I stood in the middle of the frozen field at Elkhart Central listening to chants of "Play for Jake," watching parents, students, and players hug, and feeling like we all were one big family. Above it all, I felt there was someone else there with us, someone who was giving us life, strength, and a sense of overwhelming pride to wear the Slicer name. I, along with everyone else, knew it was Jake.
The success of the football team isn't about sports or competition. It's just not. The success about the football is about healing a community. The death of Jake West impacted a school like nothing I have ever witnessed in my life. It left a group of teens reeling and feeling broken and empty. Even a year later, the effects are still visible.
The last two years our football team has been 1-9. Now we are one game from the state finals. It's hard to argue that there isn't an angel on our side. Each win strengthens the spirit and resolve of a school and group of young men who had to witness something no one should ever have to. For the family, each win brings a connection to an irreplaceable piece of them.
It's not about football. It's about a group of young men fighting for a fallen teammate who meant everything to them and whose legacy they are trying to preserve. They are fighting for a woman who has become a mother to them and so many others. They are fighting for their school and friends because they know the hurt felt by so many. They are fighting for a community who banded around them during an unthinkable tragedy. They are fighting for each other because even when others didn't believe, they did.
I think it's time to rally around these young men who have been the best representatives of this city. They have epitomized courage, perseverance, resiliency, and heart. This Friday marks the biggest game of their lives, and they need to know that this community is behind them. Bundle up, and head over to Ft. Wayne Snider. We already know their biggest cheerleader will be there looking down from above.
Play for Jake,