It was a beautiful day for college football. Jackson and I were on campus to volunteer at the UKirk house (the Presbyterian Campus Ministry where I serve on the board of directors). We intended to skip over to Peyton Manning Pass, the road that leads directly to Neyland Stadium, to participate in the Vol Walk. We’ve done this several times before. Jackson loves to see the football players, and I love the Pride of the Southland Band. It’s win-win.
However, on Saturday, the Vol Walk seemed extra packed. Sure, it was the Tennessee-Georgia game day, and that’s a big rivalry. But, wow. It was crowded.
The crowd is hard to manage as a tall person, but it is painfully challenging for an 11-year-old. Fortunately, after locating an older woman who I hoped was a grandmother, and therefore understanding, I tapped her on the shoulder and asked if Jackson could stand next to her as the football team walked by. She smiled and said yes and took Jackson into her care. I stood several rows of people behind them. I didn’t need the front row experience, but I wanted it for my son.
Soon the band was playing Rocky Top, and we all looked up the street awaiting the team’s walk towards Neyland. There was yelling and whistling, and the crowd grew with excitement. The Volunteer mascot whooshed by, which meant the team was next.
But the team wasn’t next, at least not yet.
I saw Phillip Fulmer first and Peyton Manning second, and then my heart jumped into my throat because Jackson was about to get a high-five from the Greatest Of All Time.
I wish I could post a photo of the moment when the high-five occurred, but I was wedged behind a tall man who was working on getting his own high-five, so I only caught the second before and the moment after.
If you look directly above the iPhone, you’ll see Jackson’s little hand. Right above him is Peyton Manning. Jackson was next in line.
In a split second, it was over.
The football team was right behind him, so Jackson went on to high-five every player he could.
When the Vol Walk was over, Jackson and I scurried out of the crowd to fully assess WHAT JUST HAPPENED.
“Did Peyton Manning give you a high-five?”
“YES. OH, MY GOODNESS. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT.”
“I can’t believe it!”
“NO, I CAN’T BELIEVE IT EITHER.”
This went on several more times because we had no idea Peyton Manning was going to be there. Jackson had already met Phillip Fulmer, and he had a wonderful random run-in with Josh Dobbs (where hugs were exchanged), but a high-five from Peyton Manning was never on the radar. I quickly set him down on a stone wall and said, “We have to capture this moment.”
On the way back to the UKirk house I received a text from a friend saying Brett Favre was also on campus that day. Since I didn’t know about it beforehand, we missed an opportunity to meet him and get an autograph. I can’t even tell you how bummed I was about that.
And yet, the feeling of disappointment didn’t linger because Jackson was flying high and the smile on his face was quite enough.