PLAYOFF WEEK, GRAND ISLAND — It’s Tuesday morning at Grand Island Senior High School. Not quite 7:45 a.m.
And, all of Jeff Tomlin’s football players are getting showered up after a morning walk through before they go to class. They’ll do the same after school to get ready for Omaha North on Friday night.
When you sit in Coach Tomlin’s old school office — it’s part football machine, part boiler room — you wonder if a guy like Coach T, as his players know him, would do this in the middle of Alaska. The answer, of course, would be a resounding yes.
He’s a football guy.
“Late October and early November,” he says with a big grin. “My favorite time of the year.”
You wonder how many kids he has impacted in a lifetime of coaching and he’d probably quip back that kids have made him better, not the other way around.
You know it’s been hard when you see the funeral programs of awesome kids like Sam Foltz and Nick Galvan on the bulletin board behind his desk. And, then you smile knowing that no one else could have gotten a kid or a team through that like Jeff Tomlin.
This time of year, though, it’s not just about guys like Jeff Tomlin. They are all over Nebraska influencing young men to become the best person they can be.
There are more hideaways where these guys build game plans for “their boys.” Most of them are like Kevin Stein’s — just off the locker room at Grand Island Northwest, amid that perfect odor of shoulder pads and grass stained pants. Glen Snodgrass’ is right off his second home in the weight room at York High.
It’s there where they change lives.
Some coaches got their kids into it. Imagine the pride Bishop Neumann’s Tim Turman must feel coaching his team, yet wondering how his sons, Matt and Seth, will handle their games at Omaha Skutt and Millard West on Friday night. Or, the stories that Randy and Troy Huebert might share as they prepare Papillion-La Vista and Central City for playoff games, too.
You wonder how much time all of these men and their staffs have put into making kids successful over the years. And, you wonder how many of those hours have been reciprocated with a thank you.
Because if you asked them, they’d do it all for nothing. In fact, they don’t get any extra money for these additional practices and games that might take them anywhere across our vast state. Yet, they’d never want to miss the opportunity for their kids to play in these games.
“When you have to practice in half pads and you get to wear sweats and a sweatshirt, you know that’s a time of year to cherish,” Stein said.
So, these extra lessons begin today.
In towns like Hemingford and Mullen and Ord and Howells and Harvard and Grand Island and York and Omaha. They are all right there for you to see and hear and soak in from the bleachers or the track or the sideline.
Be the best you can be. You’ll remember this night, this game, with your buddies for the rest of your life. Leave nothing to chance.
The men we call coach know it all too well. Does the end result matter? Sure, but it’s more than the result and a month of football in 2018.
It will matter most, see, when a kid gets to go to college because of coach. And it will matter when coach shakes that kids hand after he gets married. Or, when years down the road, Coach gets sick and needs a pep talk like the one he used to give. So, the player, who is now a coach, hops on a plane and gives him one.
That’s what these playoffs will be about for these men we call coach. Because the lessons they teach will last long past November. And for that we can only say this.