On the night before Thanksgiving Day in 2003, I remember playing the last game of my CM varsity football career. We were at BC High that night and I stood side-by-side with my teammates under the lights of a packed stadium. Our white CM away jerseys were caked in mud with only a few minutes left to play. We were a 5-5 team that season and BC High was the favorite to win the game by at least a few scores.
But we didn’t care about who was favored. It didn’t matter to us at all.
That year, our team motto was “Believe.” It was a simple motto. But it was, and still is, extremely influential. Our head coach, Dennis Golden, had told us that anything was possible as long as we believed in it. A 17-year-old at the time, I bought into this idea immediately.
Leading up to that BC High game, my teammates and I believed in what we saw at practice. We believed in the character of our teammates in the hallways and in the classroom. That made it easier to believe in each other.
That belief paid off. Through four quarters, we went toe-to-toe against our rivals. With only a few seconds left to play, we were down by less than a touchdown and our offense had the ball at midfield. Though improbable, a Hail Mary would win us the game. Standing on the sideline with the rest of the defensive players, we held our breath and believed in the upset.
Our quarterback, Tim Watson ’04, took the snap and dropped back to pass. He avoided the rush, turned, and heaved a 50-yard spiral that seemed to hang in the air for an eternity.
The crowd fell silent watching the ball soar through the air. Then, out of nowhere, Rashad Jordan ’06 leaped up high and snagged the game-winning score. Game over.
My teammates and I doused Coach Golden with freezing water. All of us piled on Rashad. Circling together, we sang the CM fight song and held our helmets high.
To this day, I get goosebumps thinking about that game. It reminds me of how important mentors like Coach Golden were in my life. To me, those mentors were, and still are, the spirit of CM. For every Coach Golden, there was a Bill Hahn, John Mazza ’98, Dave St. Martin ’91, or Tom Beatty ’68 in the classroom who empowered me to take on any challenge, no matter the difficulty.
This past spring, a job opened up at CM that would allow me to return home and foster these same values. I was offered the role of Vice Principal. Excited by the opportunity to serve my alma mater, I accepted the offer.
While I felt plenty of excitement, I knew that the role would come at a steep cost. For nine years my family and I had lived in Washington, D.C. A move to Boston would require my wife and I to sell our first home. My wife would need to quit her job and find a new one. On top of that, we would need to transition our daughter into a new school and move away from our friends and family. Needless to say this would be a pretty tumultuous time for my family.
Despite all this, my family and I took the chance.
Without a doubt, my first few months at CM felt turbulent at times, as it is at any school. On top of my duties as Vice Principal, I taught an English class and attended as many student life events outside the class room as possible. Whether it was at a football game or the Making Strides Against Cancer Walk, I wanted my students to recognize me as more than just a teacher or Vice Principal.
Of course, I felt exhausted at times. So much so that I forgot to pause. If I had, then I would have realized that I now stood in the shoes of the role models who taught me years ago.
In November, I finally pressed the pause button one day after school. That afternoon, our sports teams were in between seasons. However, the gym was packed with students watching their friends and classmates play intramural basketball against the faculty.
I took a step back in the stands, students were bragging about teacher’s skills, perhaps seeing them as complex individuals for the first time.
On the court, I saw students raise their level of competitiveness in healthy ways because they were determined to show the teachers their best. Our faculty showed a human side to themselves that day. They were no longer just teachers to them.
When the games ended, everyone cheered. But, instead of going home for the night, our faculty stayed even longer. Our students followed them into the Kennedy Commons where they sat and listened to Mr. Larry Rooney, our Associate Director of Admissions, at his Agape Latte event. Students and faculty sat together, listening intently as Mr. Rooney told the story of how he donated his kidney to his younger brother this past summer.
These moments were not lost on me. I couldn’t help but thank God for bringing me back to this place. I’m even more grateful that CM still values the importance of a role model in the lives of young men. They’re what make the difference here. Coach Golden knew that too.
Today, I’m proud to say that my family and I have made it through the hardest part of our transition. My daughter is thriving at her new school. My wife has found a job that she feels passionate about.
And, as for me, well, I feel right at home.