Daniel Boone opens its football season at Elizabethton on Friday, but the Trailblazers’ Grant Seeger believes his team will have the 12th man.
Seeger’s father Steve, the man who had tallied statistics and cheered with love since Seeger was a small child, died unexpectedly from a heart attack in May. His 51st birthday had come five days earlier.
“I’ve been playing with Grant since peewee football,” Daniel Boone senior center Andrew Street said. “His dad always kept the stats for the team and he’d always give us a sheet with all our tackles and yards at the end of the season. … When we heard, I mean it just hit us like a brick.”
Seeger’s response packed quite a wallop, too. Less than 48 hours later, he showed up for Boone’s spring scrimmage and immediately took off on a long run that covered nearly the length of the field.
“He wanted to play and we let him play,” Boone coach Jeremy Jenkins said. “And the first run he took it 80 yards.”
Jenkins smiled as if flashing back to the Seeger dash, which surely shined light through glistening eyes on the immortality of love.
“I felt like that run was just a sign that I needed to be out there with the rest of the team,” Seeger said. “I could’ve chosen not to play, but I went out. And good things happen when you go out there with all your brothers playing football.”
Street, quarterback Dustin Chandler and fellow senior Ben Brinkley have been especially supportive, and Seeger said even the small gestures of so many have meant a lot.
“He came out and ran with a purpose in the scrimmage,” said Chandler, who’s known the Seegers since early in elementary school. “His dad kept our stats from the time we were in flag all the way to now. When we were younger in flag football he used to take us to Dairy Queen and stuff. … I felt really bad for Seeger, but I think football is a good escape that helps him.”
Seeger should produce plenty of stats this season. He’s set to start at running back with Josh Bacon, and he’ll return kicks.
A touchdown on Friday would be storybook, Seeger concedes, but there are many ways to please his father on a football field.
“He was just as happy — maybe you didn’t make the run but you made the block that made someone else the 15 yards needed for a first down,” Seeger said. “He just wanted you to do your part, and do that the best that you could. Which, I’m sure, he’d like to see a couple of touchdowns … but victory’s most important.”
Seeger’s mental toughness has inspired those around him in doing their jobs.
“He has handled it in stride,” Jenkins said, “and much better than I would have. He has really stepped up this year from a leadership point, where he could have felt sorry for himself. He seems like a very determined young man.
“He is a great kid and a joy to coach and is from a loving family. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to coach a young man like Grant.”
Seeger stops well short of saying he’s made peace with the shocking death, which often still leaves him feeling cheated by fate.
“There are times — yeah, I’m very bitter about it at times,” he said. “The low points, I guess, is what you’d call it. … It’s still there with me about every day. You know, not a day goes by — not that kind of deal.”
While going through some of his father’s possessions, Seeger found the folders with spreadsheets with statistics of him and his teammates, an invaluable memento now left to chronicle cherished childhoods.
“He started that with flag football,” Seeger said. “You can always look back and just be happy about what you had.”
Seeger said his father was an avid fan of the Minnesota Vikings and Alabama Crimson Tide. The Nick Saban era was ecstasy, especially when Alabama routed a Notre Dame team that he thought was getting too much respect from the national media.
“That one really bent him out of shape when they talked ’em up like that,” Grant said with a loving chuckle, as if he could see his dad jumping around in front of the TV celebrating a Crimson Tide TD.
Street is obviously still struggling with the pain his mate must endure on a daily basis. He said they’ve always known one another, but have grown considerably closer the past couple of years.
“I mean, we’re literally at each other’s houses almost every day,” Street said. “Grant’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.”
Street will never forget Seeger showing up for that spring scrimmage, much less how he outran the pain.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Street said. “His dad was at every football game, a big supporter of him. Grant told me, ‘I’d rather be out here on the football field getting my mind off of it than sitting at home and that’s all I can think about.’
“I know Grant; he goes hard in every game. But he’ll play that first game like nobody else has.”
And Seeger has faith his No. 1 fan will be nearby.
“He’ll be there,” Seeger said, “on Friday.”