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[2023] The Players' Tribune: Superman, by Devon Wardwell

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            I was born in Metropolis, Illinois as a nobody. Yes, the same Metropolis that claims itself as the home of Superman. Our town has a strange fascination with the Man of Steel, culminating with a 4-day festival in June that features the appearances of celebrities that were at least somewhat involved in Superman media, whether it be comic book writers or past actors who played the Metropolis Marvel on TV or even portrayed Supes on the big screen. It’s the only time of year where anything of note happens in our small southern Illinois village. Nobody of note was ever born here, unless you count the guy who invented Dippin’ Dots, the ice cream of the future. Sure, we’ve had our fair share of baseball players, a NASCAR driver, a pro golfer, and even someone in the pocket billiards Hall of Fame. But other than that, Metropolis is just that town that is the home of the fictional Son of Krypton.

            My mom raised me all by herself. She had three jobs just so that she could support me, her only child. She was just 19 when she had me, and I love her more than anybody in the world. Other family members would help out from time to time, but my mom was always there to take care of me. She let me play football when I was 9. I was the smallest kid on the team, and probably the smallest kid in the league, too. I played wide receiver because I couldn’t throw the ball very far, and at that young of an age football games were basically like what football was back in 1869: nothing but running plays. I was a nobody. But my mom went to every game and watched me stand there and do nothing for 2 hours and was always supportive of me and my dream. As I grew up, I practiced every single day. And by the time I got to high school, I was vying for the starting Quarterback position.

            High school football was a blur for me. I didn’t see any playing time except one game as a Sophomore in which I was instructed to do nothing but hand the ball off to somebody “more capable” of doing something. By the time Senior year came, I missed the first 2 games with a foot injury. When I was fully healthy, I finally got to start a game…as a wide receiver. This move confused me because I was never relatively quick nor was I elusive enough to get open for a pass. The coaching staff clearly saw me as a nobody and just threw me out there to get my mom to stop yapping in their ear about giving me playing time. I caught a couple passes my senior year, but nothing of note, and before I knew it my high school career was over. I also thought it would be the end of my football career, and so I decided to go to Shawnee Community College to get my associate’s degree in the hopes that I could transfer to Southern Illinois to get my bachelor’s, saving me a ton of money.

            On SCC campus, nobody knew who I was. None of my friends went to SCC; they either got a job straight out of high school or they went to a big school like U of I or Western Kentucky. I was focused on my grades in the hopes that I could get a decent job to help my mom out with her debts. I never planned on joining the football team. But after one week of sitting on my butt doing nothing but reading about chemistry, I got the itch. Any player can tell you about this itch. It’s the reason why players unretire all the time. It’s hard to quit something you feel so passionately about. So, I went to Coach Perkins’ office and asked if I could walk-on. He said it depended on what position I wanted, and I told him point blank: I want to be the starting Quarterback.

            Coach’s reaction was about what you’d expect. He laughed in my face and said that everyone thinks they can play QB. I told him if he gave me a chance, I could prove myself. He responded, “That’s what they all say, kid.” After some talk, he eventually let me practice with the team the next day. There were 6 guys, including myself, trying out for the starting QB position. After a couple days of practice, I was told that I had a roster spot as a backup QB. I was ecstatic. Finally, a chance for me to prove myself, even as a backup. I was tired of being a nobody.

            After an 0-3 start, coach turned to me and named me the starter for our next game. This would be the first time I got to throw a pass in an actual game. With that adrenaline running through me, I overthrew my first two passes. After that, perfection. 19 straight completions, 3 of them touchdowns, and our defense kept them scoreless as we won our first game 27-0. The next game, another gem: 21-30, 300 or so yards, another 3 TDs, and most importantly, a win. I could hear people in class talk about the football team being pretty good with their new exciting QB, but to my surprise people still didn’t recognize me. Despite my success, I was still a nobody. When I put on the uniform, I got praised. When I take it off, nobody knows who I am. When I realized this, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between me and the most famous alien from my hometown.

            As the season went on, we never lost with me at the helm. I missed another game because of my foot, and we finished the season 8-4. I had 2,400 passing yards and 21 touchdowns with only 1 interception. Going into my second year, there was some hype that we would be pretty good this year. I started to get people to stop me on my way to class asking for pictures and autographs. I had never had that happened before, and I was thrilled. My mom was bragging to anyone who listened that her son was this up-and-coming quarterback who was going to be successful at the next level. My second year was almost perfect. Not only did I play in every game, I threw for over 3100 yards and had about 40 touchdowns (I honestly lost count after 30). We went 10-1, losing the championship game on a last-second field goal. It was heartbreaking, coming so close to winning it all and failing. I made a note to myself that I would never let a moment like that pass by me ever again.

            Even with my success at the NJCAA level, recruiters from D1 schools weren’t calling. I had a few DII offers, but I didn’t want to play at any of those schools. They were too far from home, and I felt like going to those schools for football would just be a waste of time anyway. Then I got a call from Coach VerifiedThing, saying he wanted me to come to Illinois State to be the starting QB. It wasn’t an FBS school, but it was a far better path to the NFL, and it was close to home. I was ready to sign with the Redbirds, but then I got another call. This was another coach, in the FBS. It was Northwestern, and they wanted me to be their starting QB as well.

            I was torn. ISU would be closer to my mom, but Northwestern is a Power 5 program AND they had a great academic track record, too. A degree from NU would set me up greatly post-college. When signing day came, I had gathered advice from every single person who is close to me, and even they were pretty split on the decision. I waited till the last possible moment…and then I flipped a coin. But I realized that when I flipped the coin in the air, my head instantly thought “Please land on ISU.” That was the moment I realized I wanted to be a Redbird.

            My whole life, I was a nobody in the eyes of everyone except one person: my mom. In her eyes, I was everything. And she means everything to me. Staying close to our home in Metropolis while I live out my college dream is a dream I didn’t think would ever be possible. Now, as the starting Quarterback at ISU, and as preseason favorites to win the FCS championship, all eyes are on me to step up. But I know I can do it. I am no longer a nobody. I am somebody. I am Superman.

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Love this! Fantastic write up @VerifiedThing. I don't know too much about the Illinois State, but Devon sounds like a fantastic player from this alone. Great pickup for the Redbirds

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19 hours ago, VerifiedThing said:

But I realized that when I flipped the coin in the air, my head instantly thought “Please land on ISU.” That was the moment I realized I wanted to be a Redbird.


God man good man here. ISU GO! 

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1 hour ago, MasonAsher said:





Jelly bean

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