The engine roared through the wet November night as the charter bus pulled away from Wildcat Stadium in Durham, New Hampshire. As we began our nine-hour trek back to the Cundey Varsity house in Bethlehem forty passengers sat in mourning and silence.
The championship season was over and it ended in embarrassment.
I was in the back. My seat was reclined and leaning against the bus’s bathroom. I sat alone, eyes looking out onto the illuminated field. A state of desolation occupied my aching body and pounding head. My thoughts seemed to have no beginning or end, one after the other. Eventually, the field dissolved into the night, along with my racing mind as my eyes wandered down to the carpeted floor.
Before long, my gaze began to move up and away from the carpet’s colorful pattern and onto the grey sweatpants that covered my sprawled out legs. Then I caught sight of my scarred right arm. The three inch wide skin graft beginning at my shoulder and ending at my wrist brought forth a new thought. It wasn’t the haunting memory of the night I fell into the fire or the following weeks filled with excruciating pain and regret. This was different and calming. It allowed me to reflect on what I had been through, and overcome, since arriving at Lehigh. It was clarity and I embraced it.
What a journey.
It’s been nearly six months since that bus ride home, and for a while I wasn’t sure if I would have an opportunity to reflect on my time at Lehigh. Luckily for me, I waited until the last week of school (ever) to complete my journalism major’s article requirement.
My time at Lehigh was anything but smooth sailing. When I inevitably ended up overboard, for the most part, it was self-inflicted. God blessed me with the ability to worry little about the future or past, which is OK until he decided to mix it with a hard-headed personality that provides me with the ability to excel in not learning my lesson. This combination led to a number of events which for anyone else would render them deserted by their exasperated support system. Luckily for me, I defied the odds and never stood alone.
This is for those people. To those of you who stuck with me, the people who didn’t give up on me or picked me up when I was at my lowest. This is a sincere thank you to all of those who stayed the course with me and an “until next time” to those who I am soon about to part ways. None of it would have been attainable without all of my friends, teammates, coaches and family.
So this is it. Four years have come and gone, and the opportunity has finally materialized to say thank you to those who have impacted me over the years.
I arrived at Lehigh for our team’s summer workouts and conditioning on June 3, 2013. At the time, I was an immature 17-year-old football player with a one-track mind. I was stubborn and thought I had it all figured out. Thank you to those coaches who set me straight. As freshmen, we despised them and then grew to love each and every one by the time we became seniors. In my case, this feeling was mutual. From our sophomore 3-8 season to Patriot League champions, the roller coaster ride has been a memorable one, jam-packed with lessons learned.
Thank you to my teammates. We are all from different backgrounds, but nonetheless a cohesive group of 80 students, athletes, friends and teammates chasing one common goal. Thank you to the the fans, who gave me that feeling of serenity mid-game as I looked up into the stands to see family and friends on their feet, cheering us on.
Thank you to my parents for their unwavering support. They rode the roller coaster with me along every peak and valley. From hospital beds, to being awarded the Barry Fetterman Award as a senior. My pursuit of football began with five-day-a-week flag football practice at age four and ended 16 years later as both parents found the time, money and energy, despite two demanding careers, to fly up from South Florida and watch me play every weekend during my senior year. They have been an incredible support system, not just for the past four years, but my whole life. I’ll really miss the opportunity to make them proud by simply playing the game I have always loved.
Before that long ride back from New Hampshire, my playing days in the rear view, I never understood why people would say, “It’s not where you are, or where you are going, it’s about where you have been and how far you’ve come.” Now, as I begin my next chapter, I look back and understand what that means. The 6 a.m. conditioning sessions, personal lows and finally, a Patriot League Championship. It all adds up to the man I am today.
I will cherish it all, and if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I look forward to seeing you at the 153rd meeting.
Evan Harvey is a senior linebacker for the football team and a writer for The Brown and White.