Good evening ladies and gentleman. My name is Andrew Brown and I am a senior at East Lyme High School. I have the distinct privilege of representing my fellow players and I who have been recognized for both our excellence in the classroom, and on the football field. It’s startling to remember it has been nearly half of a year since we competed on the football field. Then, we were rivals clawing at each other’s throats, but tonight, we stand together as brothers; brothers who have been given the gift to compete every Friday Night on the gridiron.

Coaches, parents, players, and anyone else given the privilege of suiting up on Friday night, can you remember the butterflies fluttering through your stomach before the game? Can you remember the adrenaline pumping through your veins as you stormed the field? Can you remember being in the huddle surrounded by your teammates who have became your family? Finally, can you remember the highest of highs that came after victory, tempered only by the sorrow of defeat? As a coach once told me, “Football is an emotional game, played by emotional people.” No where else can you find the intensity of a football team, nowhere else can you find a group of guys willing to travel through hell for each other, no where else can you look around and find 50 brothers that have your back no matter what. This is what I have come to know and love about football. I think everyone here who has been touched by the game can agree with me, it is an experience that leaves you changed forever.

Football has taught me many things. First, it has taught me the value of hard work. Unlike many other sports, anyone who is willing to put their heart and soul into the game can find success; it isn’t all about talent or size; most important is having the courage to go out on the field and compete until the echo of the whistle, and to never stop getting better. Next, football has taught me how to overcome failure. There are times on the field and in life where we all fall down, but it is not about how hard you fall, it’s about you pick yourself up and get back to competing. Just as in life, on the football field there is no time for whining, complaining, or feeling sorry for yourself, there is just the next play. Also, I have learned how to live in the moment and enjoy the highs of success; they do not last forever and we must bask in them while they are present. Finally, I have learned to cherish and give football the utmost respect. It is a remarkable game, one that demands your full commitment. It also requires that you play the game the right way; always hustling and demonstrating class in triumph and defeat. I hope that, like me, my brothers have learned many of the same lessons.

But, we’re not here just to celebrate our success on the football field; we’re also here to recognize our hard work and accomplishment in the classroom. As I’m sure all the players here know, it is not easy to find a balance between 3 hour practices, your friends, your family, and school. But what is exceptional is that all of us here have found that balance and we have found success in more than one aspect of our lives. Because for many of us, all we have left of football as players are memories. What we have now is to focus on our academics and to form the foundation on which we will build the rest of our lives. While some are gifted with the opportunity to move onto the next level, for others like myself this is the end of our playing career; we can join the ranks of the many other washed up football players. However, now we have new opportunities, we have the knowledge to pass this gift on to the next generation, whether we do that as coaches or someday in the future as parents. In my mind, there is no greater gift than the ability to teach others how to play the game we love.

Finally, some thank yous are in order on behalf of myself and the players who join me here today. First, thank you to our friends and family for supporting us on and off the field; without you, none of us would be in the position we are today. Thank you to our teachers for their help in the classroom. Thank you to our coaches. I know my coaching staff has taught me as much about life as they have about football. They have been outstanding role models, and I couldn’t feel luckier to have them in my life. We all greatly appreciate their nomination to be here today. I particularly want to thank Rudy Bagos, my head coach. The summer before my sophomore year I moved from Wisconsin to East Lyme and there was no one more helpful in making my transition smooth and positive. Thank you to the Southeastern Connecticut chapter of the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame for hosting such an amazing and well put-together event. Thank you Jim Buonocore for your help organizing and keeping us informed. Finally, thank you to everyone else that has helped aid in our success and has aided in making this banquet happen. I feel blessed to have been given the gift to compete along side all my fellow players in the game we love, and I hope that you, like myself, can’t wait to spread our love for the game onto the next generation. And also, to take these lessons football has taught us and build a happy, successful, and football filled life upon the foundation we have forged.