My high school self would never forgive me for writing this piece. As a life-long Philadelphia Eagles fan, I’m a member of one of the most cynical and angry fraternities in all of sports. For years I harbored a grudge against Donovan McNabb for his inability to produce a championship. I’ve learned, however, that sometimes experiences can truly change your perspective, something politicians seem to ignore when attacking their competitors' flip-flopping. I started changing the moment I came to Stanford and found myself surrounded by extraordinary classmates with accomplishments that make me feel so undeserving of my spot in the class of 2014. One of those classmates is a kid named Jordan Williamson.
I bet you didn’t know Jordan's name until Monday night's Fiesta Bowl, and that’s okay. He was a Lou Groza Award national place-kicker of the year finalist before injuring his kicking leg mid-season, and has been rehabbing every single day since to get back on the field as quickly as possible. I met Jordan at one of the many parties we both went to freshman year. Over the course of the year we became good friends. He’s one of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet and is always smiling. Well, almost always smiling.
I saw a different Jordan Williamson in the airport yesterday, struggling to hold back tears on the day after the worst day of his life. As I saw him sit outside the airport Starbucks with his mom, I noticed murmurs all around me. An airport employee even walked up to my friends and me to whisper, “that’s the kid who missed those field goals last night.” People were finding excuses to wander by the Starbucks just to get a closer look at the goat of Glendale, Arizona.
I stood there feeling even more powerless than the moment his kick sailed wide left just hours earlier. He wasn’t even able to talk, but he sat there in the open, defenseless and exposed, holding back tears. All I could do was walk over, give him a hug, and let him know that when he gets back to school, I will be there for him. I will always be there for him. After all that he’s done, it’s the least I could do.
How can I be mad at Jordan Williamson? He didn’t miss curfew. He didn’t mess around during practices or workouts. He didn’t cheat or slack off in class. And he certainly didn’t ever make a decision to hurt any of his friends. He missed three field goals, one of which would’ve won the Fiesta Bowl. We were disappointed; he is devastated.
Jordan, you didn’t let your teammates, coaches, fans, friends, or family down. You’ve done everything right and I’m proud of you. I don’t blame people for being upset at you: Football is an emotional game, and we all would’ve loved to beat Oklahoma State. But I’ve moved on and so will everyone else. If there’s one thing we should all learn at college it's that there’s more to life than a football game. Don’t let this one game define you, Jordan. It won’t change how any of us think of you unless you let it. And unless I’ve completely misjudged our team and our school, we won’t let you do that.
As I've learned with the Eagles, there's always next year… even though McNabb really should've won a Super Bowl.
Sam Fisher is a sophomore at Stanford University.