By ANDRE MACK-ROBINSON – Guest Writer
A personal reflection of a Clarke Central athlete’s career.
During my middle school years, I was honored as the First Team all-region quarterback and point guard in Liberty, S.C.
Clarke Cental High School senior Andre Mack-Robinson scored the only touchdown of his career on Sept. 25, 2012 against Winder-Barrow High School. Despite accumulating a massive amount of playing time, he confesses his productivity was very low in his three years of playing varsity football. Photo by Carlo Nasisse.
When I transitioned to high school in Georgia, expectations were high for me and I was often described as “big-headed.” After being a popular figure at Athens Academy during my freshman year, I was hit with reality in the spring of 2009 when I transferred to Clarke Central High School.
Many of the football players immediately labeled me as the “water boy” of the team due to my small frame and unfamiliar face. After progressing through spring practices and summer workouts, I was eventually able to gain respect on the gridiron for taking big hits and always catching the ball.
I worked my way onto the varsity field versus Heritage High School on Sept. 25, 2009. I was scared and excited simultaneously, causing my legs to shake noticeably as I lined up at my wide receiver position.
In my second year, an inability to make plays hit me. I didn’t know what was happening but I was losing the dream of taking my ability to the next level. I recorded my first catch that season and a touchdown against Winder-Barrow High School on Sept. 24, 2010. Little did I know that touchdown would be the only touchdown of my career.
In the summer prior to my final year, I thought I could turn my whole varsity career around. I was looking like the college prospect I had always dreamt of becoming. We went to a seven-on-seven passing tournament at Eastside High School. That day I had 12 touchdowns in six games. My head coach, Leroy Ryals, began to praise me and started running plays just for me.
Despite a successful summer, my senior football season was very disappointing. I accounted for five receptions and 40 yards. It was an improvement from the previous year, but still unsatisfactory. I accumulated four dropped passes during the season. My reputation as a great catcher faded away and I was quickly placed on the bench.
The most notable mistake I made was in my last game as a football player. I dropped the ball, pulled myself out of the game and just quit. As I sat on the bench with tears running down my face I thought about the lost opportunities.
Ryals always said, “You either get better or you get worse, you never stay the same.”
In my three years as a Gladiator, I did not stay the same; I got worse.
Spring came, and I convinced myself that track was my sport. In the shadow of State Champion hurdler Marcus Maxey and state qualifier Terrell Bradshaw, I felt like I had to prove myself.
On the last day as a member of the Gladiator track team, despite my past of quitting in my final performace, I finished strong.
I was in the most important race of my life during the Region 8-AAAA track meet. I felt ready to shock everyone and earn my way to the state sectionals.
Nervousness caused me to run in and out of the restroom before the race. My skinny legs slapped together and I wished I had forced myself to do more squats. Still, I knew I was prepared.
Walking to the start line, I heard the giggles caused by my skinny body. I ignored them because I knew size really didn’t matter. As long as I had the right mentality, I knew I could compete with anyone. My grandfather told me, “You got to outsmart them!” and I did my best to fulfill his words.
Runners, take your mark.
Flashbacks of all the practices, the workouts, the opportunities appeared in my head. It was qualify for state or the end of my sports career.
Through all the nervousness and pressure, I somehow found inner peace. Silence filled my ears, and my body became numb as I prepared to push myself past pre-determined limits.
I exploded out of the block and attacked the first straight of the 300 hurdles. I felt and believed I could shock the other runners. But suddenly as I came around the curve, I felt my left foot hit the hurdle. I was falling, tumbling and scraping my skin.
“Get up! Andre, get up!” I was screaming in my head.
I got up, though heavily embarrassed, to finish my career with a sense of pride. In the last five years, I went from being a prospect to a regular athlete in high school athletics. As I am haunted by nightmares of my disappointments, I live in regret.
I ask my peers to remember what winning tastes like, just in case you never feel that thrill again. Live in the moment and take advantage of blessings. Find the courage to finish and finish strong.