Who says you can't come home again? Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford came home to Dallas and lit up Cowboy Stadium this past Sunday night. He also lit up some Cowboy fans' hearts, too. Hard to see "'Da Boys" lose, but great to see a local kid have a great day and game. Matt's been doing some great things for a while now both on and off the football field. He has been influencing my 11-year-old football-crazed sons for about 6 years, mostly off the field. Neither one of them knows the connection. Sometimes it takes a mom to spot the great things in life.
Get to Class-You Can Pass
Back when Stafford was just Matty from the block, he walked down my street almost every day going to high school. My son was barely in pre-school. Matt was the talk of the town back then, but a nice, grounded kid. My son would play in the front yard before pre-school. Matt would stop from time to time to toss a football and, yes, he went out to the street to retrieve a stray toss because my son, naturally, was not allowed to go past the sidewalk. I would just smile and say thank you to Matt. What a good kid.
Oh UGA! Matt earned a scholarship to the University of Georgia. I forgave him for not going to my beloved University of Texas. Matt took half of Dallas with him to Athens and for many years to come. Matt opened our eyes to the possibility that our kids could to college out of state and survive! Thanks Matt!
A Little Civil Disobedience
Matt got drafted out of college by the Detroit Lions. We were all excited. When Matt comes back to the neighborhood, he always signs autographs and plays with the kids. One weekend before a Super Bowl, Matt was home and running the offense for the local grade school pick-up football game in front of the high school. To say thank you, the grade school set decided to wrap Mrs. Stafford's house with toilet paper (Nothing says "I like you" as much as 6 packs of tissues in your trees and lawn!). Matt took it in the spirit in which it was intended. The next morning he was out cleaning the yard early, as any other recipient of a tp-ing would (In other words, before his mother found out!). Thank you, Matt, for setting such a good example and for being such a good sport. Not once have I had I had to clean up toilet paper in my front yard since Matt showed the neighborhood kids proper etiquette. I just smile and say thank you.
Rites of Passage
In our neighborhood, the kids look forward every year to the annual YMCA Spring Track Meet, in which all the grade school kids compete for their school for track and field bragging rights. It's a tradition that has been going on for many years, and the results are recorded in a book to keep the bragging rights alive. One record, however, is so revered, that it is permanently marked on the field. It is Matt Stafford's 3rd grade soft ball toss. Grown men couldn't achieve the distance 9-year-old Matt tossed not too many years ago. Kids measure themselves against the bench mark he set. How do you stack up against Matt? My son practiced and practiced for weeks for the meet. No, he did not out-throw our local boy turned NFL star, but he did place 7th in the event. He was beyond thrilled. He had learned a valuable life lesson: that hard work and effort does pay off In the long run! I just smiled and said, "Thank you, Matt!"
Our latest encounter with Matt came this past Sunday at Cowboy Stadium. My son wore a jersey from our local high school, not a Detroit Lion jersey or a Dallas Cowboy jersey. He managed to get to front of the tunnel where the away team was heading back to the locker room after their stunning win. In all the celebration, my son was able to get Matt's attention! Matt noticed the jersey and threw his hand towel to my son (shades of the Mean Joe Green Coke ad!). It went a row too high. Oh no! Matt shook his head and pointed to my son. It was his towel. The other fan reluctantly turned over the prize! After all, my kid is from the block, too! We have to stick up for each other! Matt pointed out the boy and the jersey to a teammate. Calvin Arvil (#92), added one of his defenseman's glove to my son's haul. I just smiled and said, "Thanks, Matt!"
Pass it On
Monday after school, you can probably envision the scene. The story of Matt, Calvin, the towel and glove were told and re-told. The daily game of pick up football was played. As I looked down the street, I saw that some new players had joined the team: pre-school boys who wanted to join, with the "big boys" acting now as player/coaches. After all, they are kids from the block, too. I just smiled and said, "Thank you, Matt Stafford!"
The lesson? In sports as in life, kindness begets kindness.
Gretchen Rose is a wife and mom of a teen and tween from Dallas, Texas. She and her husband are owners of KidzMat, the premier organizational equipment for all youth sports teams.
Posted October 6, 2011