This morning, our son, Hunter signed his National Letter of Intent to play football at the University of North Dakota. For many close friends, family and community supporters, Hunter choosing football over college basketball came as a surprise last summer when he committed to UND. But to our family, it was not as much of a surprise as it was meant to be. This was a plan that came together in a way we could never have predicted or planned ourselves.
UND football head coach, Bubba Schweigert, is originally from our sparsely populated rural county. Last night Hunter played basketball in Coach Schweigert’s home gym of Zeeland, North Dakota. Small world moments and connections are special to us.
In my UND years as a student and working for UND Athletics, Hunter grew up around UND. He was born in Grand Forks. I was born in Grand Forks. I grew up around UND and consider it a home. Both of my parents, brother Joe and I all are UND graduates as is our great aunt Iris, a 1928 UND graduate, the oldest living alumnus at 110 years old.
My dad played basketball at UND. I transferred home from the University of Georgia to UND to throw discus. Today Hunter continued on a family tradition and will be a UND football player. I shared a couple of pictures on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter from this morning’s signing. You can also follow UND’s coverage here.
I am going to share more about Hunter’s choices and college decisions soon through photos and writing. I think it is important to acknowledge no matter where you are located you can set big goals for yourself, work hard and accomplish them. They don’t have to be sports related. Hunter left signing today to go to FFA practice for Ag Sales. A varied path sets kids up for all types of careers and opportunities.
Today we are relishing in this homecoming and full circle story. When I look at the below picture from the first UND/NDSU football game in the Alerus Center from 2001, I can see my little boy’s sparkle and passion. The same sparkle and passion he exudes today.When Hunter came home for a quick lunch today he said he had scores of unread messages on his phone to respond to. He ate his lunch and quietly looked at them.
I thought about how there will never be one from the best friend he lost in a car accident last June. Zach and Zach’s brother Connor died tragically. Hunter couldn’t bear the thought of his dream of playing college basketball with Zach to never come true. But the dream ended in some ways and changed when Zach passed away. They were bonded and connected in a unique way. No one would have been more supportive of Hunter and his decision than Zach. He was an encourager and a teammate everyone wanted to have.
While scholarships and acknowledgement of hard work are rewarding feats, sports do not solely define our life and character. It’s people and relationships and where we go when our earthly life ends that are most defining. Hunter, without any doubt, knows Zach and Connor are in heaven, probably too busy in paradise to even know it’s National Signing Day and we miss them. We are proud of the journey. The challenges. The sweat. The practices and workout alone. The early mornings. The road trips. The joys and triumphs. The heartache and brokenness. The promise and opportunity. The future. It’s a full circle day to remember.