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Reflecting on my Golden Tiger days

Walking down the hallways at Russellville, watching students head back to school has flooded my mind with many memories of my years as a Golden Tiger.

If I were to go through some of my storage bins at home I would dust off several pieces of memorabilia from my years on the gridiron with what I believe to be one of the best teams to ever come through Russellville without bringing home a blue map.

There is a plaque in one of those storage bins, which I received from my coach, Perry Swindall, at our awards night banquet back in 2003, which nominated me as “Special Teams Captain.”

At the beginning of the 2002-2003-football year, all the players voted for who they wanted their permanent captains to be for the year. There were only three spots: one for offense, one for defense and the other for special teams.

We were loaded with talent so my peers did not pick me to be “Special Teams Captain” at that point even though I was the only person on the team who actually played on every special teams unit to take the field that season.

By the end of the year, I had given it my best shot as a senior player and I have no idea who decided to give me the plaque, but it turned out to be a kind of emotional moment for me — knowing that my coaches saw my efforts on the field through the year and thought enough of me to honor me with the plaque.

When it came to our senior year, everyone seemed confident that we were going to go all the way.

I have a t-shirt from our football season as eighth graders that kind of started the whole thing.

We played only eight games that year, but the thing that was unbelievable to everyone and made people believe we were going to be a championship team when we grew up was the fact that nobody scored on us.

It was quite an accomplishment I believe. There can’t be many t-shirts that have “Undefeated and Un-Scored on” printed across the front of it.

The back of the shirt has all of our games listed and it seemed ridiculous to us that teams were that terrible to have zeros beside each team we played.

Our team put together this bond of brotherhood, which kept us all together from eighth grade until our senior year, which raised our town’s expectations for a title shot.

Unfortunately, Homewood was a thorn in our side for three or four years.

In the millennium, I believe no RHS team has gotten as close as we did to winning it all. I believe whole-heartedly that if it wasn’t for that steel-legged kicker from Homewood who kicked a 52-yard field goal in the first quarter we would have rings.

Looking back, there are two things I believe made us unique: coaching and players.

Honestly, we really didn’t have much talent transferring into the program. I know there were talented players who came in that year from Cherokee and Buckhorn to make our group stronger, but most of us were from right here.

For those of you who don’t know the team I’m speaking of I thought I would name off a few players who were awesome from right here in Russellville to spark your memories — Jake Tompkins, Josh Tompkins, Aaron Sears, Terrell Groce, Jonathan Witt and Justin Williams. These names were all part of my senior class.

Every student who played receiver that year was from Russellville too. We had many players in the junior class like Canaan Farris, Cody Bowen and Brandon Suggs all from Russellville who played big roles that year. We were the team to beat it seemed as we rolled into Legion Field for the state championship game.

Now I would like to get into a sort of gray area for most RHS football fanatics. There are a lot of people who blame coach Swindall for blowing it when it came to the title game.

When we lost the game by three points to Homewood that year coach Swindall got a tremendous amount of flack from the fans, parents and even from some of us players.

If you asked him after the game what happened, he would have admitted he blew it. He did in fact take full responsibility for the game as we took off our pads in the locker room.

I can even remember the speech he gave to my senior class after our final game as a Golden Tiger. He said, “If this is the lowest part you ever have in your life, then you will live a great life.”

He meant football is just a game and there are many moments in life to look forward too that are going to be great. Looking at that statement now — I have since graduated from college, got a job in my field of study, gotten married to a wonderful woman and have a beautiful 4 month-old baby girl — believe it or not coach was right.

There are many people who are glad Coach Swindall is gone, but he really was a big influence in my life and I am proud to say I am a “Swindall kid” and I’m sure if my fellow teammates looked back and thought of the things he taught us in the four years we played for him they would agree.

He was our coach and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

There I’ve said my peace. Until next time, Later Dayz…

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