Guess who's demanding to have a kid's high school passing record
wiped from the books?
The kid who set it.
Hang on to your Barcalounger for a second. You're about to get
all your cynicism about sports stuck right in your ear.
Go back two weeks. In the last high school game of his life, Nate
Haasis, a 17-year-old quarterback at Southeast High in
Springfield, Ill., is losing to Cahokia High 36-20 with 22
seconds left. It's a lousy Saturday because he's also going to
fall 29 yards short of the Central State Eight conference career
passing record. Cahokia has the ball. Southeast is out of
timeouts. Fans are packing up.
November 17, 2003
Except now Southeast coach Neal Taylor is meeting with Cahokia
coach Antwyne Golliday at midfield. When play resumes, the ball
is snapped and the Southeast defenders have their hands inside
their jerseys, allowing Cahokia to cover the 28 yards to the end
zone like 11 guys on a morning jog.
Cahokia kicks off out-of-bounds. Eight seconds left. Nate and his
offense take the field. The coaches are screaming at Nate, "This
is for you! This is for you!"
What's for me? Nate wonders. Then he sees that no Cahokia players
are within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. "That's when I knew
something was up," Nate admits.
He throws a five-yard pass to his receiver, Jacque Robinson, who
is so alone he must think his deodorant has failed. He runs
directly to the spot where Taylor is standing on the sideline
yelling, "Run to here!" It's a 37-yard gain. Nate has the record.
It was a setup, a fix, a last-second favor from one coach to
another to get a good kid a big record. High tens all around.
But it poked up under Nate's pillow that night, soured his cereal
the next morning, whispered in his ear during class that Monday.
"I kept thinking of the guy who had the record before me," Nate
says. "I mean, his teammates fought for every yard he got. And
then I get mine this way? It just seemed wrong."
Coincidentally, the next day he got the grim news from an Ivy
League school that it was no longer interested in recruiting him.
(Later in the week the same thing would happen with the only
other Ivy League school he had a chance with.) Nate was having
one helluva bad week.
On Tuesday night Nate decided to do something crazy. He wrote the
conference president and asked him to remove the record from the
"[Out of] respect [for] my teammates, and past and present
football players of the Central State Eight," Nate wrote, "it is
my hope that this pass is omitted from any conference records."
Somewhere, a guy in a suit read that letter and fainted.
In Cedar Falls, Iowa, Griff Jurgens, the player who had set the
record for Chatham (Ill.) Glenwood High in 1998, then lost it and
now may get it back, was blown away. "If you see him," says
Jurgens, "will you tell him I have the utmost respect for him?"
Better, Nate again has respect for himself. "Right away I felt
better," he says. "I never cared about the record, anyway. I just
wanted to win games." His father, Lou, an engineer, says, "We're
sure proud of him."
So, apparently, are plenty of people across America. Nate is
suddenly a national symbol for doing the right thing. In a
bling-bling world it's bigger than MAN BITES DOG. It's CONSCIENCE
BITES MAN. And when it's a kid righting adults' wrongs, it's an
icy Gatorade bath for the soul.
Hey, you think ethics might suddenly be contagious? You think the
New York Giants' Michael Strahan will return the record-setting
sack he got with Brett Favre's Oscar-worthy dive? Will
Connecticut basketball's Nykesha Sales protest the uncontested
layup that was gift-wrapped so she could set her school scoring
record? Will Colorado coach Bill McCartney give back the
fifth-down win over Missouri in 1990 that led to his national
title? Uh--no, no and hell, no.
Meanwhile, Southeast alumni and fans and the media in Springfield
are clamoring for the aching head of Taylor, even though he had
led the team to its best record ever (8-3) and the playoffs in
2002. It's gotten so nasty that Taylor has had to take time off
from his job as an eighth-grade language arts and phys ed
"Eight seconds of my life, man, and I'm still paying for it,"
says Taylor, whose e-mail box has been jammed ever since. "People
are saying we met behind the building at halftime and arranged
this secret deal. Insane stuff. I was just trying to get Nate's
name in the record books. I was trying to do something good, but
no good came from it."
Taylor's fate is in the hands of the Springfield school district,
but it's almost certain that Nate's record will be Wite-Outed
this week--his total will be rolled back to 4,969 yards--because
the kid who set it doesn't want it.
And if it bugs you that a kid this honest and this principled
doesn't have a single Division I offer yet, relax. The sooner he
gives up football, the quicker we can get him to the place where
we really need him--Washington, D.C.
"It is my hope," wrote young Nate Haasis, "that this pass is
omitted from any conference records."
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