This week feels surreal. Saturday, our team won their state title game in the Georgia Dome. Saturday, all the hard work and hard knocks of the 2016 football season paid off. Saturday, our wildest dreams as a football family came true.  I knew that today I would write about it. But now, as I stare at my computer screen, I don’t think it’s possible. I don’t think  I can get all the sights, the smells, the sounds, the feels into a mere blog. No, let me rephrase — I KNOW I can’t get all the sights, the smells, the sounds, the feels into a mere blog. It’s impossible. But I will try my utmost because our players and coaches and wives and families gave our utmost all season long, and I want to at least attempt to pay tribute to their sacrifices and their accomplishments…

And so… Saturday. Saturday, Cane Nation descended upon the Georgia Dome. A swirling vortex of players, coaches, families, and fans. A perfect storm spawned in tradition, solidified by teamwork, shouldered by sacrifice and driven by character. And that perfect storm ended in victory. And not because the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes are bigger or stronger than any other team they faced – on the contrary. The other teams were almost always the bigger and stronger in every match up. But this team is disciplined. They are driven. And they are full of “The Wills” — the “Willfulness” to keep going despite opposition, the “Willpower” to make it happen, and most important of all, the “Willingness” to be coached – to adjust, to learn, to give, to change, to grow.

Our coaches and players own The Wills. We put up 58 points in a title game. We held our opponent to 7. We forced six turnovers – five fumbles and an interception. We scored seven touchdowns – one on a glorious scoop and score. We’ve been at the grind for twenty-four weeks solid without a break since July. We ended it all with a perfect season. And we’ve gone 30-0 in two perfect seasons. That’s what having The Wills can do.

And it’s not just the coaches and players who have them. The wives own them, too. We adjust, we learn, we give, we change, we grow. I could point out all the traditional sacrifices – like the long, lonesome hours, the empty spots at the dinner table, the single-parenthood, the struggles with resentment — the generally known, but not necessarily understood, hardships of being a football wife. But instead, I will show a not-uncommon, but far-lesser-known (and decidedly far-greater) sacrifice that football wives often make that truly displays their willpower, willfulness, and willingness to be part of the team. This season, our coaching staff gained three new babies – with a fourth due to arrive in the next couple of weeks. These wives single-handedly took on the tender weeks and months of their infants’ new lives while daddy was on the field or at the field house six out of seven days a week. I don’t know that anyone, anywhere can possibly fathom the mental and physical endurance such a feat requires. That, my friends, is what having The Wills can do.

Now I’m not saying it was easy on the new daddies either. Far from it. It tore at their hearts and gnawed on their consciences. What I am saying is that football is one tough task master.  If you don’t have what it takes to weather its adversities, it will chew you up and it will spit you out. It’s the nature of the game. It’s full of tackles, sacks, dog piles, and dirty calls. And I’m talking the politics of the game here, not just the game.  It comes with hard knocks.

Case in point: Six years ago, in November, my husband, my affectionately coined “tall mug of caramel coaching macchiato,” was fired from his football job. Fired after giving his utmost to his players, his fellow coaches, and his school. He and his friend and head coach had pulled a losing program out of the trenches and finished strong with four solid wins. The program was on the very cusp of a turnaround. And they were fired.

Being fired bruised him. It cut him deep inside. It left him questioning his calling.

But Mike refused to stay down. He refused to come out of the game. He girded up his soul with courage and gumption, learning and gleaning from three different programs in six different years. He fought his way out of the dog pile and back to the top.  He disciplined himself. He adjusted. He learned, he gave, he changed, he grew. He found The Wills. And, the football gods have blessed him accordingly.

Six years ago my husband and his friend were fired. This year, my husband and his friend  BOTH won their respective state title bids: one in Minnesota; one in Georgia.

Football is a tough task master. It damn near breaks you before it  grants your rewards. But if you have the willfulness to endure, the willpower to push harder, and the willingness to learn then you WILL win. It’s only a matter of time. It’s the nature of the game.

And so it goes with life.