Listen to JED read Hanlon's column:
MUNSTER -- Last Friday night, as the 2019 Indiana high school football season kicked off, there was raw excitement from Angola to Zionsville.
Small towns and urban dwellings were illuminated by those old Friday night lights. From the buttery smell of popcorn to the cries of the cheerleaders to the pulse-quickening marching bands to the nearly eternal moment of that first charge onto the gridiron, joy was plain to see.
From the sophomore backup punter to the headline-grabbing quarterback to the 6-foot-5, 280-pound linebacker playing on FieldTurf to the 5-foot-3, 180-pound offensive tackle playing on mud, this thrill was not gone.
I’ve observed this right of passage for almost three decades. But I saw another level last Friday night at Munster High School.
Lake Central senior Zach Writt charged onto the field with more excitement than I’ve ever witnessed. This chance to compete, this moment in time where he could play the game he loves, again, could be seen in the pounding of his chest underneath this shoulder pads.
Fists clinched. Arms waving in the air. A stern stare in his eyes and a smile on his sweaty face.
“I love playing football so much,” said Writt, a 5-foot-10, 210-pound linebacker for the Indians.
His emphasis on the word “so” is understood more clearly when you know his story.
After totaling 80 tackles as a sophomore, his season ended in the sectional opener against Portage
A shoulder dislocation on the left side ended his season before the final horn.
Writt followed his doctor’s counsel and worked his tail off in the offseason and summer heading into his junior season. But last August 17th, on opening night against Munster, the same ‘ole same ‘ole bit the kid again.
But it happened during pregame warmups this time.
“It sucked so bad,” Writt said. “I wanted to play so bad. I couldn’t believe it happened again.”
His love for his teammates kept him going to practice and games every day, even though he couldn’t play. Getting back on the field with his brothers in arms was the icon that led the way to last Friday’s 37-7 win over the Mustangs.
Writt has five tackles and was around the pigskin most of the night.
“This is something that’s absolutely right about high school sports,” L.C. coach Tony Bartolomeo said after the game. “There are a lot of people who don’t understand the power of an opportunity. Zach does. He had some tough breaks but he never quit. He kept fighting and believing. I am so proud of what he’s done and what he is doing.”
In a week that shocked America, where Colts’ megastar quarterback Andrew Luck retired, the debate about whether football should continue raged on. Most football players don’t have 97 million clams in the bank, which certainly made Luck’s decision easier.
Yes, there is a danger in football and I applaud the safety changes that have occurred over the last decade plus. But there is also danger walking across the street, which is a fact that once devastated my family.
I could never tell someone what to do when it comes to playing football. I wish Dan Dakich felt the same way.
I know this - I love watching football, especially high school. And the story of Zach Writt inspires me. I hope it does the same for you.
“This has happened to me four times and my doctor said one more and I’m done,” Writt said. “I was so fired up before (last Friday’s) game I almost wanted to punch a hole in the wall. I had been waiting for this moment for two years.
“I will remember this for the rest of my life.”