It’s Thanksgiving week — a week for gratitude and gatherings, and in our house, a week of five family events full of food. Five. And of those five, three are packed to overflowing with our football family.

And for that, I am so very thankful.

#1– because I love them.

And #2– because that means we’re still in the playoffs — Round 3, the quarterfinals.

Today, we hosted a roster-load of boys for lunch after practice — my husband’s position players and the ones I’ve taught in my classroom. It’s becoming a Thanksgiving tradition.

My heart bursts with love and pride for these boys and the program that guides and goads them through the myriad sacrifices football demands. These boys are called to this sport. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t do it. It’s just too tough, too grueling.

But these players have embraced the grind. And I’m thankful they have because they make my life so much fuller and richer as a result.

Pouring some love into them by way of lasagna is my attempt to give back to these hard-working, hard-fighting boys. They’re honestly some of my favorite humans in all the world.

Some are dark-skinned and some are light-skinned, some are freckled and some are fair. Some have mullets, others buzz cuts; some have high fades, others ‘fros.

A few drive pickups, a couple, clunkers, a good many catch rides from the rest. They are random parts offense, mostly-parts defense, and a couple parts playing both ways.

They come from all walks of life and from all parts of town… and they’ve all taken up residence in my heart.

Today, this mixed crew of kiddos sang karaoke in our basement, shot some really bad pool, played backyard football, and consumed three entire lasagnas, six loaves of garlic bread, four dozen chocolate chip cookies, a pan-and-a-half of red velvet brownies, and 64 bottled waters. Oh, and two ā€”count them, TWO ā€” ate some salad. (Their mothers are insanely proud right now.)

These boys have big appetites and big dreams.

And I see every last one of them scoring those dreams. I really do. Because they work harder at life than I ever dreamed of working at their age.

They’re something special. Like, really special.

And there’s nothing more satisfying for me as a mom, teacher, and coach’s wife than seeing a bunch of really big boys I love dearly fill up their plates and fill up their bellies.

It fills up my heart to overflowing.