EDITOR NOTE: Tanque Verde High School football coach Jay Dobyns, a former Sahuaro High School and Arizona standout receiver who went on to a storied federal agent career, agreed to share his thoughts on Pima County public high schools having their seasons abruptly cut short because of COVID-19 concerns. Dobyns, in his first season as a head coach, and his staff led the Hawks to their best start in history — 3-0 — before the season was canceled. Much to the credit of Dobyns and his staff, seniors such as quarterback Corbin Austin, running back Dillon Simmers and receiver Carson Jones finally experienced success on the football field after going 4-26 in the previous three years. Here are the thoughts of Dobyns, who has also authored two books about his federal agent career, on the cancelation of the football season:
It was a season of struggle not just for us at Tanque Verde High School football, but all for players, coaches, parents and programs across Tucson.
As coaches, it is occasionally our responsibility to deliver bad news to our teams. It was heartbreaking for all of us, after growing so close during those struggles, to have to notify players and staff – not face-to-face in person as we prefer – but by email, text and phone that their already abbreviated football season was being cut even shorter. “Fair” is not a word many of us used this fall. There didn’t seem to be much fairness in the circumstances that were forced on us. Most especially for all those Seniors.
The virus has caused bitterness, frustration, and disappointment. But, that bad, season-ending news was delivered at a perfect time. Only days before Thanksgiving.
A few, short months ago we were fighting for permission to simply spend time together as teams. No footballs. No pads. Just time. The hopes of actually playing games appeared impossible.
A worldwide virus and record-breaking summer heat could not keep all of us from moving forward. Those adversaries gave us the opportunity to prove the resolve of Tucson high school football. I am proud to be a small part of it, past and present.
But, we did play games! Only a few, but collectively we somehow overcame nearly insurmountable obstacles to get there. As the virus impacted teams and caused cancellations, rival coaches and players bonded together, found common ground to arrange replacement games – some on short notice with no opportunity to properly prepare – simply to let our players play and enjoy the experience of Friday Night Lights. Teams that won wanted to keep winning. Teams that lost only wanted one more chance to get on track. Coaches who moments before were battling each other, openly violated the protocols and hugged at midfield after games. They understood each other’s struggle just to get their boys on the field, regardless of the outcomes.
Young men learned life lessons through this struggle that will impact and propel them forward in careers, as they raise their own families, as they touch and inspire the lives of others. Terms that we as coaches nonchalantly throw around locker rooms held real meaning. Loyalty. Dedication. Commitment. Teamwork. Love.
At Tanque Verde our program is built on the foundation of three ideals. Faith. Family. Friends. No circumstance could dissolve those. I’m certain the mantras of other programs held true and grew stronger as well. We had a player involved in a near-fatal car accident. We had a coach suffer a serious stroke. We had another coach undergo a complex neck and spine surgery. They are all safe now, returning to health, and still with us. We learned that there are many more important things in life than winning football games.
If all of us can step back and look at where we were, where we are, how far we’ve come, and at all we’ve accomplished; we have very much to be thankful for.
Thank you, Seniors across Tucson. Old and young, we all learned something valuable from the examples you gave us.
To all of us – Onward and Upward.