illustration by kelsey king
Since high school, fall for me has been consumed with football. From my freshman to senior year at Detroit Lakes High School, it started in late summer with training camp. My teammates and I would walk into the school’s wrestling room, where we had our team meetings. We’d take off our shoes and sit down in our football gear on the mats, and coach would talk about goals and expectations for the season. I always felt nervous. As a freshman and sophomore, I was figuring out where I’d fit in, and I wanted to make a good impression, so I could play. But there was also lots of excitement. We all lived in the same small town, so I had known these guys since I was really young. We grew up wakeboarding, tubing, jet skiing, and playing sports together—and now, in high school, we got to pull together everything we accumulated all those years to do something special. Throughout the year, we returned to that wrestling room to review tapes and see where we could improve. By the time I was an upperclassman, I had a lot more confidence. But even now that I’ve been in the NFL since 2013, I still get nerves on that first day back. It’s not knowing what to expect. It’s trying to make an early impact. And it’s also that excitement: to get back to work, to get back to that competitive gene, and to get back with your teammates.