This is painting number 21 of 52. It will hang in the new UAB Athletic Facility, inspired by the dedicated people that gave so much to bring UAB football back and the 2014 team. As a coach’s wife who witnesses every day the hope and beauty created through this program, I simply wanted to say, “Thank-you Birmingham”.
Some say football is just a game. And in a way, they might be right. But football is also something so much more. It is team, community, hard work and dedication. It is hope, opportunity, and faith in those who share your field. It is learning to pick yourself up after a loss and being a part of something bigger than yourself. It is a group of people that protect you and fight for you. It is a family.
So many people don’t get a chance to see some of the things that go on behind the scenes of a football program. I’ll be one of the first to admit that before I was married to a coach, I had no clue. If I’m being honest, I was more interested in a chance to make some tailgate cheese dip or get a new dress in my school colors! Now things are different. I get to know the players; their personalities, their backgrounds, their crazy dance moves, their nicknames like Phat Phat and Zay…and some of them I really get to see their heart. I get to know the coaches and what they put into the program. I see how much they love their players and want the best for them on and off the field. I will hurt if we lose and will get tears in my eyes when we win. I will watch the players run up to my kids after the games and give us the best sweaty hugs. That is why this experience of bringing back this program is so much sweeter than just giving young men a chance to play college football. It has allowed us to become family. It has allowed us to fall in love with Birmingham and the people that make up this great city. The people that fought for us to play this year.
Over the past year, I can’t help but think what if UAB had stayed shut down? What if the people that fought for this program had remained silent? I realize many of the guys here today could have gone on and received scholarships at other schools to play football. But what if some of them didn’t? What if those who knew UAB was to be their home and football was their way through the door? What if those guys now have a different path for their entire lives because of this experience? What if now they look at this opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves as something they take incredible pride in, and they make more mature decisions regarding their futures? What if UAB football becomes someone’s new beginning?
In a world that seems divided on issues, we can all agree that football programs bring people together. The stands will be made up of people with different political beliefs, people of different races, genders, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs, but all wearing Blazer green and gold and all cheering for the same team. We will be proud of our school and grateful that the right thing was done. What if the community of Birmingham grows closer thanks to all of you?
Truthfully, we may never know the answers to these what if questions. However, my belief is that if even one player’s life is changed for the better, one more person fills the stands to support the team, or a community of people comes together because of the decision to bring back this team, then this was absolutely worth fighting for. And it is my hope and belief that ALL of these things will in fact happen. So, thank you, to all those that took a stand. To those that donated money, made a call, put on a bumper sticker, wrote a simple email fighting for this program or bought season tickets. I sure do know one thing. Thanks to you, this UAB football team is back and they are going to make the most of their opportunity… Go Blazers!