On Wednesday Feb 10th we got a call that Zach's senior season football team (2007) were being inducted into the Valdosta State Hall of Fame that weekend. We were pretty bummed that we didn't have advance notice (and that we didn't get the fancy invite in the mail that some of the other players received) but we were SO thankful that we were able to move things around to make SURE we were there for such a HUGE honor!
A couple years ago the 2004 team was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Zach was a redshirt freshman that year and it was the first time VSU won a National Championship! We weren't able to attend all the events that weekend but were still grateful for the honor and the chance to catch up with some of his teammates at a mixer the first night (you can read about it here!)
This time it was the 2007 team who was being inducted. While the 2004 season was amazing (Zach caught a touchdown at the National Championship game!) the 2007 season was just so special. It was his senior season, his last time playing football, we had just gotten married, and it was Coach Dean's first season. Zach had an A-MAZING touchdown catch (it was Sportscenters Top Play of the Day...you can see it here but the quality is pretty rough) that helped secure our spot in the National Championship game and he contributed to our National Championship win with a touchdown and several great blocks :) It was SUCH a special year and really has so many memories that we both will always cherish. I had a blast going through and finding some old pics to mix in to this post! So it's a semi-flashback post too :)
Even though we had plans already for that weekend, we worked it out to make sure we were at every event. Friday night we went to a meet and greet type mixer and were able to visit for an hour or so with several of the players. The following morning we attended a brunch for the inductees and guests. It was a fancy affair and was put on so well by the VSU staff!
Each inductee to the Hall of Fame spoke. It was neat that John Rogers spoke as his mother was inducted. John played basketball at VSU and so did his mom. Zach's family knows his family well and enjoyed seeing his late mother honored in such a great way. Many tears were shed by us all for sure!
Here is a list of al the people who were inducted that day:
Of course we were all the most excited to hear Coach Dean speak. Zach's junior season of football was his toughest. It was one of the toughest experiences he's ever had and we were very torn on what to do for his senior season. We even considered transferring. But then Coach Dean became the head coach and it was SUCH a game changer for Zach personally, as well as for the entire time. Coach Dean had coached Zach as his receiver coach and he's Zach's all-time favorite coach. Having him lead the team was such an awesome experience. He's truly an incredible man and we are SO SAD that he's moving onto bigger things and will no longer be the head coach at VSU. For us, the Blazers won't be the same without him! I'm also SUPER grateful that Kye did his football camp last summer as he won't get the opportunity to be coached by Daddy's favorite coach again!
I took video of as much as Coach Dean's speech as I could. This one covers most of the beginning of his speech and this one covers most of the end (and is when he mentions Zach). I got SUPER emotional hearing him speak and I know it touched Zach too. Just thinking back to that time in our lives and how this moment really was the true end of that era. Whew it hit me big time and I'm so thankful I was part of that time in Zach's life. It's something we both really cherish!
Watching Coach Dean I saw his daughters both crying which was precious. However it also knocked me in the gut because his daughters are supposed to look like THIS...they are not supposed to be in college and beautiful adults!!! We are OLD!
A neat thing about the event is that it wasn't only open to the inductees, it was also open to boosters and anyone in the area who wanted to buy a ticket. It was so neat reuniting with some of Zach's biggest fans who we hadn't seen since that National Championship Win!
As a special surprise Big Daddy and Little Mama surprised Zach and were there for the brunch! I'm so thankful to Mema and Cheryl for watching our kids for us so myself and Zach's parents could all attend. Mr. Rusty, Mrs. Charlotte and I put some miles on the road (and in the air!) to attend all of his games throughout his college career but especially that final season. That time was really what bonded me to Zach's family and we were some awesome cheerleaders ;)
This was the game where he had that Sportscaster #1 catch! It was in Pennsylvania so we were FREEZING! (sidenote...but it was also the day of our college graduation, totally worth missing PLUS we had an AMAZING graduation ceremony later which you can see here!)
A big part of the senior season wasn't just about cheering on Zach...it was about cheering on Tucker too. Katie went to all of the home games (and even two away games!) with me and I remember vividly being DRENCHED in sweat at the Albany State game. We were DYING and the heat got to us and we got a little silly and thought it'd be fun to start chanting for them to put Tucker in. Tucker was the backup quarterback and we became his biggest fans ;) We even created a Facebook Fan Page for him and always freaked out whenever we'd get to meet him. I know he must feel so special that even 9 years later I'm all "TEAM TUCKER!" when I see him and ask for a pic of just him and I hahaha. He is a coach now at our local high school so it'd be awesome if Kye ever plays and if he's still there!
Oh yeah we def had signs for Tucker too!
The best part of the brunch (aside from Coach Dean's speech) was just getting to mingle with everyone. We had planned to be home around noon and ended up not getting home until closer to 2 and really could have stayed longer. It was one of those times where you just don't want to leave because you know once you do that nothing will ever be the same again. I remember having that same feeling on the field after the 2007 National Championship Game. That was it. Football was over. And while were were all SO PUMPED about the big win, we were also sad because we knew it was the end of such an amazing time in our lives. Being reunited with everyone was a sweet reminder of those memories but it was also a reminder that there won't be another reason for everyone to be together. I hope someday VSU puts together something again so these guys can reunite!
The team with the National Championship trophy!
Holding up the trophy on the night of the WIN!
While I'm sure we will still attend many VSU games in the future, it just won't be the same without Coach Dean there. Coach Dean helped Zach last year put together a VSU helmet and jersey for Kye and he's just seriously THE nicest person. He is just a genuine good guy and someone who deserves the best that life has to offer. It's awesome for him (and his family!) that he's gotten a new coaching job but all of us in Valdosta will miss him so much! We did have a chance to meet the new head coach while we were at the brunch and he seems great too, but no one will compare to Coach Dean for us!
This is what Zach posted on instagram about Coach Dean: "Coach Dean is an amazing coach, leader and man. He affected my life in so many ways. His heartfelt speech today was amazing. He will be missed at VSU"
Back when they were coach and player :)
Zach and Chad - 2016 versions
and the 2007 versions!
Something that was SO neat to me was that SO many of the girls I sat with at the games were also there at the hall of fame induction. These football players held onto their #1 fans :) I believe at the time Zach and I were the only ones who were married but it's so cool that the other girls are all wives now too and that so much of our conversations were about our babies :) There was one moment where Zach and a fellow player were legit discussing potty training. I was like "y'all. we are obviously adults now" hahaha!
I've always adored Chad, his family, and especially his better half! They live in our dang neighborhood yet it took this event for us to get together...hoping to change that!!!
I didn't get a pic with Alex but it was AWESOME to catch up with her as well!
Usually I'm the more "social butterfly" and love mingling with people and Zach (while the life of any party) is not as into large group situations. It was SO fun seeing him SO HAPPY and having such a great time visiting with all of his teammates. It was also cute how I was like his personal photographer taking pics of them all with him!
I had a few flashback pics with some of his teammates! I think this was from the very first ever Blazer Walk!
It was great to see EVERYONE but we especially had a great time with Chance and Amy! Zach always really liked Chance and I knew Amy from a class we had together. We reconnected on Facebook and have stayed in pretty close touch (she has done several great projects for me via her store Darley's Darling Creations which you can check out via Facebook here!) and it was so great to visit with them in person! She also blogs at Team Darley so be sure to check it out! Amy was a cheerleader for VSU so she didn't get the amazing privilege to hang with us in the stands ;)
The minute Zach and I learned about this event our first thought was "Will Palmer come?" We were both so hoping to see him and were super pumped he was able to make it! I've known Scott since middle school and he's always been a great friend. He's part of the reason Zach and I met as he and Zach were teammates all the way through college. We have great memories with Scott and Zach and I were both so happy to see him so happy :)
A bunch of our friends from high school all still hang out so my social media feeds are always flooded with pics that serve as a reminder to me that I don't live near anyone from high school haha. Finally my turn to hang with a high school buddy ;)
Willie was the starting quarterback during the 2007 Season!
Willie and Zach had some great plays together including a touchdown pass during the National Championship game that year!
SO proud of my forever #85 :)
We didn't get home until around 2ish from the brunch and then turned around and had to be at the VSU boys basketball game at 4 as the team, and other hall of fame inductees, were being announced on the court at halftime.
We also had Lorelei's birthday that same afternoon and it started at 3:45. I was pretty bummed we had to be late for the party but the kids and I rocked our party attire (campout theme!) for the basketball game then we left immediately after and headed to Robyn's house!
While the game was a bit of a hassle, I'm SO glad we attended. Not many players showed up. A big group went out after the brunch and didn't end up attending the game. It was good that Zach and Chance and Chad and some others were representing the team. It was also SUCH an awesome chance for our children to see Zach in something related to his football career. They know he played football but they don't understand yet how important and meaningful that time in his life was to him. So I know he was proud to have them in the stands when he was recognized along with the team for such an achievement!
Not only was our crew there but it was so sweet of Courtney to bring her kids and for Zach's parents to also attend! Zach always has a big cheering section :)
I'm so proud of Zach and everything he achieved throughout his football career. I'm so thankful for that time in both of our lives and for how special those memories will always be for us both. I loved the opportunity to look through old photos from that senior season and wanted to end this post reliving some of those great times!
Mrs. Charlotte with her most famous sign ;)
After the game of "the catch!"
Zach's cheering section at the National Championship game!
I was dying laughing when I found this pic. Katie made this EPIC sign for the National Championship game and we walked around with it outside the stadium, purposely wear the opposing teams fans were. They weren't impressed hahaha
We also talked the president of the university at that time (Dr Zaccari) into holding our sign and taking a pic with it. He didn't even read it at first and then was so embarrassed after hahahaha
Katie and I had a name for ourselves with our signs...everyone loved us right? ;)
Being interviewed on the radio after the championship win!
TV interview as well
Katie and I were SO PUMPED near the end of the National Championship game that we jumped over onto the field before the game was over and were among the first people to rush the field when the clock hit 0. We were totes on ESPN and you can see us running by Coach Dean. We're famous ;)
I loved cheering in the stands but I especially loved waiting for Zach outside of the locker room. :)
And let's not forget that at that time in our lives we thought having a puppy would be good practice for having a child hahaha. THIS made me laugh SO hard. I forgot I had a special personalized jersey made for LEVI OUR DOG to match Zach. PRICELESS.
2007 to 2016
Always a Champion to me!