I would like to thank the Troy State players, for going out of their way to save a person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are a tribute to their coaches throughout the years and the folks who raised them. Here is the backstory that inspires my gratitude.
I am a sidelines photographer for LSU home games. During the Saturday, Sept. 30, game with Troy State, a stunningly timed official ruling reversal called the Trojan players back onto the field after they had exited to the locker room for halftime. The Trojans hastily retook the field, executed a field goal and equally hastily headed back for the locker room.
During this remarkable football plot twist, I found myself in the direct path of their celebratory return toward the visitor’s tunnel. For anyone who is not 6-foot-2, padded up and moving in the same direction as the 100 men who are, this is a dismaying occurrence. Thankfully, in Tiger Stadium I experienced a most elemental lesson in the discipline instilled in football players.
In the midst of jumping, shoulder bumping and hi-fiving, the Troy State players managed to avoid crashing into me. Each wave of players had less than a second to adjust to my presence, as they encountered me just as they turned past their coaches toward the exit. Down to the last man they avoided me as seamlessly as a river parts around a rock. But I am no rock, and their situational awareness saved me from a really bad brush with physics.
Something more than their muscle reflexes was a factor in their reaction. These young men had just come from a give-licks-as-hard-as-you-can and suck-up-the-same environment, yet they clicked beast mode off the second they left the field and civility took right back over. I cover JazzFest, Mardi Gras and the Louisiana Derby and can’t think of another crowd of enthusiastic participants who haven’t at least bumped my elbows as I tried to protect my camera.
In a time when we are suddenly considering profound misgivings about football’s health impacts on players and viewers have been brought to the point of rejecting professional football in favor of patriotism, I sincerely hope that somehow we can all find a way to continue to support this activity that shapes as many young men as well as football can and has.