“As the quarterback, I didn’t have the luxury of sulking.”

As the nation turns the page on the first football season during a pandemic, a quarterback reflects on his shortest season with the most obstacles


Jay Wimbrow

Quarterback Collin Hurst starts a play in the first half of game at Plantation High School on Oct. 30.

My phone slipped through my hands as I read the notification that told me my football season was coming to a pause. My heart sank and I let out a big, depressed sigh. As I was sitting in the living room, I felt like I was melting through the couch. While my dad was cooking dinner and my mom was tied to her computer in her office, I couldn’t have felt more alone. I tried to keep my spirits high, but I don’t think there is any worse feeling than working all year to show out in a couple games just to lose two weeks of an already shortened season.

Someone on the team tested positive for the virus.  We couldn’t host any team events for a full 14 days. I put my phone down as my mind raced, thinking of my next step. 

As the quarterback, I didn’t have the luxury of sulking. At that moment, I knew I had to step up and be able to talk to the team like a post game huddle through the phone. I sat on the couch stunned with my hand on my head for the first couple minutes within receiving the news. Eventually,  I composed a text to my team that said it’s not the end of the world (even though it felt like it was) and it’ll be back before you know it, so stay healthy and stay ready. 

Whether it was making sure my teammates were working or talking with coaches to stay up to date with what was going on, I did as much as possible to help my team. I didn’t want those two weeks to go to waste; I wanted the guys to come back bigger, stronger, faster, and healthier than ever. Coach Jeremy Herring, our strength and conditioning coach, gave us plenty of workouts to complete whether we had equipment or not. 

Taking it For Granted

To backtrack, we were coming off of a win against Plantation on Oct 30. It was bittersweet because we still had work to do as a team. We were excited for the win, but also eager to get back to practice to fix all the mistakes we saw on film. A couple of wide receivers missed their blocks, so they did more 1 on 1 blocking drills. The defensive backs gave up too many easy completions, so they worked on their coverages and remembering their assignments. Throughout the week, we felt ourselves coming more and more together as a team. We were much more comfortable with each other than we were at the beginning of the season. Between hanging out outside of football, to laughs in the locker room, it was starting to feel more and more like a family.  

Every sloppy play or blown assignment in that game showed us that even when we don’t play our best, we could still beat good teams. This meant that if we played at our best, we could be formidable. After Wednesday’s practice, Coach Rak [head coach Adam Ratkevich], gave us a speech before we headed to the locker room. He explained how this season hasn’t been predictable, but we still can’t take it for granted. In a moment it could vanish. 

“Be grateful for the time that you have been given and stay out of harm’s way to give yourself a better chance to play out the season,” he said. 

We all looked at each other and nodded in unison as if we were agreeing to an implicit contract. Coach Rak ended the speech hopeful for the upcoming game against Dillard High School.

I woke up on Thursday, Nov. 5 anxious for practice at 3:45. I daydreamed through my Teams meetings, hoping to get through school as quickly as possible. Around 2:30 p.m., I got a notification from our team mom that said varsity football is shut down until further notice. One of my teammates had tested positive, and we would have to quarantine from each other for 14 days. 

A Changing Strategy

That meant tonight’s Dillard game was cancelled. And next week’s game against Cypress Bay.

I didn’t want to believe it; but the thought remained, pompously taunting me.

I didn’t know what to make of the situation, but the first initiative was to text my team and tell them to stay positive–and test negative–in the waiting. I told them to be ready to return to football on Nov. 19, that soon those two weeks would be behind us. 

Confined to my home, my only undertaking was to witness the dozens of other teams relish in the bliss of their uninterrupted season. The quarterbacks’ plays exacerbated my longing to lead my own team. 

Two Fridays of missed opportunity, six high school football games watched vicariously, an NFL Sunday-type scramble and 10 yard touchdown pass by Cardinal Gibbons’ quarterback Brody Palhegyi– I was impatient for fresh turf on my cleats. 

My perpetual urge to reenter the football arena reminded me of what Coach Rak said. I regarded my attitude towards football as utterly appreciative, though I began to reconsider the words that seemed to reflect the current circumstances of the season. Had I taken this all for granted?  

I was making sure I was staying healthy: wearing my mask, washing my hands, social distancing, and most importantly staying quarantined in my house. I was staying in touch with the coaches 24/7, making sure I was following the necessary procedures. I was also keeping up with my football training so I didn’t fall behind. Almost every day I would throw with my dad and go over the same drills I would in regular practice, just in my backyard. 

Bench Warmer

The Monday before the next game, I woke up with a fever and chills, then vomited later that morning. That afternoon, my fate was confirmed by a positive COVID-19 test and another date with a two week quarantine. 

I caught the virus that had started the foundering of my team. I had missed the home opener as I was sitting at home, and I couldn’t have been more frustrated to be a fan. All I wanted to do in that moment was suit up and play, but that was never an option with the virus. 

All I could do was be the best cheerleader by following the game (from my couch). Throughout the week I was talking to my team about how practice was going. I also watched film through a Teams meeting with my coach and the backup quarterback Brennen Taranto, who would be taking my place for the upcoming game. After the meeting my confidence grew; he was going to get the job done. 

On the day of the game, I addressed my team through text. I told them that I was going to be out for the game, but not to worry about me, rather focus on the game and do their job on the field. I wanted them to know even though I wasn’t with them, I was still a part of the team and the game. 

The Collin delivering a word of encouragement to the team in text could not have been more different from the version of myself behind the phone screen. I had earned another round of anxious anticipation, only this time I was anticipating the fate of my own team.

The team banded together all of our hopes and they pulled a victory out of an otherwise dubious situation.

An End To The Season

I was thankful that we had the next Friday off due to it being Thanksgiving week, so I didn’t have to miss any more games. During that time off, while my team was practicing together and getting ready for the playoffs, I was training with my dad and working out. I knew my team had been counting on me, so I had to stay in football shape to return as sharp as possible.

To be away from my second family for that long was tough. Though I only missed one game, I feel like I missed an eternity with them. Usually you spend virtually every single evening with your team after school for practice, but the only glimpse I got of them was every other day in 8th period weight lifting. 

When I returned to the team, we lost a heartbreaker to Deerfield Beach in the semifinals of the playoffs by a score of 34-27; and then lost to Miramar High School in the same fashion the next week 28-21.

It was the exact opposite of how I wanted my crazy sophomore season to end, but I’ll never take those pre-game butterflies for granted again.