This past Saturday the Tiger family and, really, all of Kentucky High School football, lost one of its brightest, rising stars. EJ Austin was the consummate leader, teammate, competitor, athlete. Tonight at the Stadium of Champions, his teammates will come together, over his memory, and play a football game against the Calloway County Lakers. The game will seem trite and unimportant, especially concerning the backdrop of everything else which will transpire this week-end. Saturday there will be a visitation for EJ Austin at the Hopkinsville Middle School Gymnasium and Sunday we will lay our brother, son, grandson, cousin, teammate, player and friend to rest at a service beginning at 2 p.m. CST at the High School Gymnasium.
The Coaches at HHS have had the end zones painted with the No. 11, EJ’s number, for tonight’s contest. I am told that through the 2021 season, the last year of EJ’s high school eligibility, no player will use EJ’s locker nor wear his number. I am told, further, there is a movement at HMS to retire the number so that it is never again worn by a member of the HMS football team. A footnote to all of this is that tonight, HHS will take the field and try to play a football game against a District, 4A Classification, rival. I can promise you this, and any one who knew EJ would assure you of the same thing, there will be someone watching from eternity tonight very interested in the outcome of that game. He absolutely hated to lose as anyone who ever competed either with or against him will attest. EJ Austin, from Heaven, will care who wins tonight.
As a community, we at Kentucky Prep Gridiron believe Hopkinsville needs this game, HHS needs this game, Calloway County needs this game, the citizens of Hopkinsville, Kentucky need this game. It’s important to what the great Hank Aaron once called his motto, for us all to Keep Swinging! Hank Aaron was speaking about the power of perseverance when he made note of the motto which he found to be equally appropriate for life. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.
The CT is an independent Student Newspaper at the Virginia Commonwealth University for whom Nick Versaw is a staff writer. Mr. Versaw, in the aftermath of a recent hurricane (Harvey), wrote a piece for the paper entitled, Come together: sports as one of society’s great healers. In that article, Versaw asks …how many times has a friend, colleague or family member told you “it’s just a game?” As someone who has had sports play a huge role in my life since I was just a boy, I lost count a long time ago. Sports bring me peace. They provide a distraction from life’s sorrows. They bring happiness, So, don’t tell me it’s just a game, because it’s not. It’s much more than that. Versaw is right, tonight’s football game at the Stadium of Champions is more than just a game. It is a distraction from this senseless tragedy, it is a distraction from our inestimable sorrow, it is a search for some peace, even if just for a few short hours. It’s much more than a football game.
I, like Mr. Versaw, can’t help but think about the ways in which sports bring us together in times of crisis and tragedy. They have become a great equalizer-a sort of healer that help mend fresh wounds, both literally and metaphorically. I only hope that, tonight, we may find such bliss, we may find some peace, the very fresh wound which we have all been dealt may mend, if only a little. We will convene tonight in Hopkinsville, Kentucky to metaphorically keep swinging! Tonight, I suggest with lyrics written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, slightly modified to fit the present purpose, that we 🎵Come Together, right now over Elijah Scott Austin and the Austin Family.🎵
This is Fletcher Long reporting for Kentucky Prep Gridiron hoping to see you at the game tonight so we can enjoy something together which was a huge part of EJ’s life and also reminding you to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!