(Guy Martino is an intern this summer for the Metro Sports Report. A former Kennedy standout quarterback, Martino played in Saturday's alumni football game at Kingston Stadium. This is his first-person account of the game and events leading up to it.)
The locker rooms at Kingston Stadium have a distinctive smell. Scents of sweat, paired with heavily used football equipment, linger in the dimly lit changing spaces.
After graduating from Kennedy High School in 2008, I was happy that I was never going to have to smell those locker rooms again. I was going to move on to bigger things and nicer smelling locker rooms.
A few years have gone by since then, and new opportunities and experiences have come and gone, but something that hasn’t changed is my love for the game of football.
Earlier this year I was informed that there was going to be an alumni football game in Cedar Rapids, and naturally I became excited.
For the past 26 years, Alumni Football USA has been hosting full contact alumni football games across the country. This organization has achieved great success, as 20,000 fans have attended some of these alumni games, and nearly $200,000 has been raised for participating schools.
In 2011, for the first time in the organization’s history, they came through Iowa, and planned a rivalry game between Kennedy alumni and Jefferson alumni for Saturday, July 9.
The news of the game spread quickly, and ever since early May, myself and a handful of other Kennedy alumni have been getting together at least once a week, trying to create a football team from scratch.
May and June came and went, and preparing for the upcoming football game sometimes became lost in the shuffle of my busy summer schedule.
But we got ready, and it was time to see what we had, as our team arrived at Kingston Stadium on the 9th.
For the first time in four years, I walked into the cramped locker room, uncertain about what to expect.
I soon realized there was no time to be uncertain, as the selection of helmets and shoulder pads provided by the Alumni association was dwindling.
Quickly after choosing the best equipment I could find, I donned my pads and slipped on the Kennedy jersey.
Around me in the locker room, there were some familiar faces, guys who I have played with before. I have been through it with these guys, we have experienced joy and despair on the field together.
I also looked around the room and saw men slightly older, people that my graduating class would hear stories about from our high school coach.
That is when it hit me that the game was actually happening. Everything up until that point was speculation and uncertainty. The butterflies started to flutter in my stomach as we all came together for a pregame speech.
The overall leader of our team was Kyle Knock, a 1998 graduate, who said a few words to our group of Cougars and then we took the field, steeped in anticipation.
After walking out into the hot summer night and witnessing Kingston stadium buzzing with around 2,500 spectators, I started tossing a few passes to try and ease my nerves. I broke a sweat, and suddenly everything was right and it was time to have fun.
The game itself seemed like it blew by, just like our speedy running back Timmy Johnson did as he took the opening kickoff 96 yards for the touchdown.
After the first few minutes came off the clock, guys on both teams forgot about their egos and ages and just played football, down by down.
It was hard hitting football, too, as several injuries occurred in the first quarter.
Luckily for us Cougars, the offense moved the ball in crucial situations and the defense stepped up big-time at the end of the game. We took the bragging rights, winning 17-13, but this game was about more than the score. Everyone had fun getting back onto the field, and for the people unfortunate enough to come away with injuries, may your recoveries be quick.
As the inaugural year of alumni football in Iowa comes to a close, on behalf of all those who participated, I would like to thank the people who made it possible.
We want to thank you for thinking of us here in Iowa. People have found that we actually take football seriously here, too.
We want to thank you for the opportunity to get back out on the field, and represent our schools while having fun in front of our closest friends and family.
Lastly, we want to thank you for bringing us that locker room smell again. Not so much the damp, soggy sock scent, but for the memory of the past.
No matter what class you graduated in, you have been in that locker room, enjoyed the fans in the crowd, made a nice tackle or catch, and laughed with your teammates.
I may not have realized it back in my high school days, but the little things were some of the most important, and will continue to stick with me for a long time.
If nothing else, this was an opportunity to remember those good times and play a little bit of football.
I hope this marks the beginning of a tradition in Iowa, because I know the people who participated in it this year had a blast.
I look forward to getting ready for a football game next July, but if it is played at Kingston, could we maybe invest in some Febreze? Just a suggestion.
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