St. Joseph Regional High School

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An Eye-Opening Experience

Isaiah Hopkinson '18

 

“What went through your mind when it happened?”

 

That was the first question I asked when I got the chance to meet Army Sergeant Odin Ayala, who lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan.

 

Our football team was set to play in the Honor Bowl in Mission Viejo, CA, and our school had arranged a visit to Camp Pendleton, a U.S. Marine Corps base.

 

He answered: “How do I get my men out of here?” We take hard hits in football. And my first thought is usually "Man, that hurt!" But Sgt. Ayala’s perspective changed my mindset.

 

The next day, the Honor Bowl staff gave us a commemorative sticker to put on our helmet. It was my little badge that I had to honor. It’s not the same as being in battle, but now I knew that I would be there for my teammates no matter what.

 

In the opening huddle, I couldn’t get Sgt. Ayala's words out of my head. We ran to the left, I set the lead block on the outside. I remembered what he said, how he thought only about his men, his brothers. I ran as hard as I could at my defender to take him out of the play and then celebrated with my teammates, my brothers, as we ran for an 80-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead!

 

Hopkinson earned First Team All-League honors in the Big North.