?
Young men like Jeremiah give back to the community too. He recently visited his old grade school classroom and spoke to the students and answered their questions about football, what is is like to play, and other questions that Jeremiah patiently answered. They even asked for his autograph which he sheepishly gave them in humility befitting a young guy with his character.
As I said goodbye to the Hasley brothers, I went to my car and thought about what a great kid this Jeremiah is. I thought to myself, ” don’t believe all the junk you see on TV about the youth of America and the negative portrayal of the generation growing up today. Sure there are issues, but if you look at the youth today playing high school sports, participating in the band, or other extracurricular activities, you soon see that you can have faith in the generation coming up. As an older guy, I nostalgically look back on those days of my youth when I see things like Friday Night Lights. I am refurbished with the bright conversation and polite demeanor of a young man who has his life ahead of him. Good luck and God’s speed to Jeremiah and his parents. As Huey Lewis would say, ” his future’s so bright, I have to wear shades.” Thanks for reading.
Photos courtesy of proud mom – Kristin Hasley