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Football season stirs old memories, creates new ones

As the summer months fly by, many are in anticipation of the start of football season.
Grills will get their first real workout of the year, new televisions will be purchased, and high school students will begin to make their way back to their respective high schools.
Canada has hockey, Mexico has soccer and the south has football.
It’s just that simple.
Football is much more than a game to most here in the south. It is a way of life, a passion and, to some, almost a religion.
Wardrobe schemes of residents change to certain colors that represent their prospective schools and on Saturday’s, streets in some places are silent due to large crowds staying in for the “big game” that may grace the television channels.
Each new season start brings new players to the equation. It makes no difference whether it is on the high school, college or professional level of play, each team sees its share of new players entering the playing field. Some of these players continue on to lead their team to glory.
It is an overpowering experience to witness an individual rise through the football ranks.
Every player starts at the high school level. Some continue on to play in college, and a select few continue into the NFL.
The neat element for a sportswriter is having the opportunity to witness these players reaching their goals.
The Atmore area has names like Don McNeal, who rose from the ranks of ECHS to find football glory. McNeal got the opportunity to play at Alabama and then was fortunate enough to be able to continue his career as a Miami Dolphin. McNeal played in several Super Bowls and had the opportunity to help put his hometown on the map.
Each season, I find myself wondering who the next Don McNeal will be.
Brewton has its fair share of famous athletes that add some spice to the county roster, but the city of Atmore does as well and — in my personal opinion — more are on the way.
To see a kid travel from one level to another is a spectacular process to witness. Along with witnessing stars being born, football season offers to the spectator memories that last a lifetime.
I remember watching countless Alabama games with my late grandfather, a graduate of and baseball standout at Alabama who loved Alabama football.
He had a passion for Alabama football before the many modern-day National Championships were racked up.
As I was growing up, he would tell stories of Bear Bryant, his close friend and golf buddy. I was always drawn to the many photos that my grandfather had of himself with Coach Bryant.
As a young child, I really didn’t grasp the monumental fame of the man who my grandfather had befriended and adored. The only concept that I was able to grasp was the fact that Bryant was famous football coach who wore a funny hat.
Now that I have progressed in age and knowledge, I realize that Bryant was a football giant.
I am also sorry to say, after my grandfather’s passing, Alabama football seemed so meaningless to watch, as we always shared that bond together. It was never the same and I chose ice hockey as my sport of passion and became a Notre Dame fan.
My grandfather, I am sure, is turning in his grave when I wear a Notre Dame jersey.
The point is, we created this bond through football that is part of my most precious memories, a bond so strong that it hurts to continue without him.
More memories will be made this season.