A thrill only a kid could love
Even if Jacob had told all his sports-loving classmates the next day, none of them would’ve believed him, except he had an autographed football to prove it. But then he’d have to explain some or all of its backstory, and he wasn’t ready for that. There were just too many details that he was still trying to work out in his mind.
Jacob’s thrill came earlier that evening when he got to meet one of Dan’s friends. Dan, Jacob’s Big Brother, had driven 14 miles from campus to pick him to meet one of his fraternity brothers. Dan didn’t say who he would meet when he picked him up, but assured Jacob he’d know him.
On that blustery afternoon after school let out, Dan picked Jacob up. The roads weren’t bad because the plows were keeping ahead of the downfall. Rec Hall was where the duo were headed, and then to dinner afterwards.
Jacob had been to Rec Hall twice before to watch the varsity wrestling team. That’s all he knew about the facility. What he didn’t realize at the time was when Rec Hall wasn’t hosting Division 1 wrestling, basketball or volleyball matches, it was a major sports complex with dozens of fraternity and intramural sports leagues playing basketball, volleyball, racquetball, and other sports he never heard of.
Presently, they entered the building and the place was buzzing with activity. For the wrestling matches, everything was orderly and laid out. But tonight, people were sweating, yelling, and running around to get into shape. Jacob and Dan were not there to sweat or play; they were there to meet and greet.
The two walked up to the overhead walkways where they could watch multiple sports being played at one time. Jacob counted four pickup basketball games on one side of the walkway and two on the other. Dan checked his watch.
As if on cue, a man in a gray sleeveless Nittany Lions-logo sweatshirt approached the two.
“Dan,” the man said. “What’s going on? Who’ve you got here?”
Dan and the man shook hands.
“Jon, I’d like you to meet my Little Brother, Jacob. Jacob, you might know this man from the papers, Jon…”
“Hufnagle. Of course,” Jacob said, gazing up at the senior starting quarterback.
“So, you follow football, do ya?” the quarterback asked.
“Yes, yes, absolutely. Every game. Watch you on TV when it comes on. Number 16, you’re my favorite.”
“So, you’re Dan’s Little Brother?”
Jacob thought about the remark and offered the quarterback a weak “Mm hmm.”
The quarterback said, “I bet you make your Mom proud.”
Jacob slowly nodded and the nod turned into a grin.
What had Dan told this man about his Mom? What did he think of her?
“Yeah, I think she is proud,” said Jacob.
“She should be. I hear you get good grades and believe me, that’s important, maybe even more important than football or sports.”
Jacob considered the man’s words.
Dan pulled out a recent game football from his gym bag and gave it to Jon to sign.
“Here you go, Jacob,” the quarterback said. “Now you can show some of your friends back in school.”
To my new friend, Jacob.
You’re the Best,
Jon Hufnagle #16 PSU
Jacob may have had a conversation with Dan over dinner, but he didn’t remember. All he could remember was that he met a local sports star who called him by his first name.
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