Saturday morning at the airport, on the way to see Nick in his very last game as a player.
From snow-capped mountains...
To flat, flat Texas:
managed to finish a page from my new coloring book in the 2 hour flight!
We landed at 2:30, with it already raining, got to Georgetown at 3:30 and just barely made it to the end of the greeting line as the guys walked into the field house. Nick was the Iron Pirate and got to carry the banner at the front (behind the police escort):
Coach Austin came through right after I'd stopped filming and asked if we knew where to go for the pre-game stuff and he took us over to try and find the gate guy who we'd need to talk to. It was so early, he wasn't there yet, but Coach said, "Just tell him you're the senior parents. All two of you."
We'd realized right before Nick came through that the free tickets were back in the hotel room where we'd dropped off the bags and picked up Nell. Steph and Robert were getting close, so I stayed behind to meet them while the Mask crew returned to the hotel and picked up Whataburger on the way back, since we'd not eaten since breakfast and wouldn't have another chance until near midnight. The rain really started coming down while they were gone, so when Steph appeared, we huddled in her car and chatted. When they returned, I ran over to get my meal and came back, since Ali had arrived and was huddling up with them in the van. Note: a Whataburger without cheese just isn't the same. They got the order wrong, so it was pretty disappointing, but still filling.
And the rain just kept coming. Robert had pulled up the weather radar on his phone and it didn't look good.
When we went down to the field at 5:45, I snapped this photo from underneath the umbrella. There was practically no one in the stands.
And right then, the lightning stuck. And close. Sure enough, the announcement came over the loudspeaker that we were under a lightning delay for half an hour (provided no other strike happened in that time, else the half hour clock would start from zero again. The FIRST game of his career started the same way. And the first game of the season last year, the only one we flew in for? Ended up called after hours and hours of endless lightning strikes. We were so worried his last game wasn't even going to happen.
Under the bleachers trying not to freak out, my awesome friends kept cheering me up. Steph and Robert drove three hours to be in a monsoon with me. Marci and Ren came and found us as we waited.
And, that turned out to be the only lightning strike of the night.
The Pirates took the field and we took up position again along the sidelines. Steph manned my zoom lens for me. And, after the delay, folks had really shown up. So there were plenty of people in the stands, which was nice.
last time to enter the field leading the team
Bob hugging Dylan, Nick's roomate and the star running back who's been out the last half of the season with injuries
This is the point where, while the announcer is talking about Nick as the first graduating senior football player since 1950, he says to Coach Austin, "Man, when I come back for alumni reunions, all the other guys will be 80!" And, without missing a beat, Coach said, "They'll be a lot older than 80!"
Ok, probably pushing 90.
While we worked our way back up to the stands, Steph shot the coin toss and kick off.
The rain had let up to a light mist during the Nick recognition, but it got going again with a vengeance for the rest of the night. As soon as seem to lighten, all it would take is someone lowering their umbrella to kick off another round. We were all soaked to the bone, despite umbrellas and ponchos. Nell looked like she wanted to punch Bob for suggesting they go back to the hotel during the lightning delay, but after a few minutes into the first quarter, she relented and they headed out so they could get out of their soaked clothes and hopefully not get sick. (Spoiler alert: I got sick.)
At halftime, I shot a couple of stills of Nick on the Jumbo.
It was a really nice 6 minute video interview about his career, his love of Batman, his Capstone research (in the efficacy of L-arginine), and his future plans. He still hasn't seen it.
Steph and Robert cut out in the third quarter so they could get back by midnight. Marci and Ren made it to near the fourth quarter. And I started shooting every instance Nick took the field, knowing it was winding down.
Nick's legs visible in the center on one of the tackles that stopped a punt being run back for a touchdown.
Nick did all the work on this sack, only to get bumped out at the last second by his own man. #64 felt terrible.
Bob's first boss at Texas A&M, Bob Piwonka, who'd come in the freezing cold to watch little Nick in junior high play quarterback, came out with his wife to see the final game. Great people.
Whole game is here, you can skip to :50 after the rain delay to see Nick take the field before the game. Sadly, the film on Nick shown on the Jumbotron at halftime is not included, but I'm hopeful it'll show up soon on the Southwestern sports site for playback. Steph videotaped it well from her phone and posted it to Facebook, so if it never turns up, at least he'll be able to see how it all came together. The rundown of the game included his stats for the final game: three tackles, including one for a loss.
edited to add:
By the end, it was just the three hardy souls, wrapped in a single, newly purchased Pirates blanket, keeping warm and trying not to cry.
The Batman sock brigade, near the very end.
And then, just like that, time ran out.
Nick got to be on the field for it.
And he walked to the endzone nearest the fieldhouse and greeted everyone of his teammates coming off the field.
While the offensive guys huddled up under the goalposts, he waited with Coach Eboh, whom he was closest to. He told us later this exchange was with Eboh trying to not cry and finally walking off.
Coach Austin let the offense loose and came over for a hug and some words of comfort. He's been in Nick's place and knows.
And then the Offense got to him.
And then his Dad got to him. That's about the time I lost it.
Once everyone was off the field (and it had stopped raining. Go figure.) Nick walked the field one last time suited up, down to the wall, put his hand on it, and hung his head. Then he slowly made his way back to the fieldhouse while we all stood along the fence and cried.
He came out last and we got a photo together, in the same order as the photo from the very first game, also after a lightning delay.
We got Nick on the bus back to the school, over to the school to pick him up, and back over to Whataburger, this time with cheese.
Bob and Nell dropped us off at Nick's apartment as they hit the road to Navasota for a visit.
Nick's room in his apartment, now complete with a mostly new, almost dry, blanket behind him.
We were going to grab lunch, but the place didn't open until noon, so we killed an hour at San Gabriel park.
We stopped in at Cane's and got a shot together at Nick's photo. Strangely, I realized I'd taken the photo on the top at his first game. Social media and fair use, whatever.
Nick being silly on one of the Pirate bikes that are everywhere. It's a communal system. You pick it up, ride it where you need to go, and leave it to be used again by any other Pirate.
We walked down to the Monument Cafe for dessert after lunch.
after the very first game, and after the very last. We all need our traditions.
We dropped Nick off at treatment after that. His left hand was swollen horrible and he couldn't use his thumb. I had to open the sugar packets for his coffee. His right elbow also couldn't extend. He'd seen the most playing time in a game last night and was paying for it today. We headed back to his apartment for a nap and some football watching before we needed to get to the airport.
Nick's room is pretty apparent from the campus sidewalk.
Nick post ice-bath, elbow icing, and thumb brace treatment, in his personalize fleece given to him.
one more coloring page, now warped from its time in the backpack in the rain at the game.
Hello, Denver. What a weekend.