Jacob Gillett and Kolton Vickers will be co-team captains during the McNary freshman football game with McKay Thursday, Oct. 28. Both their fathers have been called up to active duty since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

When things are going as well as they have been for the McNary High School freshman football team, it’s easy to lose perspective, but that’s not the same as facing adversity.

“I hear athletes talk all the time in interviews about ‘overcoming adversity’ to win a championship,” said Ted Anagnos, head coach of the frosh team. “Just once, I’d like to see an athlete interviewed say that playing a game is not adversity. Adversity is the guy fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq in 115-degree temperatures so we get the right to play a great game.”

Earlier this season, he was trying to impress upon the young Celts the importance keeping wins, even several of them in a row, in perspective and he asked how many of their families had been affected by military deployments. Two players, Jacob Gillet and Kolton Vickers, had fathers who had been deployed since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The pair will be co-team captains in the upcoming game with McKay High School Thursday, Oct. 28. The players with other family members in the armed forces will stand 10 yards behind the captains as they take the field.

Gillett’s father, Lt. Col. Michael Gillett in the National Guard, was stationed in Iraq for 10 months last year. He handled personnel and logistics for defensive operations at Victory Base Complex in Baghdad.

“It was a scary time,” Jacob said. “I think we were always worried he might get shot.”

Kolton’s father was last deployed in 2003 for two years in North Carolina, while he was young at the time, the family recently received word that Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vickers would be redeployed sometime in the next six to eight months.

“We just found out about that a few weeks ago and it was pretty tough,” Kolton said.

The Vickers have a constant reminder of the dangers faced by American armed forces, the family runs a tribute car, under the name Guardian Racing, in area drag races that displays the names of fallen soldiers from throughout Oregon.

“If someone has a family member killed in the line of duty, they can call us and we’ll add their name to the car,” Kolton said.

In the midst of such turmoil – not to mention making the massive leap from middle school to high school – both boys have found an outlet in football and other sports for any tension that arises.

“For me, having a perspective on how well we’re doing means I’m not focused on just one thing at any time,” Kolton said.

It can’t hurt, however, that their football team has made enormous strides on the field. Both boys admire their fathers as heroes, but both also know the pride they have in their families.

“My best memory of my dad was on a trip we took to Florida,” Jake said. “He ended up going to a conference and took me along. As he introduced me to the people he worked with, he treated me like a trophy and that felt really good,” Jacob said.

Anagnos has great faith in his crop of Celtic gridders, but he know it can fade if the players don’t maintain a firm footing in the things that truly matter. Appreciating the sacrifice of others is only one part of what he hopes will allow the team to bring home a state championship with a few more years of experience.

“This is a very humble, deep and talented group,” Anagnos said. “I feel they have handled the success in perspective, but it takes a lot of discipline to achieve the goals we have. My dad made us salute the flag and stand tall as Americans and remember why we are here, that’s a lesson I want them to carry forward.”