July 12, 2007 at 7:47 a.m.
Let me tell you about a ball player I had the opportunity to coach for three years.
Brian Ammerman joined our football team in sixth grade. When one of the coaches registered Brian to play, he remarked to me, "He's fast," and left the rest of the description for the introduction. When Brian showed up for equipment issue I questioned whether his parents fed him. I believe another coach tried to direct him to one of the 4th grade teams. It's needless to say anymore about stature. But he had the other cross to bear as a soccer player.
Brian's sixth grade season wasn't spectacular, but he was learning to understand the game and saw that he could contribute. It must have been positive enough because he showed up the next season for seventh grade. We had to buy Brian a special size helmet. He was our only extra small head we've had so far. I guess, at 74 pounds, that might happen.
Now that Brian had joined our traveling football team he was going to face bigger, faster and more competitive players. It's not my job, or any other coache's responsibility, to tell a boy to quit because he might not make it. It was our job to prepare him. There wasn't one time that entire season that Brian had the luxury to go against a boy even close to his size.
A few extra decibels in voice commands and some very specific instructional training along with the occasional pat on the back of this small player and, pretty soon, kids were not 75 pounds bigger. Brian didn't know the difference between a 100 pound opponent and a 180 pound one.
We played Centennial. They had a boy six feet tall and 190 pounds. He was fast and we were struggling with him. He would get the ball four out of five times in the backfield. On one play, they split him out wide and lined up on #29, 4' 11", 74 pound Brian Ammerman.
Who do you think was getting the ball and guess who was defending him? The play went as planned. The big player got the ball and he scored a touchdown. After the play I went out on the field and told Brian, "You played it as well as you could. There was nothing you could do. They threw a high ball and he got higher."
I can still hear Brian tell me, "I could have pulled his arm down instead of going for the ball." Size was just not an issue in his mind.
In Brian's eighth grade and final season with CLYF, he had "hefted" up to 85 pounds with helmet, shoulder pads, game pants, game jersey, spikes and extra curly hair showing through his face mask at weigh in.
He got beat on only one play last season. It wasn't because of size. It was because of a poor angle. Number 29 was mean and unforgiving to the thighs of players averaging 70 pounds more than him. We never questioned Brian's ability to be successful and commit to the team, versus using the excuse, "Well, he was so small, if he gets beat it's understood." That wasn't Brian. That wasn't us. Players, coaches and teammates had mutual respect for an 85 pound cornerback who played fearlessly with a heart as big as a melon and a never quit attitude that challenged all corners.
Brian Ammerman was tragically killed June 29 in a jet ski accident. His wonderful and loving parents and family are devastated with this loss. His dad, Stan, would be at all the games, right there on the sideline watching his son play. He occasionally saw his son get his fanny chewed, but he also noticed the pat on the back and admiration the coaches had for this tiger. Brenda, his mom, would help at the concession stand and, like any typical mom, didn't have a clue what her son was doing other than tackling the guy with the ball. Brian's teammates and classmates all showed up to say goodbye to him. Our coaching staff and I all had to visit him one last time to say goodbye.
Brian rests at South Green Lake Cemetery with one eye on his home and loving family, his back to the lake and water he loved for boating and fishing and his other eye on County 23 so he can remind his teammates and friends, as they grow up and drive by, to be a little more careful in life.
Brian, the next time I hear coaches, players and parents complain about size, I'm going to look upward and tell you to get down here and show them what 101% is.
To a Great Kid, Thanks Brian.