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First One Up

Football by nature is a game of hits. Eventually, at one point or another, you’re going to end up on the turf. The only difference is going to be if you delivered or received the hit. Everyone eventually gets knocked down, but its about whether you get up again that makes the difference.


August 2015, about a week before my 18th birthday, I was leaving my small town in New Jersey to report to my first collegiate summer football camp. Of all the things they tell you about college and the college experience, the thing I didn’t anticipate was the amount of crying that my parents did that day. And trying to keep up the tough guy persona I so desperately tried to display, I didn’t cry while they were leaving. Honestly, I wish I did a little that day, so I could hear them say one more time before they left that everything would be OK. The new world of college athletics can be scary at first and the pressure you put on yourself or have put on you from your team and teammates can chew you up and crush you.


Over a lifetime of education, certain lessons you learn just stick. Maybe it’s the biology lab you take in middle school that pushes you to become a doctor, or the algebra class your junior year of high school that makes you want to get into the stock market. Whatever the lesson was, it imprinted on you and shaped you into who you are today. For me, the biggest lesson came on that first day I arrived at football camp.

Here’s a little run down of how the first day of reporting to camp goes. At about 9 AM you arrive on campus and move all your stuff into your freshman dorm. You meet your roommate for the first time if you hadn’t already met them before reporting to camp. After you’re all moved in you make your way to the football offices where you check in and receive all your equipment and apparel that you will be wearing the coming season. After that, you have lunch and report to meetings as a whole team where the coaching staff introduces themselves and afterwards, you break off into positional groups and then meet with our position coaches. When meeting with my positional coach for the first time, this is where the most important lesson I have learned was imparted to me.


After all the introductions amongst the teammates were said and done, my coach took a moment and introduced himself. He told us about himself and a philosophy he holds for the offense. It was a 5-part philosophy but the one that stood out to me the most was the part he entitled “First One Up”.


“I’m going to be holding you guys a higher standard than the rest of the team on this one because I know you all can handle it. If you’re on the field and fall, no matter what, be the first one up. I don’t care if you miss your block and land flat on your face, or get blindsided by a blitzing linebacker, or make the kickout block and punish the defensive end and put him into the turf. I need you all to be the first one up, ready to go the next play.”


A philosophy of hustle and grit, “First One Up” taught that if you ever fall, pick yourself back up and get ready to go the next chance you get. It however didn’t take into account when someone gets injured. At that point, the mentality gets thrown out the window.

Not every injury is physical, its very important to remember that. While the broken arms and torn ACLs do exist, not every setback comes in the form of a physical injury. For some their own mind is their worst enemy.

Mental health affects everyone differently, myself included, and affects how you live your daily life. Depression, anxiety, self-doubt and self-harm can make life so difficult for those facing these struggles every single day. Without a support system from the ones that you keep the closest to you, depression and anxiety can cause you to spiral. From experience I can tell you, it’s not a place you want to be.


"To go from one morning being ready to conquer the world, to the next not having the strength to get out of your own bed with the self-doubting thoughts that you aren’t good enough to be here doing what you love, to have thoughts of quitting the thing you love, to thoughts of your life not being worth it. If it wasn’t for the people closest to me being there for me at my lowest, I probably wouldn’t be who I am today. "

Its easy for someone to believe that you’re all alone in your fight. I mean, I grew up in an environment where we didn’t talk about our feelings and problems and it was encouraged to figure out your problems yourself. This made it hard for me as I grew older to seek out help when I needed it until I desperately needed it. This is where the lesson of “First One Up” came flooding back into my head. Sure, when you get knocked down, it can sometimes be hard to get back up on your own. You try, and you fight to get back up and eventually you do, but sometimes you take that hit that puts you down for a little bit. That torn ACL, that depression or anxiety, and when you feel like you’re at your lowest.


Being the first one up was never about having to do things on your own, remember its OK to fall on your face, but as long as you have someone to pick you up and are ready to go again, then you can overcome any challenge ahead of you.


Anthony DellaFave, Senior

Sacred Heart Football

Class of 2019


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