Saying goodbye to football is not easy

Senior defensive lineman Jacob Gonzalez celebrates after making a play.

I never thought this day would come as quick as it did. 

The final time being out on a football field. 

It’s been one hell of a ride but, I’m not sure if I’m ready to let go. 

My whole life revolved around football since the second grade and it holds a special place in my heart. My earliest memories as a kid involved playing football in my yard with my neighbors. 

Having my stepdad be my coach throughout my youth pushed me to work hard and he taught me how to be a leader. Even when I was home, my dad and I had our own football game we used to play each night and created our own football league. There wasn’t a moment where football wasn’t being talked about.  

During my modified days, I started to grow my knowledge of the game. Coach Wally and Guido allowed me to find happiness in the game by making it fun. I’ll always remember playing sharks and minnows for tackling and one-on-one board drills for blocking. The best game had to have been capture the flag, but unfortunately in today’s world, you would never be able to play them.   

Going into high school, I was ready to contribute to the team in any way possible. As a freshman, I was lucky enough to have role models like Brandon Jourdanais, Dan and Cody Hayner and Andrew Clark to help mold me. Those guys were gritty players who would push themselves beyond limits to make sure the team was successful. No matter how much pain they were going through, they always put their hand back in the dirt to hit you harder than the last play.   

Only two games into my freshman year, I was put into a starting spot after Dan Hayner got injured. 

From then on, I was the starter. It built so much confidence within me that I was able to compete with the best. At that point, my commitment to the game only became stronger.  

I started to track my calories and eat the right amount of food each day. I started to work out more than ever and eventually got a personal trainer to push me even further as an athlete. I took football more seriously than a lot of people I grew up with because I had a goal. 

I wanted to play at the next level and there was nothing stopping me from achieving that dream. I gave up a lot during my high school days, skipping out on my friends to pursue my goal. Although I missed some moments, I don’t regret any of it because of where I am today. 

I came to Castleton not knowing this would be my home for the next five years. The moment I came onto campus, I fell in love. The voicemail before I was accepted into the program is still on my phone to this day. That phone call changed my life and allowed me an opportunity I had long dreamed of.  

I was leaving home for the first time, and I was nervous coming in, but I was confident that I could be dominant. 

Boy, was I humbled.  

It wasn’t fun at all, but it was the growth I needed to realize that I’ve got some work to do.  

Before my next season, COVID happened and we didn’t have a season. I stayed home but I still stayed committed to get faster and stronger. 2021 was a building year to perfect my craft as a player. Opportunities were limited, but it was the first time getting out on the field and starting one game.  

The following year, the seniors had left and it was my time to take over. Unfortunately, it started off slow for me. I didn’t earn the right to be the starter, but I was going to prove that I could, with the opportunities I would soon be given. Before conference play started, I finally was able to start and had a great year. 

All these memories are great, but there’s something missing. Winning a championship.  

2023 was my final year to be able to achieve my dream. It was the main reason why I decided to come back. Being points away from a championship in the past two years, I needed to do this. 

My best friends throughout five years of playing at Castleton that have stuck through it all with me wanted nothing more than that same goal.  

 But some dreams aren’t meant to come true and it’s hard to come to terms with it after all the time and commitment put into it. It took me a while to come to peace with this. It’s the thoughts of regret that start to fill your mind when you’ve got nothing to show for it all.  

Then, you remember the journey and the lifelong friendships and memories you’ve created. The highest of highs and lowest of lows. Pushing through adversity when you couldn’t imagine doing one more rep. The little things along the way will last a lifetime, which takes all the regret away. 

You need to cherish the moments when you can because someday, you won’t ever be able to relive them.  


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