They're the Gladiators of Sunday. The Architects of Victory.
The Legends under Center. If their franchises were coffee, they'd be the stir sticks. We love them because they lead our teams 98 yards down the field and hit receivers named Mark Jackson for game-winning touchdowns. They throw for 399 yards and four scores on Monday nights the day after their dads die. They get drafted in the third round and go on to win multiple Super Bowls before finishing their careers in Kansas City where they change numbers but still rip your heart out like old times with one more cool comeback. They've names like Unitas, Namath, Staubach, Elway, Marino, Montana, Favre, Manning, and Manning, and because of them, every season is another chance to win it all.
Wait. Peyton's on there twice? Really? No, no. Remember little brother Eli is wearing two bright-and-shinies and arguably deserves a place on that list himself. But if you ask Cade Gafford, it's just Peyton times two, and deservedly so. After all, Peyton is a quarterback in the truest sense of the word, and Cade knows quarterbacks.
"The thing I like about Peyton," says Cade, "is that even now if you watch him, he really dictates the whole game. He makes reads and changes plays every down. Sometimes he's just yelling out random words to confuse the defense and make them think he's switching things up. He's just got such a presence on the field."
Cade Gafford knows quarterbacks because he is a quarterback. In fact, he's the starting quarterback for the Delta Panthers, wearing the #7 that's fast becoming a piece of QB tradition at DHS. In his first season as the Panther starter, Cade's just beginning to make a few lists of his own.
He stands 6'6" tall and weighs 185 pounds. He's the quarterback all right, but he's also the punter — a rare double-duty that might hearken Cowboys fans back to the days of Danny White. Cade stands tall in the pocket and seems to invite nicknames like "The Rifleman" or "The Gunslinger," but he conducts himself more like Calvin Coolidge.
At sixteen years old, Cade moves up and down the hallways of DHS with the stately bearing of a president, a man-child who can converse just as easily with adults as he can with his peers. He sports a GPA just slightly lower than 4.0, but one of his goals for the remainder of his high school career is to remedy that with honors classes. Stinkin' B in advanced English his freshman year knocked him down a few hundredths.
Cade wants to go to college and study history after high school. Fascinated by American history and ancient civilizations, he says, "I'm not sure if I want to go the history teacher route or pursue some other option, but I think it would be really cool if I could specialize in something like ancient history and travel overseas to see it all."
In the meantime, Cade loves sports, especially football and especially gamedays. "One of the big things that I love about high school football," he says, "is the family atmosphere. If you get knocked down, you know you have the other ten guys to pick you up. I really love that.
"And Friday night lights has always been a tradition, no matter where you go," he continues. "Especially in smaller towns, the high school football team is a big deal. Everybody shows up for it. My dad's from Texas, and it's a different kind of atmosphere there, but still . . . I really love going out on the field with the lights and all the people. I get excited. But I'm going to have to be more locked in this year. Before, I could just go out there and enjoy the atmosphere and take everything in, but this year it's strictly business."
One of the ways Cade takes care of business is by taking care of his body. "Between the night before and the day of a game, I really watch what I eat and drink," says Cade. "No chips, no hamburgers, and no pop. I try to down four or five bottles of water on gameday. If I don't, I just don't feel like my body's fit to go."
Like his favorite player, Peyton Manning, Cade is a student of the game. This aspect of his approach has not escaped the notice of Coach Ryan Whittington, who excelled as a high school quarterback himself just over a decade ago. "One thing I really like about Cade," says Whit, "is that he wants to be good. He asks a lot of questions and wants you to stay on him. He wants to make sure he's doing things right. If you can find that in any kid, I think you're going to be good."
"My dad told me just the other day that 'pressure is privilege' — that to be able to have pressure placed on you is a privilege. It's not a bad thing — something to crumble under. It's a blessing. Just to have the ability to be in a position where pressure exists says a lot about you. He told me to take it as a good thing and know that you're going to achieve and succeed."
And so the Drive begins.blog comments powered by Disqus