Two weeks ago on a cold Friday night in Scottsbluff, I played the last football game of my life. I knew going into the game that losing was a possibility, but it didn’t really set in that it was all over until the clock hit zero. Leaving that field was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but eventually I walked off and headed to the locker room.

As I boarded the bus and prepared for the six-hour drive back to York, I took some time to think about my football career. I started playing football as a fourth grader, and in the eight years since then it has been a major part of my life.

I spent countless hours at practices, summer weights, camps, conditioning, and workouts over that time, and what I got in return was just as immeasurable. I not only learned how to be a great football player, but a great man as well. York is a special place to be a football player, and here’s why.

One of the biggest reasons York is a special place to play football is the amazing support our team receives from the community. East Hill Park has the best home field atmosphere in the state, no question. We have a huge crowd, an awesome student section, a tunnel walk and A FREAKING TOUCHDOWN CANNON at every home game! Who else has a cannon? No one.That’s who.

Our fans travel well to every game as well, whether we are playing in Seward or Scottsbluff. I’ll never forget the second half of the Aurora game last season, when our fans stuck it out through the pouring rain, hooting and hollering the whole time. Or when we packed our section at Memorial Stadium for the state championship game, dwarfing Skutt’s crowd by thousands. The amount of pride the people of York have in our team is amazing, and I am extremely grateful for all the support.

Another reason York is a special place to play is the amount of extra work that every player and coach puts in. If you want an example, drive by the weight room at 7 a.m., in July, Monday through Thursday, and see how many cars are in the parking lot.

Summer weights is a huge part of why our team is successful. Attending every single summer weights session to become an “Ironman” isn’t something that is easy, but this year we had 39 players earn that title. Add to that spring training, 7 on 7’s, lineman drills, team camps, and conditioning week, all before the season officially starts, and you can see just how much extra work our players put in. But that is what it takes to be great, so that is what we do.

We take pride in the fact that while other teams are sleeping or sitting at home, we are working hard and getting better. Our team culture is all about blue collar work ethic, and it shows in our extra preparation.

The most important reason that York is a great place to play football is how much everyone cares about our team and each other. I’ve played with the same guys my entire career, and many of the same coaches. We are all great friends, bonded over our shared failures and triumphs. Our whole team is united in pushing toward our common goal of being the best we can be, from the smallest freshman to the biggest senior. We are truly a band of brothers, and I will remain close with all of my teammates and coaches for the rest of my life. I love every one of them, and I wouldn’t trade my time as a York Duke for anything.

Looking back, I had a very successful football career. With 37 wins over four years, I was part of the winningest class in York history. Our team also won two district championships and the first state championship in school history during my time as a player. But while all this success has been amazing, it is not the most important thing I will take from my experience.

Football has been a lot more than just a game for me. It has taught me life lessons that I will never forget. Coach Snodgrass always told us that first we are great people, then great students, and finally great football players. The lessons learned about work ethic, loyalty, grit, and toughness are ones that will stick with me for the rest of my life, far beyond football.

I am and will be a better man because of my time as a York Duke football player, and all my teammates would say the same. The brothers I made on this team will stick with me for the rest of my life, and I know that I can always count on them. Even though my playing career is over, the rest of my life has just begun.

I love this team, and I will forever be a Duke.

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