This past weekend, I got to watch a video of my grandson making some dazzling moves on the football field.
He took a kickoff from near his goal and made a couple quick moves before darting and slashing across the field more than 90 yards to a touchdown. I was smiling and laughing as I watched him.
I watched the run about 10 times before I was satisfied that it was actually Evan, my 16-year-old grandson, who made the run.
He is the same boy who, when he was about 3, darted left and right around the furniture in my den before stumbling to the floor and crashing into a stereo speaker. He wound up with a small gash on his forehead. He still has the scar. It looks more like a badge of courage now.
Back to his football exploits. I was so taken by his highlights that I decided I would call him to tell him how proud I was of him.
I was not able to reach him on the first try, but, lo and behold, he called me back. I started off our conversation with our traditional little inside joke about his “Nana” that I will never share in this column, or anywhere else for that matter. But, suffice to say that we both had our usual chuckle.
I asked him how it felt to run back a long touchdown. “I was tired, Pop. That was a long run,” he said. We both laughed.
Quickly, I told him about how proud I was of him for some quick action he took a few weeks ago when a younger football player was lying in distress on the floor in the locker room.
Evan lifted up the much heavier boy up, placed him on his shoulder and directed several other boys to call 911. Evan carried the boy to the team’s training room. Within minutes, an emergency medical team arrived and started treating the young man.
How could this quick-thinking young man be the same grandson who told me about a year ago he doesn’t think about much? I knew he was pulling my leg.
Evan never called or texted me to tell me that he was being celebrated around his school as a hero. Nor did he tell me about his star turns on the football field. I like his modest approach. (My daughter takes care of that, and plenty.)
He did, however, text me to ask for a few dollars so that he could go out with his friends.
But, as our conversation about his football exploits started to fade, Evan knew where I was headed with the rest of the conversation.
From a report from his mom, I’d heard that his grades were improving. But, Evan is Evan. And, he’s still a work in progress.
I impressed upon him that the grades are just as important as the touchdowns. He has heard that from me before, so I could envision his wrinkled brow on the other end of the phone.
He gave me an update on his grades, and they appeared to be OK, especially for him. My daughter confirmed the uptick in grades. I made a deal with him on what would be in store for him if he at least maintained or improved his grades. Evan seemed pleased with the notion of being rewarded for his grades.
There was no conversation about rewards for touchdowns and great tackles other than “atta boys.”
The wonderful thing I noticed in the conversation was how his voice was changing and the maturity of the words he chose.
I would love for Evan to become a star high school athlete, win a college scholarship and, perhaps, become an NFL star. I know that is his goal.
The bigger thing, though, is that I want him to realize that his education is the No. 1 thing on his plate.
When we concluded our conversation, we had one last chuckle about his Nana, and I started to tell him about staying strong in his books. “I know Pop, I know,” he said.
I really, really hope that he does.
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.