My son and I love throwing a football back and forth on our tiny Chicago lawn. When he was young we would play catch with the football. First five yards, then ten yards, a little bit more, a little bit more.
In our neighborhood, each house is 30 feet wide, so as my son grew older, we would throw from longer distances. I would stand on a neighbor’s lawn, my son would stand on another lawn, throwing a football back and forth.
There’s something beautiful the way a football spirals and cuts through the air.
But the overhanging trees made it hard to throw long distances. The longer the throw, the football would hit the branches of the overhanging trees. That’s just the way it is.
Miguel sure can throw a football
Our neighbors would pass by, and sometimes we’d toss the football to them for fun. We had seen Miguel from time to time, his family lives two doors down from us. Nice family, Mexican Americans. Miguel was coming to visit.
Without saying a word to him, I nodded to him as he walked by on the sidewalk, he nodded back, and I flipped him the football.
Then he tossed the football to me. I tossed it back. I stepped back a few paces, and threw the football a bit harder to Miguel.
He threw it back even harder. Nothing mean, just having fun.
So my son Fritz joined us and I sat down on the front steps and watched.
Wow, Miguel could zing that football. My son Fritz and Miguel kept stretching the distance, still throwing to each other. Pretty soon my 6’6″ son was having a little trouble throwing the football longer distances. The arching football started hitting the tree branches.
But not Miguel’s throws. He kept zinging it. Even Fritz had to comment, “Nice throw, nice throw.” Beautiful passes, beautiful spirals, passes that almost hissed like a fastball they were so fast. Miguel was a player.
Miguel the Almost Quarterback
So I asked Miguel, “Did you ever play organized football? I’ve never seen anyone in person who could throw a football like you.”
Miguel smiled a bit. “Yeah. I tried out at Schurz High School but they said I was a gangbanger so they didn’t want me on their team. They wouldn’t let me play.”
Maybe he was a gangbanger as a teenager. Maybe the high school coach had every reason to not let him play. All I know is that here was this soft spoken 5’9″ soft spoken guy, 165 pounds max, throwing the football like an NFL quarterback. Amazing.
“Miguel, did you graduate from high school?”
After 20 minutes of watching him throw a football, his wife showed up on the front porch and he knew it was time to come inside and visit his parents. They were kind enough to chat a bit on the front porch.
I dared to ask the question I ask the neighborhood teens and young adults, “Did you finish high school Miguel?”
He dropped his head and said, “No, I dropped out.” But he quickly lifted his head, “But I’d like to get my high school degree.”
Then his wife joined in, “Me too. I want to finish it one day.”
Miguel is 29 years old, married, and has a young 3 year old daughter. If he wants to study and pass the GED test, I’ll help him.