CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – An emotional embrace between player and coach signified what has been building at Austin Peay State University for quite some time.
"Govs win," Oh, how sweet the sound. We knew it was coming, but we never could have imagined what happened at Fortera Stadium on Saturday night.
I was lucky enough to be standing next to head coach Will Healy just after Gatorade bath number one poured down and as his football team was getting ready to celebrate a 69-13 win over Morehead State. As he embraced each of his coaches and players one-by-one, you could tell the emotions were on their way to getting the best of him. Then he saw Malik Boynton.
The two met and shared a moment rarely matched in life. Both unable to hold back a culminating feeling that has been 22 months in the making. It was a beautiful moment on the field and when asked about Boynton in the media press conference, Healy broke down again.
"There is nothing that makes me feel better about what we do as coaches than sharing some of those embraces with kids like Malik that have worked so hard," Healy said while fighting back tears. "Knowing what these seniors have been through and seeing them grow, tonight was truly amazing."
Amazing it was. As the entire student body made their way onto the field to bring down the goal posts, Healy remained fixated on the people around him. He stared into the masses and soaked up the moment, a moment that he made perfectly clear was about the guys who have been through the most. His guys. Our guys.
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"I can't imagine being in a place more supportive and coaching a team more resilient than what we have here," Healy said. "I think I am most proud of what type of kids they are. To me this was so much more about validation for these guys. For them to enjoy this win and the atmosphere, was the icing on the cake."
From what I know about these seniors, they are some of the most unique, passionate individuals in college football. They have played their hearts out for the opportunity to have this moment and finally, it was theirs.
"It's been a long time coming," Boynton said. "Just knowing what we have been through together and doing something as special as what we did tonight, I wouldn't want to have this type of moment with any other guys."
Dancing and pure jubilee filled the locker room as the media responsibilities were over and it was time to celebrate. Somehow lost in all this was one unbelievable performance. An Ohio Valley Conference record 10 rushing touchdowns highlighted an eye-popping, playmaking, and incredible display of football from the Govs.
As Healy embraced his squad for the first time as the winning team, he again had to fight his emotions. A long standing tradition in football is for the most productive player to be awarded the game ball during the celebration. This one was a bit different.
The entire team surrounded coach Healy gave him the game ball and made it very clear that this one was for him. That's what makes this whole thing special.
Healy says this was for the players.
The players say this was for the coaches.
Well, I will be the first to say, this was for everyone. Everyone that has stood by the Govs side, even when times were tough. For the fans, student body, and all former Govs. This was for you.
This night was bigger than the game. It was more than just rushing yardage, tackles and field goals. It was more than just the usual Saturday night lights with the band playing and the student section chanting. It was the next step in the process.
So for everyone, enjoy this. Relish it, love it and believe in it. As great as Saturday night was, the future of APSU football is just now being molded. And for those who think this moment was a one-time event, I will just let coach talk to you about that.
"This isn't even close to the end," Healy proudly proclaimed. "We are just getting started."