I am going to speak from the heart, today. Some of you folks know me as Ben, the ValpoLife guy. Others know me as that guy who carries a camera around occasionally. Coach Mark Hoffman knows me as Ski.
Yes, I was a Viking Football player, and Coach called me ‘Ski’ because it was far too much of a mouthful to scream ‘Kolodzinski’ as I frustrated him on the football field.
I say that relatively jokingly, of course. Coach Hoffman refers to me as ‘Ski’ to this day, and still reminds me of my playing days. In an odd twist, through my journeys in the media industry, I have always weaseled my way into being able to cover Viking Football.
Am I reliving my past? Nah. I am, however, proud to be a part of a program like Valparaiso High School. Since my playing days, I haven’t been more proud of the team that takes the field every Friday.
I played my years on teams that were nationally ranked in the early 2000s. I was lucky enough to be elected captain my senior year. I have a state runner up ring, and a dusty old letterman’s jacket filled with football patches. That doesn’t matter, it’s all in the past, and these men are NOW.
What does matter is this: This team of young men is making me and the Valparaiso community proud. It is more than thrilling to me, to know that these men held up the Sectional Championship trophy, brimming with pride over their accomplishment.
I want these guys to realize, they mean more to this community than they know. They are a fantastic story, and win, lose, or draw; they have made our city electric over the past few weeks. Their passion and their fun-loving attitude is contagious, and their strong team chemistry is prevalent in every hard fought victory that they have.
With a perfect season thus far, and a Regional Championship game next weekend, the season stands at a brink.
Thousands of supporters throughout the area are pulling for you. You have made us proud. No matter what the outcome is, you are our team.
Whenever I see my Alma Mater holding up a trophy, I remember back to an astro-turf covered field, in the ol’ Hoosier Dome. I sat on that field, proud at what a season that we, as a team, had put together. With a red-ribbon’ed metal draped around my neck, and a runner up trophy tucked under my arm, I was proud.
With hard work, Vikings, you are capable of great things. I’m not going to sit here and ask for you to win. I am, however, going to sit here and tell you to lay it all on the line. Play every play with the passion that got you hear. Take every down like it could be your last. Run every play like your life depended on it. Play like you have your community backing you. Lay it all on the field.
Most of all, gentlemen, have fun. It won’t be too long until you’re in a position like me. These are the times of your lives, so make the most of it.
If you play to your potential, and with all of your heart, you will be able to look yourself in the mirror after the game, and say “I gave it my all.” That is all I ask.
With some heart, hustle, grit, and maybe a lucky bounce or two, you can be sitting in Indianapolis with a blue ribbon’ed metal draped around your neck.
First things first. One game at a time. Go out there and give it your all, and make us proud.