High School Sports

An open letter from a senior possibly playing his last game: Dear football, I’m gonna miss you

Throughout the Carolinas the next two weeks, thousands of senior players will play their final high school football game. At Providence, senior defensive back Caleb Bellamy, 17, approaches this week with regret and hope.
Throughout the Carolinas the next two weeks, thousands of senior players will play their final high school football game. At Providence, senior defensive back Caleb Bellamy, 17, approaches this week with regret and hope. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Friday night, Providence High’s Caleb Bellamy may be putting on his shoulder pads, jersey and helmet for the last time. It’s Senior Night. Providence is playing host to Charlotte Catholic. Like many teenagers throughout the Carolinas, Bellamy is playing his last home game, perhaps his final game.

A 17-year-old senior defensive back, Bellamy doesn’t have college scholarship offers but has been applying to schools such as Charlotte, Charleston Southern, East Carolina and Wingate.

“I have been thinking about (this) night for a long time,” Bellamy said Sunday, taking a break from watching his favorite NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys. “I’m not sure how to feel.”

Here, in his words, is Bellamy’s love letter to the game he’s adored for so long.

I have been thinking about how I started out in football, back when I was young, and how I’ve gotten to this point. I started when I was 7. I was a tight end and an offensive lineman. I didn’t have contacts back then and couldn’t see well. It was hard to catch passes. But coach moved me to cornerback after he saw me covering somebody and it kind of went from there, always practicing to improve my speed and my footwork.

But it’s not the games I remember most back then. I remember (South Mecklenburg defensive back) Josh McNeely and I would get chili cheese hot dogs at the concession stands. We’d always compare which place had the best. We had fun. We hung out with our older teams. It was like a big family. Our coaches were tough on us, though, and prepared me. A lot of my Pee Wee teammates are playing college ball now or are about to go.

I don’t have any college offers right now, so this could be my last game. It kind of makes me nervous.

It seemed like those days are so long ago now.

I’ve been thinking about that, about how I’ve gotten to this point – all the hard work, the running, the lifting, all the practices – everything I’ve put in from freshman year until senior year.

I will always remember my first varsity start. We went down to South Carolina to play Summerville High School. They’re a traditional power. We won 10-9 (to start the 2015 season). I remember that game because it was one of the best games I’d ever played. I had a big hit that led to a fumble that led to our game-winning touchdown. I knew I was going to start because I had been running with the varsity first team the whole summer. So I knew I was going to play and I knew it was going to be a big challenge.

I was nervous. I knew they would come after me, with me not playing the prior year and seeing a new face out there.

That Friday was special. But every Friday has really been special to me. I know this one is going to probably be my No. 1 game to remember because it’s Senior Night. It’s my last game and I’m going to try to go out there and perform my best. This game will mean more. I want to make it last.

I’m not nervous about the future. I know I’ll be prepared. My mom and dad have prepared me for that. Still. ...

This whole week is a little sad. It’s a little bittersweet. I know I’ll miss playing high school football, the feeling of walking into school on a Friday morning, or walking in on a Monday after a win. I don’t have any college offers right now, so this could be my last game. It kind of makes me nervous.

Football’s always been there for me and I don’t know how it’s going to be without it in my life. I’m going to miss it a lot.

I will miss the competition and I’ll miss just meeting people. The best thing about playing football is each year you get to restart with a different team. No team is the same. You always have to jell and you’ve got to play your game. You can’t come out and expect things to be handed to you.

But I’m not saying I don’t want this week to end. I kind of want to see what the future holds for me, even without football. I’m not nervous about the future. I know I’ll be prepared. My mom and dad have prepared me for that. Still. ...

This is a “ginormous” game. It is a great big game. Will I be able to sleep Thursday night? I think I’ll be fine, but Friday I’ll be super anxious. I’ll get real nervous trying to get to the game. I don’t know how I’ll be able to focus in class. I’ll be thinking, ‘This is my last game.’

I want to make it special.

On senior night, Darius Johnson, who has served four years as manager of the soccer teams at Providence High School, got to live his dream. He was in the starting lineup for one of the biggest games of the year.

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