Saturday, January 14, 2006

Reminiscing About the Gridiron

As I wind down for the evening watching the 2-time defending Super Bowl champs fall to the Denver Broncos, I can't help but think about past times of my own on the football field. And, how I became so interested in this sport.

That's Moose. My dad. Bobby Cravens. He was arguably the BEST football player in the country coming out of Owensboro High School in 1955. Yep, he was MVP of a national all-star game in Memphis that year. He signed with the University of Kentucky (hence my love of the Wildcats), and is currently somewhere among the top 20 rushers in UK history. He's just recently fallen out of the top 15 and was number 2 when he was in school. People say you could hear him coming because he sounded like a train when he was running. He also played a few years for the Ottawa Roughriders. Yes, that's Canadian Football. But, with family in Kentucky, including a wife and daughter, he came back to Owensboro to serve the public. He became a police officer and retired after 25 years of service.

Pictures like the one above no doubt influenced my decision to lace 'em up and don the uniform of the Red Devils of OHS. Or was it the fact that my oldest brother, Rob, played for the Devils. It was during his championship team of 1975 that I remember traveling to the games, sitting in some pretty hostile environments, cheering on the red and black. Or maybe it was Terry, my other older brother who played in the early 80's and could hit like no other 180 pound linebacker you've ever seen. Of course there are the ladies of the family, starting with mom. Yep, you guessed it; Jane was a cheerleader during Moose's years on the gridiron. Oldest sister Joni, and my other sister Judy also carried the pom-pons for Owensboro Senior.

Yep, the more I think about it, I really had no choice, even though my dad always told me, "you don't have to play if you don't want to." You see, I was ALWAYS the smallest guy on the field. Hard to believe when you look at me now but it's true. I can remember the first time I went out for Pop Warner, the folks behind the desk said to my mom, "ma'am, you'll have to sign this special waiver saying it's OK for him to play because he doesn't weigh 60 pounds." I never let that stop me from laying it all on the line to make sure the coaches saw me. Moose always told me, when the coach wants someone to do something in practice always step forward. I kept on stepping forward even in high school when I must've been the smallest lineman voted to the All-Conference team at 165 pounds soaking wet!

It's that kind of advice that I believe makes sports so valuable in life. I think without football, without sports, I'd be a different person. Oh sure, I wouldn't spend Sunday afternoons on the sofa watching the NFL, and that might be a good thing. But, I know I certainly did better in school with the motivation that came from sports. I think coaches can be some of the most influential people there are. I've volunteered for my daughter's soccer team because I think it can make a difference in a child's life. A difference that can last a lifetime.

I'll leave you with this final picture. It's from the time Moose scored a couple of TD's against Tennessee to down the Volunteers. If you know anything about Kentucky football, anything about Tennessee football, you'll know that was a big deal.


Smitty said...

That's super cool.. Great post, Ken. I wasn't aware of your dad's legacy in UK's football history. Thanks for sharing!

Colonel Corn's Camera said...

Your fooball story makes mine look like a childrens book. I didn't have enough self essteem to get on the field. My Dad was a baseball and basketball player and I failed at both. So I didn't make onto the sport I really loved. I did play frat ball in college. Those guys tore me a new you know what. Enough to get it out of my system.