Inside the Swarm – J. L. Mann


Pre-game. “You’ve overcome some obstacles this year,” said Coach Bobo, “but you have the biggest one tonight because we don’t know about our destiny yet, what’s after the regular season. Big step for them and us. You used ‘team’ a lot last week. Now it’s crunch time. In comparing this season with last, how do we compare? Almost exact as far as wins and losses. You know what happened. Seniors, this will probably be the last time at Union County Stadium. 

“We have a guest speaker tonight, one of the oldest coaches I know, and we have some old ones. He’s been involved with at least ten different teams. Wrote four books. Please welcome Coach Paul.”

At that point, I burst into the room, in the role of an inter-millennial Apostle “Coach” Paul, dressed in first century attire but wearing a Yellow Jacket cap.

After giving high-fives all around for the Jacket performance against Blue Ridge, I introduced myself.

“Guys,” I continued, “I’m Coach Paul. As coach Bobo said, I’ve coached ten teams and written four books on coaching. In fact, I wrote most of the New Testament books in God’s Game Plan – the Bible.

“I was a very, very good coach, but for the wrong team. The religious leaders of that day believed Jesus was an imposter and killed him. And they persecuted His followers. That’s what I did. I put them in jail, closed their business, and had them killed. I thought they were against God.

“One day, I and some other like-minded coaches were on the way to Syria to persecute some Christians, when I got blinded with a bright light. A voice from heaven spoke to me and asked why I was persecuting Him.

“Scared me to death. Told Him I didn’t know what He was talking about.

“‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,’ said the voice of Jesus.”

At that point I realized that Jesus was the Son of God after all and I immediately believed on Him. Later He changed my name from Saul to Paul.

“I coached Christian teams in ten cities. The church in Corinth was having serious problems. Corinth was a city on the shores of Greece and was a very, very wicked city. I spent 18 months coaching them and then left. A few years later I got a message that they were having a lot of problems so I wrote my first letter to Corinth. They were true believers and very talented but had no clue what it meant to be a Christian.”

I then read from I Corinthians 6:9-11 and explained what “washed, sanctified, and justified” meant. “They were rough as a cob and didn’t know how to work as a team.”

“Guys, I’ve been watching Yellow Jacket football teams for a long time. Seen your grandfather, uncles, dad, and great grandfather play. So far this has been a rough year, like the team at Corinth, so I’ve written a short letter to you similar to the one I wrote the team at Corinth: Don’t you know that those who are only interested in themselves will not inherit the State Championship?

Do not be deceived, neither fumblers, nor players with monster egos, nor poor blockers, nor receivers who run the wrong routes, nor dbs who blow coverages, nor those who miss tackles, nor those who hit the wrong hole, nor those who get flagged, nor those who won’t give it up for the team, will inherit the State Championship.

But such were some of you. But you were washed by the sweat of a hundred practices and a thousand reps in the weight room; you have been set apart by your coaches to be a part of the Union Yellow Jackets, and you have been justified by the thousands of Yellow Jacket football players who have gone before you and who have worn the black and gold.

“You ARE the 2006 Union Yellow Jackets. You will ALWAYS be known as the 2006 Yellow Jackets.

“Now, you’ve been writing too. You’ve been writing this book in my hand.”

I then read from each of the nine chapters in the “Union Yellow Jackets 2006” book they had “written” each week of the season, pointing out how they allowed the other team, to write five losing chapters.

“Will this book take its place on the shelf with 17 consecutive play-off appearances or will you put in the desk and close the drawer?”

“This is YOUR book,” I continued. “Five times you let someone else write YOUR story. Does J. L. Mann write this chapter tonight? Who writes this chapter?”

Quarterback Cameron Willis and a couple others said, “We write.”

I repeated the question again and again, each time the team response - “We write” - got louder and louder.

I then led them in “Hail Union.”

“I have given each of you a pen,” I continued, “and I want you to do two things with it. First, sign this page in your book, indicating that YOU will be doing the writing tonight. And second, write ‘W W’ on your hand, to remind you that ‘We Write.’”

The D. The defense gathered in the weight room as Coach Mike Hawkins reviewed several defensive plays against Mann’s formations. “There’s a lot to play for,” continued Hawkins. “You need to take care of OUR business. You ought to shut them out. If this game isn’t important to you, you shouldn’t be playing.

This season hasn’t gone like we expected but is it NOT over until YOU say it is. Seniors, there aren’t many games left. Don’t take a single play off. College coaches look for players who take plays off. Against Riverside, five plays killed us. It has happened all year long. You can go as far as you want to go.”

At the field. “Seniors,” began Coach Bobo, “enjoy this evening. Tell your family you love them for being here for you. One of the Mann coaches said that while you played well last week, he didn’t think you could do it two weeks in a row.”

At the half. “Get tight in here,” said Bobo. “That run by Brandon (Jeter) was great…but he let a lineman catch him,” to laughs by the team. “Remember last year, we had Clover 21-0 and they came back. Seniors, when you left to go to the sidelines, this group said, ‘Seniors, lead us.’ Lead them. The defense has set the tone. Now, don’t let them stay in the game.”

After. “Good job,” began Bobo, “You took care of business. We will be on the road against Greer. Get ready Monday. If you’re hurt, see the trainer before you leave tonight. When you’re in the game, keep your mouth shut. And if you rush the field from the sidelines, the High School League will suspend you for one game. You will decide how far we will go.”

Quick hitters. The juniors elected Freddie Bates and Billing Jennings co-captains…the first quarter lasted 37 minutes, due in part, to TV timeouts… there’s one Jacket coach whose answer to cold weather is to wear special socks - to bed…the sideline players have been much more vocal in their support of those on the field…the coaching staff spends a lot of time with the players during the week reviewing films, explaining what’s going on, why, and what their action should be.

The Journey Continues. The Jacket Bowl. Greer. 7:30. Be there.


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