Column: Brother from another mother

Published 8:01 am Sunday, August 27, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

While I interviewed players and coaches for this year’s football magazine, I was struck by a common thread.

Many of the players mentioned that they had been mentored by either an older player or a coach, and that relationship has inspired them to carry on the brotherhood onto the next generation of players like they did for them.

During the Mark Freeman era at Thompson, each of his quarterbacks have taken their future successor under their wings and taught them what it meant to be the Warriors’ starting quarterback, from Taulia Tagovailoa to Sawyer Pate to Conner Harrell.

That has only carried on with Thompson’s current quarterback duo, Zach Sims and Trent Seaborn. While Sims could have been jealous of the growing national spotlight on Seaborn, he continued doing what he’s always done: be Seaborn’s friend and mentor on and off the field, just like Harrell was for him.

As a result, Thompson has been able to utilize both quarterbacks’ strengths to be successful, and Sims has experienced an extremely fulfilling relationship with his successor.

“To me, it means the world because I get to do what the guys before me did,” Sims said. “Conner was like my big brother. I would ask him questions about everything, and I would come to him about stuff. So for me to be an older guy now and to be that for Trent, to me, it just means a lot just to keep the tradition going and keep the brotherhood going that we have.”

Pelham quarterback Clayton Mains echoed Sims as he talked about how former Panthers signal caller Will Lankford was his Conner Harrell. Now that Mains is the man for Pelham, he wants to carry on the culture that Lankford and former coach Tom Causey started into the future under coach Mike Vickery, and he’s not alone.

“I’m pretty sure every single other guy in my grade would say the same thing, to have that one guy that always would help them out on their journey. And for me, that guy was Will Lankford,” Mains said. “I promise you that guys like that are the reason that Pelham keeps building on what they build every single year.”

It’s no surprise that many of the successful programs around the area have pointed to the brotherhood and culture that they developed to allow them to carry past success into the present and future.

We are who we are because of the people who shape us. And while they can sometimes be your family, other times, it’s the chosen family around us that helps the most.

As the oldest in my family, I had my parents and grandparents to look up to, but not anybody who I could call a “big brother.” However, throughout my athletic career and into college, God placed those people into my life.

I think back to a group of seniors who were the leaders of the cross-country team when I started running as a freshman. Many of them, but most notably a senior named Paul, took me and my friends under their wings and made sure that we didn’t just belong on the team, but within the school as well. They played video games with us, talked to us in the halls and did everything they could to make us feel welcome.

Fast forward to my senior year, and while those seniors and many of my friends were gone from the team, I had the opportunity as team captain to be a Paul for the freshmen runners. I didn’t have to do it, but I did it because something in me wanted to make them feel as welcome as I did when I was their age.

Because I chose to do that, I had some of the most rewarding moments of my career seeing my teammates not just improve on their times, but step up as the leaders that the team would need in the years to come.

While my sports dreams died at graduation, I still had older students who I met in college who mentored me like an older brother. I frequently think about the impact that my friend Davis had on me simply because he picked me out from a crowd and chose to get to know me and guide me through college.

Even though we have both graduated, we still have deep conversations for hours on end whenever we talk, and his influence inspired me to be the same person to anybody I met at college.

After Kanye West salutes his mentor JAY-Z on his song “Big Brother,” he closes the song with some advice for the listener.

“So here’s a free word from your kid brother / If you admire somebody, you should go ahead, tell them / People never get the flowers while they could still smell them”

We all have people in our lives who have loved us like family even when they weren’t and made us into who we are. Oftentimes, they don’t get the chance to hear our gratitude because of the busyness of life, and we don’t sing their praises until it’s too late for them to hear them.

I’m so proud that we got to give flowers to the football players who shaped the stars of today. My challenge to you is to reach out and honor someone who influenced you greatly in the same way. You have no idea what it will mean to them, because they likely have no idea how much they mean to you.