Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Thoughts on Damien Nash

I think most of the time when I make a post here, it will likely be thought out, researched and proofed to an extent. I cannot tell you why...just my style I suppose. This one won't be like that; it will probably be just a tad more stream of consciousness. I guess that makes it a little more blog-like.

My thoughts on Damien Nash are simple...what a shame. What a shame for a young man who had overcome a good deal to reach his over-riding dream to fall at such a young and promising age.

I felt compelled to write a little on Damien because I had a tie to him. Not a strong tie mind you, but a tie nonetheless.

On a cold January morning back in 2001, I arrived at the Devine Pavilion, which is where I worked for a year as the Students Services Representative for the Mizzou Athletic Department. I was asked to be there early that Saturday morning to help with a big recruiting visit that was going to happen. Six (I believe) high school football players were going to be coming in. The buzz around the building was that this was the most important weekend in Gary Pinkel's EXTREMELY young tenure at Mizzou.

My boss (Ed Stewart) had done me a favor really in allowing me to be the representative of our two-man department. Most other recruiting mornings, I was either not needed there, or would show up just to be seen, but contributed little to the morning. That morning, Ed had given me the chance to participate out of a conversation we had two days before when I told him how excited I was for the recruits coming to town that weekend. Ed asked if I wanted to run our show and I accepted. The secretary for the recruiting section gave me my assignment that morning when I arrived. For the first few hours of the morning while the athletes and their guardians were at the Devine Pavilion, I was assigned to Damien Nash.

Damien was a very polite young man when I met him that morning. I assumed an athlete of his caliber and acclaim would have a swagger, and while I believe he did, he did not show it that morning. He seemed very quiet as I talked to him about MY own excitement for his being there and how much I loved Mizzou. (I came to find out later that I was assigned to Damien because I was the lone MU grad that morning being paired up). I led Damien through the morning meetings and panels. I answered any questions he had (few) and told him as many good things as I could (many).

As the morning wore on, I noticed something about Damien. He was REALLY quiet. We had just finished a talk by one of the academic people when there was a short break before the athletes were to be reconnected with their guardians before heading on to lunch, which meant my involvement for the morning was coming to an end. As we exited the room, I asked Damien what he thought about the academic people. He replied he thought it was pretty cool how much help the students received. I asked him next what he thought he might like to study. He had no real response to the question, but while hemming and hawing through his non-answer, he stopped. I asked him what was up and it finally came through....

At that point, Damien knew he was not going to be attending Mizzou in the fall. His grades were simply not going to allow him to do so. We talked a bit about what he was looking at for his last semester, and playing the coach role, I told him there was still time and he could really buckle down and make it happen. He kept telling me no, that there was no way it was going to happen. We talked a little about what HE thought his future was going to be; the rest of high school, college and his goal of the NFL. I ended our conversation by saying I believed MU would always be there for him. But I left him feeling sad that he was so excited to be there that morning, that he could see one finish line but knew he was not going to cross it for some time.

In the end, Damien's own premonition was right. He did not qualify out of high school and went the JUCO route, getting injured while playing there. Upon his arrival to MU, the thought of Brad Smith and Damien Nash was downright scary. His career was what it was, I am too far away from any situation to know what did or did not happen in the end. But in that end, Damien was drafted by Tennessee and got on with Denver this past year. And I always felt just a little pride when I would see his name in the box score this season.

Damien had made it this year, through all the trials and tribulations his high school, JUCO and college careers had thrown him. He had made it. He lived his dream. He was awoken far too early from it though, and for that I will always feel just a little extra sorrow when recalling him.

RIP Damien Nash.