'The habit of living for the applause of our fellow men in religious things is deadly to the religious affections and life, which in their very nature are Godward and must look upwards only to Him.' B.B. Warfield
Sunday, November 29, 2020
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
“In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it anymore.”
Ernest Hemingway, In Another Country
“In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it anymore.”Ernest Hemingway, In Another Country
Monday, November 16, 2020
I want to start with the leadership of head coach, Matthew Forester. In two seasons, Coach Forester has implemented one of the best systems I have ever had the privilege to know and work with. The integration of offensive and defensive terminology has elevated our football IQ and made everything from Hudl analysis to game communication easier and improved. It would be impossible to explain ALL of the improvements- but our practice schedule, strength and conditioning schedule, game planning, equipment inventory, young player development, college coach communication, player meetings, drill and skill development have all been greatly enhanced in his two years as the head coach. To top it off, our coaches and players love him and are willing to follow his lead.
This joy of this season is directly attributed to our seniors. This group is one of the great competitive classes in school history. They have done it in multiple sports as well. I was never concerned in any game this season about our ability to 'put the ball down and play' regardless of the opponent or circumstances. They practiced hard and cared for one another... especially the young guys. They had fun, but also were extremely physical on the field. They battled each other so hard in practice, that the games seemed easy.
I could not think of a better team to handle the challenges of a Covid season and moving up to 6A. They expressed a gratitude to play and they played each week like it would be their last.
The BCS community is also a joy to be a part of. It takes extreme effort and sacrifice for a football team to get through an entire season. The ARMY of volunteers and parents who worked with enthusiasm and projected a positive spirit worked wonders! I could write pages about all of the help we had.
I do have a very brief comment about each game- things I never want to forget.
BCS 28- Ft Payne 20
The opening night jitters- the fact that we were playing with Covid protocols was a blessing- the band in the end zone dodging the pre-game kicks- the sound of the Ft Payne kicker when he hit the ball! My favorite image is Luke Reebals signaling TD on the opening kick-off when their kicker kicked it through the goal post. That right there showed me that this team was going to be fun!
Spain Park 21- BCS 14
Loved the opening half- we took it to them. Tyler Waugh had the first of many explosive plays that night. Really important game to teach us how different it was going to be playing up and how disciplined we were going to have to be.
BCS 20- Chelsea 3
Always good to beat your rival. Some big pass plays that night showed what a great job our receivers were doing in improving. We were also developing a physical prowess that would become a trademark all season. Brooks Donnely showed that he was back from his ACL injury the year before.
BCS 43- Woodlawn 0
The opening image before the game with players from both teams holding flags was very emotional for me. For some reason, the jet sweep by Sawyer Tindall for a long TD was a highlight for me.
BCS 28- Huffman 16
Was such a big time win- Huffman was loaded and was confident they could beat us! The hitting in that game was mortal combat! Coach Kerley calling Big O to the boundary and Luke Reebal's run on that play in the 4th quarter was a huge play. Also grinding out the clock in our heavy set was really nice.
James Clemmens 41- BCS 21.
Our never say die fight was impressive. We made big strides in our passing game that night. A big part of that was watching our guys rally around and encourage our soph QB as he worked through some mistakes early. We never fell apart as a team!
BCS 42- Shades Valley 19.
Great team effort that night! To get down early and then storm from behind was impressive. We never panicked and poured it on late. Luke Reebals has a great night behind a big effort by our offensive line. I especially noted that Eli Steadman showed great leadership that night and played really well!
Mountain Brook 17- BCS 0
My toughest week- being out with Covid. Our defense played outstanding... but we know we did not play our best. The score was not indicative of the game.
BCS 28- Homewood 6.
Big time defense and big plays from Nic Dicen. Winning on their field is always special.
BCS 42- Corner 7
Dominating performance by every group. Of course I will never forget getting the lights on as Corner rolled into the parking lot.
BCS 31- Hartselle 17
Being down 14-3 at the half. These seniors were not going to be denied! Tyler Waugh put on one of the great single performances I have ever seen! Big Ride's pre-game speech was amazing! All the speeches were terrific.
Oxford 35- BCS 14
Tough way to go out. Watching Parker Hutson's pick 6 in the 3rd was symbolic of his never say die effort all season. Our guys battled valiantly.
Again- I am leaving so much out. Our JV and freshman team was a joy to coach!
I want to say thanks to my QB group... what a great group to coach every week. CV was impressive each week and he improved every week.
As a competitor, I am worn flat out... but soon will be ready to pick up and figure out how to get better soon!
Thursday, October 15, 2020
The purpose of my blog is to share my experiences for posterity sake, so I am sharing my experience knowing that many others have had more tragic and serious situations to which I offer my prayers and support.
On Monday, Oct. 5, I went to be tested for Covid-19 because a family member that I am close to had tested positive. I went in that morning and was given the rapid test. I was given the positive results about 15 minutes after the test.
At the time of my test, I had not experienced any noticeable symptoms. As I was driving home, I was somewhat suspicious of a false positive because I felt fine.
I called my bosses and let them know and entered into a quarantine at home.
About 3 hours after my positive test, I began to notice symptoms. At first, I was convinced that it was psychosomatic and was intrigued about how powerful the influence of that felt.
However, by mid-afternoon, there was no mistake that these were real symptoms and likely the impact of the virus on my body. The first symptom was a loss of smell. This was MOST apparent by my inability to smell Clorox which my wife was using to clean out house (she went into quarantine at the same time with me).
I also registered a borderline fever for the first time and began to notice body aches, especially in my joints. At the time, my neck was the most stiff area.
I made a gargle solution of apple cider vinegar and that is when I noticed that I had no taste as well. I actually drank a small portion of it, and all I could ascertain is that it was liquid.
Between early evening on Monday and Wednesday night, I had waves of fever spikes- the highest was 102.1 and the average was 100.5. But the fever would hit me, spike, and then go away. I also registered normal temps during that time. The longest above average sustained temperature was a period of about 6 hours from Tuesday night through Wednesday AM.
I woke up with a severe headache almost every morning for a period of 5 days.
During the first 3 or 4 days, I did stay on a steady regimen of Tylenol.
My worst symptom became very acute joint pain, especially in both knees. I have arthritis in those knees which does flare up at time. However, beginning on Wednesday morning, my left knee had become an increasingly painful area. I could not walk without a limp and it was throbbing like a toothache.
From Wednesday morning until the following Monday, my left knee tortured me as an unrelenting source of pain. It kept me awake at night and radiated from my left hip all the way to my left foot. The greatest throbbing was along the shin.
I tried a large number of therapies- riding an exercise bike, stretching, ice, isometric exercises, cremes, epsom salt baths, but even arthritis strength Tylenol did not alleviate the pain.
My Dr finally called in an NSAID (Diclofenac) on Monday Oct 13, that has relieved my pain enough to sleep at night and to go on a few short walks without pain. When the medicine wears off though, the pain returns.
I did want to talk about the restlessness at night and wildly disturbing dreams I had for the first 3 nights of the virus. I felt 'under attack' and it felt like the virus was a weapon... there felt like an intense 'anxiety' accompanied the fever. Almost like an adrenaline was being pumped through my veins and I tossed and turned - never feeling like I was in a deep sleep.
I have had a consistent, unproductive cough for more than a week now. It is inconsistent and on occasion, produces a small amount of phlegm. My sinuses seemed to be more impacted than my lungs, but I don't even think it is a 'symptom' here on day 9.
My energy level seems to be back, but I never felt like it was severely depleted.
I do have an oxygen level measuring device at home and my levels have stayed in the love to mid-90's the entire episode.
The most consistent question I get is: Where do you think you got it from? And there is no way to know. Because the virus spread through my family along differing lines TO me, I think it had to come from an outside the school source- but this is purely anecdotal.
I finally felt well enough on Thursday, Oct. 15, to sit down and write... so my body feels like in full scale recovery. My knee pain will be an ongoing issue that I will continue to work in therapy and consult with my Dr when I am free to be examined.
I have friends who have tested positive without symptoms and some who have been hospitalized, including one who had to go on a ventilator. I have read of others who have lost their life... so this is a serious virus.
Because my experience is only anecdotal and I am not a physician, I don't think it is wise to speak of my general thoughts about prevention and mitigation. I do have concerns about the overall effectiveness of mask wearing, but this is part of the lessons we will all revisit.
I also have concerns that we do not get 100% honest information in a highly partisan environment... and that has been frustrating.
I want to thank everyone who faithfully prayed for us... and am thankful that we seem to be over the worst of it for the time being.
I still have some friends and colleagues who need your prayers!
Saturday, October 10, 2020
God has a serious sense of irony. He never uses it in a trivial way. As humans, our use of sarcasm is almost always tainted with the sin of selfishness with intents to tear down or, sadly, a pitiful stretch for entertainment. God uses His holy sarcasm as a Divine Surgeon cutting the cancer of our souls. I can't help to notice that familiar tone at times in Scripture. But we can never throw stones of accusation because we know His motives are pure and He acts within the confines of unadulterated truth.
God also uses the circumstances in life to flesh out real life instances of irony. It is a not so subtle way at times to put us in proper perspective and remind us that He is intimately with us at all times.
Often, in my life, he uses my 'teaching' as prime real estate to poke and prod the decay and deserts in my soul. He compels me to write, so I can step out and analyze the message... not for you.. for me. Not only for now, but again a few months or years later when I have completely forgotten these thoughts. I read things I have written in the past and, most of the time, wish the thoughts were more a part of my daily DNA.
So I'm back with Peter... now teaching it every Sunday to a virtual, zoom, Sunday School class. It is by far the most difficult teaching environment I have ever encountered.
I knew the passage was coming.... the one I struggle with... the one that my soul pushes against.... and I am back wrestling with it, but with the added pressure of teaching it to a Brady Bunch screen of smiling faces and wondering if I am even coming through... or whether I am flickering in and out.
It dawned on me this week that Peter haunts my heart. When I read Paul, he engages my mind. The Holy Spirit lays it our like a legal argument... the reasons are so clear and applicable. But when I read Peter, he pulls at my heart. The two men are solid and unified... evidence that the true author is the Holy Spirit. The content is down the line, absolutely the same.
But Peter's words go beyond the argument and tug at my emotions and motives.
When I read Paul, I write nice, alliterate points of application.
When I read Peter, I see 'movie moments'... layers of his life that are intertwined with human struggle and the stories of his time with Jesus.
So I am preparing this morning to take on PART 2 of my lesson from 1 Perter 2... the call to submit.
1 Peter 2:13–15
 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,  or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
and then he lays it out... relationship by relationship
1 Peter 2:17–25
 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.  For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.
After showing Christ as the example, Peter keeps going....
1 Peter 3:1–9
 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,
 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (ESV)
So my pushback comes instantly...
I watch the news, why should I submit in a culture that is increasingly becoming hostile to people of faith?
What about times to disobey... civil disobedience?
Does a wife have to submit to spousal abuse?
Do servants have no right to seek freedom?
How did we ever get to the point of fighting the Revolutionary War if we submit to this attitude?
Won't the world just walk all over me?
I am a competitor... I can't just sit there and take it...
The world isn't just going to give stuff to you... you have to fight for it!
I have to fight for my family!
Of course I can find in Scripture times to fight evil and disobey- Paul and Silas were put in prison because they wouldn't obey the authorities when asked to stop speaking of Jesus. Daniel's friends were thrown in a furnace and Daniel was cast in the Lion's Den for their unwillingness to submit...... So am I over analyzing this?
No... not over analyzing.. just not realizing that this isn't a reasoned defense of when to practice Civil Disobedience... this is a call to shred the heart of pride.
With God... we willingly submit and therefore will escape the eternal subjugation.
Peter had already alluded to it... there is a Stone that you either give way to or It will crush you.
So here it is,... very clear... though it is complicated and messy... we are to humble ourselves and defer to others, because that is how God best sows seeds of reconciliation and salvation. God opposes rigidity. He wants us to stay compliant and malleable.
And not just here... this is all the way through Scripture:Jer. 29:7- But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Monday, September 07, 2020
Inspired by Tootsie's Texas Cookin' last night on Netfix, I dreamed I was sitting on the backyard picnic table talking to my Pop Pop while he basted the ribs, chicken, and pork chops like he did almost every Saturday while I was growing up.
Madison Leonard Almon was a very talented and charismatic man. Champion golfer, WW2 B-52 blister gunner who flew 32 missions in the Pacific theater, and could do almost anything better than anyone else... including backyard barbecue.
I was blessed in my childhood to live literally 1 street away from my grandparents. I could walk there in 4 minutes, run there in 2, and bicycle there in about a minute ....downhill! It was on my way to the Handi-pak on Rugby Ave. where I could get a comic book and Mountain Dew for about 45 cents.
As long as I could remember almost every Saturday morning, Pop Pop would start before the sun rose, to prepare food for friends and family. I would go there as soon as I woke up and he would always get on to me and asked what took me so long to get there.
He told me the story about building his backyard patio and barbecue pit with his brother, Fuzz. In my memory, it was a large level back yard adjacent to an unpaved alley that ran behind all the houses on that street. There were towering tomato stakes next to his large round compost pile.
The patio had been built away from the house and was pieced together from flat gray river stones which supported a wooden picnic style table and a large round canopy umbrella that leaned slightly in a hole that had been cut in the table. It wasn't large enough to cover the entire table, but was plenty to protect Pop Pop, his radio, and cigarettes if a Saturday shower threatened the day.
The grill itself was a built from hand, modest yellow brick rectangle at the far end of the patio. it wasn't fancy at all by today's standards. Just a brick edifice that opened to a large metal grate on top and carried the bricks onward for a small 'chimney' or vent.
He and Fuzz originally built it as a wood burning pit, but the two 'engineered' an upgrade. Pop Pop was a longtime worker for Alagasco, so running the gas line was easy. Fuzz was a welder and furniture maker, and he fashioned this large heavy wire grating that could hold large cuts of meat without any concern.
It was a gas grill with two large burners under the lava rocks. But Pop Pop kept a metal plate over that to keep the heat consistent and for hickory chips that continuously soaked in water. The smoke from those chips and the drippings from years of previous mastery were just small parts of the unique flavor that made his grilling better than any other I have ever experienced.
I'm sure that it was the largest gas grill in all of East Lake and would hold its own to any gas grill by today's standards.
Before I move into his cooking procedure, I need to talk about the periphery events that made this such a magical experience. As I got a little older, Pop Pop decided to use the morning to teach me some skills.
One day I got there and he had an old rotary, reel push mover. He challenged me to see if I could cut the grass... thick zoysia. I pushed it for about 30 minutes and my brother finished up when he arrived. The mower became part of my Saturday routine, and it was a measuring stick for my growing up. Over the course of a few years, I got where I could cut his entire yard, front and back and he would pay me if he thought I did a good job.
Another important skill I acquired in Pop Pop's backyard was learning to shoot his pellet gun. He was the first to teach me how to sight a target and he placed a trash can lid on he back door to his basement with paper plates that were the targets.
It was his main arsenal to take out the squirrels who chose to trespass on his super large tomatoes. He didn't have the gun out every Saturday, but it was on of my favorites. We also threw horse shoes, chipped golf balls, and played dominoes when the weather was bad.
One final periphery accompanying the smell of hickory chips, grilled meat, and Jim Beam was either big band music or Leonard's Losers.... the pick 'em radio show where the host would finish a homespun analysis of each college game with the infamous- "Leonard's loser, in a close one.... Arkansas" or Ole Miss, or LSU, or anyone else who played Alabama that day.
My mom, grandmother, and my aunts stayed at the house preparing for the large feast later on in the day. We had the best potato salad, baked beans, breads, and casseroles in America. Granny's pound cake was a dream as well. One special Saturdays, we took turns churning home made peach Ice Cream strapped in an old, rusty aluminum cooler decayed by the turning and rock salt.
But Pop Pop was the main course.
He did his best to pass along the process to me.
He took me to the special meat market where he tried to point out the best way to select the pork chops. This market also offered rabbit and quail which were non-Saturday specialties in his kitchen.
Just before dawn, the slow cooked mastery would begin. Pop Pop had a basting sauce for cooking and a home made barbecue sauce that would be added just before the finished meats were taken in for consumption.
I was there early enough on a few occasions to mix up the 'secret sauces' myself.
The basting sauce was water, white vinegar, salt, and pepper. That's all. But he lavished it on the meats throughout the day using a small mop brush.
The barbecue sauce was a little more complicated: ketchup, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, spicy mustard, a little hot sauce, pepper, salt, that he would reduce on the stove until there was a good consistency. He never measured anything, just added stuff. Every now and then, he didn't like it and would pour in a few other store bought sauces to make it legit.
These 'recipes' are nothing new.... nothing special... the magic is in the temperature, time, and tender care.
Pop Pop cooked them all day- slow cookin'! He sat out by that pit for hours, telling stories, pouring drinks, while turning ribs, chops, and hotdogs. He would turn the meat, dab the basting sauce, and sit down. He was about as content during those times as any human can be.
There were special days. He beat a neighbor arm wrestling one day. And he caught the neighbor down the street cooking some of his grill in the oven!
There was a day I ate too many pork chops and he scolded me in front of everyone. Other than that, I usually got in trouble for not eating enough!
But it all seems to morph into one day. One beautiful time of nostalgia.
About eating time, the entire neighborhood seemed to show up. It was loud from lips full of liquor, it was chaotic and fragmented, it was an event like no other. After eating, we would watch football on TV or take a nap.
That night, we ate leftovers.
And the next Saturday, we would do it all again!
I'm sure this is a part of Americana and memories in the millions.... but Pop Pop was the king of it all!
Thursday, July 16, 2020
The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research publishes one of the most widely referenced annual studies on the subject of football deaths in the US. Its surveys use reports from coaches and other athletic department staff members across the country, as well as media reports and independent research.
According to its 2017 report, more than 4 million kids and young people played some form of organized football that year. Of them, 13 reportedly died as a direct or indirect result of play: four direct and nine indirect. The survey defines "direct" as traumatic results of on-field play: spinal cord injuries, organ lacerations, head injuries and the like. "Indirect" deaths are caused by systemic failures because of exertion: heatstroke and most incidences of cardiac arrest, for example.
That means, for 2017, the the rate of direct fatalities was 0.095 per 100,000 players, and the rate of indirect fatalities was 0.21 per 100,000 players.
It is hard to get a firm number, but the demographic characteristics of decedents reported through national COVID-19 case-based and supplemental surveillance, by data source — United States, February 12–May 18, 2020 for individuals UNDER 18 years of age is 19 people (< 0.1)
So statistically, the risk of serious injury from playing football is very close to serious complications from the virus (yes, I know it can be transferred to someone with worse odds)
Even with those numbers, the fishing team activities seemed riskier to me. Towing a 2500 lb. boat on the interstate and backroads has danger. Putting that boat on the water and blasting off to your first fishing spot at 70 mph in low light conditions can raise the blood pressure.
I also have had the misfortune of having two of my anglers get hooks in them. One in the head and another one in the eyes!.... that one ended up at the Callahan Eye Clinic in Birmingham and, thankfully, ended well.
Any search of the news will also confirm the ultimate tragedy in the sports of fishing.... there have been young anglers lose their lives in terrible accidents, some preventable and others not.
What do we make of this?
Life incurs risk..... every single day.
I have found great joy in teaching young people how to mitigate risks through responsibility, education, and practice. It is a part of maturity and it actually inspires them!
I have seniors who can back a boat up into a space with only inches of margin. I am proud to see them respect the danger enough to take precautions. And as they manage risk, they grow more courageous and confident.
Unfortunately, I am not seeing this spirit being acquiesced during this time of planning and decision making in the midst of the current pandemic. This is a general statement of course.... there are exceptions.
But this 'spirit of timidity' and sadly, "spirit of divisiveness' is a combination of things:
- Fear of litigation has hampered decisions of mitigation.
- REAL DANGER- this virus is not a hoax folks.
- TOUGH CULTURE- every spoken opinion can turn toxic
I will continue to coach football and fishing- as I do, I have to look each parent in the eye and commit to them to do all I can to keep their child safe.... but I cannot PROMISE to keep them from harm.
We can't risk proof life, nor can we make any school Covid-19 free.
And I do understand we are trying to help protect the vulnerable....
The honest question is this....are shutdowns and austere measures on the mass populace the answer?
Every day- if God allows.... we wake up to new opportunities and risk.
This world can be a mean and scary place.... terrorists still plan and wait for opportunities... as do thieves and sex traffickers.
There are cruel people who harass and bully; harmful people who would injure you to simply take care of themselves.
We think we are secure- but the supply chain of both food and water could be suddenly interrupted. We have sworn enemies of our way of life who have mass weapons of destruction pointed right at us.
There are unseen contaminants, carcinogens, deadly bacteria and viruses moving in and out of your body on a constant basis.
If you dwell on these things you will want to run and hide.... that is what fear does.
But no- that is not how we are supposed to live.
We walk with wisdom- we look both ways before we cross a street, we don't play with fire, and we wash our hands and brush our teeth.
We surround ourselves with a loving community of family and friends and we hope to lean on them during times of crisis.
We make plans and have action steps if our house catches on fire.
I ask them to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes when fishing and to be careful when casting... especially with treble hooks.
I teach my children how to be aware of their surroundings, where to park, and how to protect themselves.
Here is a strange statement for this post.... I even understand there may be a day where I have to act in 'civil disobedience'- but it is based on principle AND it means I am subject to the consequences of those actions.
But the truly bottom line? I NEED to trust in my heavenly Father... what does He tell me to do and how to live-
mitigate... not subjugate
mitigate..... not risk proof life
mitigate.... not live in fear
mitigate.... not attack others
mitigate.... not forsake our duty to live by faith.
And then let's carry on in confidence, service, compassion, and hope!
Monday, July 06, 2020
And at the brink of possibly giving up... God sent Paul help- in the person of Titus.
Friday, June 26, 2020
This is how the obituary starts....
And I am putting the final piece together in this post to somehow convey the nuances and intricacies of parenting and father/son dynamics.
My earliest memories of may dad are fun and good. Sure, there are times all fathers have- times he lost his temper with my mom or us, times he may have punished us in anger... but the good memories FAR outweigh the bad.
My dad was a fireman, a noble profession but not a glorious life. He worked 24 and was off 48. In his 'off' times, he worked various part time jobs over the years to make ends meet. My mom stayed home trying to hold down my brother and me (and another brother born when I turned 10)... and it was not easy for her. Over the years, we broke all of her china, knocked holes in the sheet rock walls and would have driven her insane if it wasn't for the fact that she had the love and patience of a saint.
I really feel bad..... my brother and I would be playing and then we would hear the car door shut... my dad was home and we just ran in the room and hid. He would walk in and my mom would point to the bedroom and say, "kill them" and then before he could even put his bag up, he would give us our well deserved spankings because we had just tortured our mom for the previous 24 hours.
At the memorial service, it was firemen who came up to me- men who had served with my dad and they didn't tell me their real names. "I'm 'Chubby'.... "I'm 'Fats' ".... and they called my dad, "Slick".- that is what firemen did back then...great nicknames... and maybe still do.
I would go to the firehall every now and then and spend the night there... we played ping pong and chess, I crawled up in the firetruck, I watched them constantly check equipment and fire hydrants... and yes, the alarm would sound and they were out the door in seconds.
These men were a team and their job was to rush in as others were rushing out. They played jokes on one another, they teased and harassed each other.... but there was a bond that few understand.
We got a call one night that a wall had fallen in on my dad, but he got out with just some smoke inhalation. My mom went to bed with tears that night and for the first time I understood that there was danger in what my dad did.
I knew dad more as 'coach' as he coached football and basketball for my teams from 2nd to 6th grade (Football) and up to 8th grade for basketball. He trained me as well. He persuaded me at an early age to do push ups, sit ups, even wall pushups- upside down. He bought me a jump rope and said it was an important training aide.
We threw baseball in the backyard for hours. He taught me to chip golf balls in a plastic swimming pool, he taught me how to play poker, dominoes, and chess.
He was a master coach- especially in basketball. He was a quick study in football, but he didn't know it was well.
People don't really understand this- but he loved ALL his players. They were all his sons. And he was not ever going to be accused of playing favorites with his son... so I had to hustle twice as hard and play harder that everyone else to just get in the game!
My 5th grade year, I was a wingback and had about 10 carries the entire season and scored a touchdown about every two times I touched the ball. I had more touchdowns on defense than offense.
His longtime assistant, Coach Cockrell, said to him one day, "Slick, you need to give the ball to your boy more." My dad put his hand on my head and smiled, "Nah, he would just get the big head!"
My 7th grade year, he sat me down to tell me that he wasn't going to coach football that year. They had found a really good football coach named Bill Berry to coach us. I was ecstatic! On my first day in Coach Berry's practice I won every drill. Coach Berry stopped and yelled at the team... "Are you guys just going to sit back and let Mathews win everything today!" But I had a fire that had been building. He moved me to fullback and we won the Shug-Bear Bowl at Legion field. I scored a lot of touchdowns that year running just one play called 26 dive.
Basketball didn't go so well. Early on my dad looked at me and said, "Son, I love you... but you are NOT a basketball player." And that bothered me because it was my favorite! But he was right.
One quick basketball story- I have more of them than football stories with Dad. We played our games in the old Woodlawn high school gym and it was majestic! We had a really good basketball team... I started at forward, but was just a hustling rebounder...
We were set to host a team called "Our Lady of Sorrows" late in the season. We were undefeated and my dad knew we need to be humbled. He went to see them play and added them to the schedule.
Before the game, we were laughing at the name...'Our Lady of Sorrows" and by halftime... we weren't laughing. They were up by maybe 20 points! With our pride popped, dad did not even give a halftime speech. But he did call timeout in the 3rd quarter.
We walked over with our heads down and he told us to look up at him.
He said, "I could care less about whether you win or not, but your effort is a LOSING effort. You guys backed down when things got tough. That is what LOSERS do.".... then he said the one thing he probably should not have said... "I haven't even seen a hard foul."
Out of the timeout, their point guard crossed over and penetrated our zone... and I took him out.
It was such a hard foul that every parent in the gym... theirs and ours, started booing me. The official threw me out of the game.
As I walked off the court to the opposite end of the bench from dad, he looked at me.
"That is NOT what I meant."
We recovered...learned another great lesson..We even played the Banks Jets freshman team that year under a very young David Cutcliffe. They both grew to love one another.
Coach Cutcliffe called me when he heard about my dad. I think he would be OK for me to share a piece of that conversation.
"Jay, your dad was one of the best quarterback dads I ever had in my whole career. In fact, I put him up there with Archie Manning. He was calm, supportive, positive....." as he kept on, the tears just poured out of me.
I have coached Qb's now for 30 years... and I immediately realized that my dad was as good or better than every Qb parent I have worked with. And I have worked with mostly great ones.
Can I mention one more thing about those teams? We were integrated... white and black... competing together. My dad never saw color in his players. And we were ALL a team.
Now that I know more about the times... that was a beautiful gift my dad gave us.
In the summer of my junior year, I became a born again Christian... and it created issues almost immediately.
I started reading my Bible, going to church, and even changed over to Christian music.
My dad was so worried that I had joined a cult!
And sadly, I quickly began to judge him. After all, he was a smoker... he drank beer, he used profanity at times and now I was holy and he was still a sinner! As I write this, tears are flowing... I was so stupid ....
We got into HUGE arguments about sin and salvation. He threw a chair at me one night as I proclaimed in my self righteousness that he was going to hell.
Then my senior year, we had an even bigger falling apart! I had been given some small college scholarship offers. My mom and I went to Northeast Mississippi Junior College and I had been impressed by it.
On the night we got the papers, I was going to sign them. My dad and I were not getting along at all. I judged him a sinner and he judged me a crazy fanatic. And I was much worse than him......
Dad took the scholarship and ripped it up right in front of me... "My boy ain't going to a JUNIOR COLLEGE".
And I walked out... left home for two weeks, and stayed with friends. My mom knew where I was and she was torn up!
She called me one night and said, "You need to come home tonight. Coach Donahue from Alabama is calling you."
I came home and Coach Donahue called. He offered me a preferred walk-on and said I could report at the same time as the scholarship guys.
I committed to him that night... thinking dad would be happy. I also had a deep desire to play for Coach Bryant.
Dad wasn't happy, but there was nothing to tear up.
He said, "I'm not giving you a penny. All you are going to be is a tacking dummy."
Mom took me to First Alabama Bank the next day and we signed a school loan. Later I found out that dad did support me, he was just still aggravated about my stupid behavior.
I did well enough at Alabama, that we actually patched things up and he enjoyed coming to our JV games that fall of 1982.
I was growing in my faith as well... And the Scriptures were doing what they are intended to do.. properly humbling me and replacing self righteousness with a better understanding of my sin and God's grace. In full disclosure... I was no saint. Starting the spring of my senior year and throughout my time in college, I was a mess when it came to lifestyle. I have written on this... but I was not consistent at all... but God's grace is real and I was maturing.
In the spring of 1987, I was set to graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Physical Education. But instead of going into teaching and coaching... I took a job as a youth pastor.
When I told Dad about it, he was concerned. "Why do you want to do that? I thought you wanted to coach?"
Fortunately, I was more patient and loving and I had been praying for my dad... when you pray for someone in love... it helps you even more than them! I also knew that I was a much worse sinner than my dad was... and God's grace was good enough to trust and God was faithful.
I got married in 1988 and my dad LOVED Lisa and her family, especially her dad! My dad also loved my boss, the Rev. Tom Caradine. He was getting pretty happy with where I was.
My dad gave me GREAT advice on the night of our rehearsal dinner.... "Son, when you spoke tonight, you said a lot of "I's"... you better start replacing "I" with "We'... and instead of fighting his coaching, I hugged him and said, "Thanks Dad, you are right."
In 1991, I called Dad with some exciting news, I was going to teach English and coach football at Briarwood Christian School.
His response was classic! "Why would you want to do that! Christians can't win football games!"
And for a while... he was right! He patiently came out for every varsity and JV game from 1991 on... and we struggled!
One JV game, I got so mad I threw my clipboard into the fence and it exploded.
But some amazing things started happening.... One is we started getting pretty good in football and two, my children were loving on their Papa... and his heart was melting.
After a Grandparent's Day at Briarwood, the girls were singing songs about the love of Jesus and my dad had tears in his eyes.
My dad grew in love for my 3 girls and he loved Briarwood. He loved Coach Yancey and all of our coaches.
Beginning in 1996 through 2003 we won 100 games, lost 12, and won three state championships. No one appreciated that run more than my dad! And I often wonder if God did it to make sure my dad knew that Christians can win football games....
But the entire purpose of this post is to tell you what happened on June 2 of 1998.
My dad called me and asked to play golf. He picked me up and we played 18 holes. I shot and 80 and he shot a 78! He birdied the last hole and I made a bogey.
When went to the clubhouse for lunch afterward. As we sat there, he got some tears in his eyes.
"Jay, I wanted to tell you something. Last week when we went to that prayer breakfast where Coach (Jeremiah) Castille spoke... well... I gave my heart to Christ."
And he turned the scorecard over and wrote on it, 'I believe in Christ. I told Jay on this date."
We both sat there and cried for a little bit.... I had been praying for him for 15 years... and to be honest, had given up on it.
Now, you would think that right after a man committed to Jesus, God would immediately make his life better.. but that is rarely how it works.
Over the next few years, my dad had to live through some hard times; including my youngest brother's battle with addiction, the death of my mom, my leaving Birmingham for Nashville, my being fired in Nashville after 7 seasons, and eventually the death of my brother, Lee, by an overdose to heroin and fentanyl.
The next falling out was that dad re-married 'too soon' for most of our family after my mom died. And we had some tough years of transition. Holidays were not pretty as I was now juggling 4 families... my family, my mom's family, my wife's family, and my dad, step-mom and her family.
I don't think I handled any of it very well.
But over time, things got better.... some things were patched up. But I was the typical 'too busy for my dad' son who was caught up in his own kids and a very busy job.
But we all got better... and especially my dad.
From his late 70's until his passing at 81, I saw my dad become a man very happy and at peace. He could laugh at himself and he ADORED his grandkids. He loved my step-mom, Delores, and she adored him. Her family was so good to Dad.... actually they loved him better than I did.
He was going to Sunday School, was in a small group Bible study, loved his garden, and loved life. He had given up, started back, and given up smoking again. And he took a lot of teasing from the over 21 grandkids and spouses about his constant supply of Natty Lights in his fridge.
But my dad wouldn't budge... it was free to them so they shouldn't complain.
My last conversation with my dad was on Monday, June 8- he passed away without me talking to him again on June 16.... I sure wish I had called him one more time.
But we did have a longer than usual conversation. Usually it was the same 3 questions- same three short answers, then hang up.
But that Monday, we talked for almost 30 minutes. He was so proud of my girls and he was so good at telling me that he was proud of me. We talked about my blog, he was reading it a lot. We talked about Covid-19 and football. We talked about his garden. We talked about Delores' grand kids. We even laughed that he had recently zoomed with us on a family zoom meeting.
We also talked in depth about his Bible study... he was really enjoying it.
On Monday, June 15, my dad worked in his garden. After he finished, he sat on the back porch with his little dog, Bruno. My step-mom opened up the back door and said, "Gary, you want to come in and watch some TV?"
He said, "No, I want to watch my garden grow."
Then around 3AM on that next morning, he woke up and told Delores he was having a hard time breathing.
He walked to the living room and she and her son called 911.
My dad closed his eyes and went to sleep. It was not a struggle at all!
Another son called us early that morning and things were a blur for an entire week.