The Journal Express
---- — Kids these days are all selfish, lazy and don’t have respect. Tell that to the Knoxville 8th grade football players and you might have some strong disagreement. During the second game on Tuesday, October 1 vs. Centerville, fans got to see how much class and respect middle schoolers can show.
Early in the second quarter of the second game Centerville was on offense, with the ball on their own 10 yard line. After a hand off up the middle, the officials whistled the play dead as players unpiled themselves. Something no fan, parent, coach or player ever wants to see, not everyone got up. One of Centerville’s linemen had injured his ankle and it wasn’t one he could just “walk off.” The officials immediately motioned his coach onto the field as both teams took a knee, waiting and hoping he’d get up. It was quickly apparent his injury was too severe, so they called an ambulance and waited.
After a short couple of minutes it arrived and they assessed it as a severe ankle injury. The officials and coaches then decided whether to continue playing. They all agreed it would be better to call the game. Many fans gathered their jackets and started to leave Ken Locke Stadium, while others noticed what Knoxville’s players were doing. They’d taken off their helmets, and all kneeled around the 40 yard line, watching the Centerville player getting taken care of. “I just didn’t think it was appropriate to give the enthusiastic post-game speech with their player still on the field,” said Knoxville’s coach, Ben Overman. “This was a time to show genuine respect for their fallen player.” For the next 10 minutes they sat and watched silently, not even removing their shoulder pads. Overman summed up why the players stayed on the field instead of leaving. “Yes he was an opponent, but he was also an 8th grade kid. He also works hard, goes to classes, has homework and hangs out with friends. He also went through weeks of 100 degree heat, running plays and doing everything else our players do. So yes he was an opponent but the players knew it was a time to show mutual respect.”
Once the EMS stabilized his leg, as soon as they lifted him onto the stretcher the team walked over to him and every player patted his shoulder and told him “good game”.
They then quietly got their gear and returned to the middle school. Overman stated he’s trying to instill the same level of class for the program as varsity coach Troy Rider. “I see everything he and the coaching staff is doing to produce not only good players but good representatives of the school and town, and it definitely needs to start early.”
Fellow 8th grade coach Mike Keefer added, “All coaches, at every level in Knoxville are teaching them how to become grown men and women, and how to treat people in general.”
Overman summed up why the players did what they did. “Whether they realize it or not, they’re learning and also teaching others how to behave. They’re not necessarily pulling them aside and saying ‘when someone gets hurt this is what you do’ but just by watching, the younger kids look up to them, and learn how to show class. This was more than offense and defense, this is about how you behave with respect, no matter what, even if no one’s looking. They won’t remember the score of this game, probably won’t remember their record in 8th grade football, but this was bigger than football and hopefully this will stay with them.”
So next time anyone starts complaining how “kids these days” are so selfish, rude or disrespectful, always remember how Knoxville’s 8th grade football players treated someone they’d never even met.