Sports Editor's Column
July 3, 2008 · Updated 6:03 PM
"There have been times in my life when I needed to summon up my last reserves of effort and energy: commercial fishing in Alaska; working construction in the blast-furnace heat of southern Maryland summers, or the bone chilling cold of Colorado winters; fighting sleep deprivation midway through a Westpac on an aircraft carrier.The fact that I was able to endure and produce in those situations is due, in part, to two men - Phil Hutton and Larry Layman.Mr. Hutton coached the 85-pound, then 105-pound Boy's Club football teams I played nose guard and center for, and Mr. Layman coached me through high school football.From Mr. Hutton I learned to get back up whenever I was flattened on the field. And to have fun. He took football seriously - Friday-night skull practices were mandatory - but he also made a point of reminding his players that football was only a game. As long as we tried as hard as we could, we were winners despite the outcome.And Mr. Layman taught me that even though football is a team sport, it is necessary for each player, each individual, to discover their own tolerance for pain or exhaustion and learn how to play though it. That one could play through it.In addition, Mr. Layman also taught me the value of making every shot your best shot.I was a blocking fullback in high school - slow, but capable of delivering a lick when I got a little momentum. Layman taught me how to unload on opponents.Connolly, he'd say. Football is really just physics. When two players collide, the one who hits hardest doesn't absorb the impact. The one who doesn't, does. Later in life, the lessons those two coaches taught me served as an account I could draw from when my other reserves were low.And that's why years later, I still feel a sense of hope when a new season starts and a new group of youngsters try out for a sport they want to play. I realize that some, for the first time, will learn how to work together for a common goal. And that others will gain confidence while learning how to play through the hard times, while learning how to give something their best shot.Once learned, those kind of lessons are not easily forgotten. That's one of the reasons I'm looking forward to covering sports for this newspaper. I'll try to make Mr Hutton and Mr. Layman proud."