MIDDLEVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — If sports are a teacher of life, then Thornapple Kellogg’s football team is another example of just that.
“Football brings out toughness that’s in a safe environment,” said head coach Jeff Dock. “Life is going to bring out toughness that you might not have any control over.”
There is a pair of Trojans who have already experienced some of life’s toughness.
“When I hit middle school, it really went downhill,” said senior Luke Stevenson. “I had no friends, and everyone looked at me like ‘hey he is stupid.’”
Stevenson has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. His middle school years were some of the hardest he has endured.
“Eventually, I learned to block all that negative out,” Stevenson said.
He has also learned to tackle a sport he loves. It challenges him at literally every practice.
“I tend to forget plays. I watch it one moment, and when it comes to my turn to take that rep, I forget it,” Stevenson said.
“This year the fullbacks, they coach him up all the time,” Dock said. “He comes out with his pen and paper and diagrammed plays, so he can learn them.”
Nate Hall is a 2019 Thornapple Kellogg graduate. He is also a lifeline of sorts for his teammates.
“I try my best like 100 percent,” Hall said. “I give my best effort to get these guys a lot better for the games and the practices.”
“In graduating last year, we thought we lost him. You know he was going to go on and do his thing,” Dock said. “He came and said, ‘can I continue to be the manager?’ I said Nate, ‘you can be the manager as long as you want man.’”
Both young men have benefited from the school’s cognitively impaired program. Each has also benefited from their time as key contributors to the football team.
“I get to be out here with the guys,” Stevenson said. “It really makes me feel like I belong somewhere.”
“We are like brothers,” Hall said. “All these guys have been looking out for me as long as I can remember.”
“Anytime you have examples of service leadership, no matter in what capacity,” Dock said. “When you can point to a guy and say here is a guy that didn’t have to come back.”
That can make all the difference in the game that’s played well beyond the lines on a football field.