My Ascent into 8th Grade StardomIt was very hard moving to a new town in the summer of 1994. This event meant having to attend a new middle school and reestablish myself in a new environment. Even though I had moved about every two years of my entire life, that did not make this time any easier. I still had to make new friends and ground myself all over again.Middle School, like most other middle schools, had an “in” crowd. At Crossroads, it was mainly the football players. After I started school at Crossroads, football tryouts were being staged. I saw this as a most significant event on my path through adolescence, a chance to get recognized by my new school, as well as a chance to make some friends and gain some glory along the way. Getting up at one Saturday morning and going up to the school, I was very nervous about whether I would make the team or not. I’ve always had athletic ability, but since this was a new town, I was unsure about how my skills would compare with the other kids. Football tryout was a grueling event. When tryouts started, it was explained to all of us that the coaches would run drills in order to gauge our skills, and then place us in specific position groups. After the drills, which I did exceptionally well in , Coach Jones placed me in the running back group. He told me that I was extremely strong and fast, and that I would make a good tailback. It felt so good, not only making the team, but being singled out by Coach Jones as possibly one of the better players on the squad.Throughout the next couple of weeks, the Crossroads Vikings held football practice every day after school from 2:45 until 5:00. We always started with some team stretching and then we moved onto our positional drills. We running backs always had drills such as running through ropes and practicing plays. It was fun. As the days and practices went by, I made many new friends. All the starters, me being the starting tailback, just began to hang out together, in and out of school. That is just the way it went. Chad, Rick, Bill, Derek, Ben, and I were hanging out together all the time. Eventually, they introduced to me to all the “cool” kids in school and the feeling of being the “new kid” went away. I was now a football player. And best of all, our first game was coming up.The most exciting day of the week for an athlete, the day of the first game, suddenly was upon us. I reminisce about proudly wearing my football jersey to school on that day, not concentrating on anything but the game. We were playing Elizabeth Middle School that Friday. All day long I couldn’t concentrate on anything but playing football. Everything my teachers said was a blur and I seemed to see nobody else in the hallways of Crossroads except for the guys in the black and gold jerseys. I was getting very anxious. But game time had to come sometime.After the 7th period bell rang, I rushed to the locker room. Walking into the locker room, every one of us starting screaming and yelling football talk. “Time to kick some ass” was what I yelled over and over as I put on my pads. After we all got suited up and got the pre-game talk from the coaches, we ran out of the locker room, punching lockers on the way out, and screamed all the way onto the field in three straight lines. Being one of three captains, I led one of the lines onto the football field and started warm-ups. For me, this was the most anxious time of gameday. Actually playing the game was automatic. Running pre-game drills game me time to think. As I screamed at my teammates to do stretches, I could smell the fresh grass, hear the assorted noises of the people in the stands, and feel the sweat on my brow. The adrenaline poured faster and faster into my veins as the beginning of the game neared. By the time the game started, I felt like a starving caged animal ready to be let loose. Finally, kickoff time. We lost the toss so Elizabeth got the ball first. They moved the ball with relative ease on their first position, being that their team was bigger than ours was and they had a really good tailback in #32. It was a bit of an intimidating experience watching them score on a long run in their first possession. But that was not enough to deter us. We were warriors. We got the ball back and marched it methodically down the field, Chad eventually getting the touchdown of a quarterback draw going towards the left side. It went back and forth like that for the entire first half. At halftime, we were tied 21-21. At the prerequisite halftime speech, Coach Jones practically breathedfire down our throats, telling us that there was no way that a bunch of “big,dumb, shit-talking pieces of crap” beat us. The second half was a different story. Defense was the strongpoint for both teams. And them it happened. With roughly seven minutes left in the game and 3rd down for us at our own 40 yard line, Chad called out my favorite play in the huddle, a 38 toss. That play called for Chad to pitch me the ball on the right side. As the huddle broke and we went to the line of scrimmage, I peeked at the right side and saw the safety sneaking towards the middle and the cornerback thinking pass. This made me salivate. As Chad called the cadence, “red 88, red 88, set, hut, hut”, I ran my route around the right side of the line and then turning going forward, Chad pitched me the ball. I caught it and ran as fast as I could. It took the defense a few seconds to react, and by that time, I was gone. Only their tiny cornerback laid a hand on me, and I broke his tackle with ease. I was out of there. Nobody could catch me. A few seconds later, the announcer screamed over the P.A., TOUCHDOWN! #34, Mike Calimbas. I ran around the endzone listening to the crowd acknowledging my run until my teammates jumped on me and screamed their praises. I scored the winning touchdown on that day, us Crossroads Vikings beating the Elizabeth Wildcats 28-21. I had arrived.As what I deem as a direct result of that game, everything changed. I grew extremely confident, and in doing so, I did well in sports and made many friends. Without football, I am unsure what would have happened in 8th grade and beyond. But I do know that with football, my life became much easier and a lot more fun. By the time my sophomore year of high school came around, I had a varsity letter in high school football, as well as two more in track and field and wrestling. I even became popular enough that I was voted into student council and became vice-president of a S.A.D.D., Students against Drunk Driving. Everything went my way. But sure enough, after my sophomore year, my parents decided to move again to a totally different state. Everything changed again. But that is another story for another day.