Archive for September, 2015

Amine Khoury, my great friend, is a man with a huge brain and an even bigger heart. I was sitting in his office at Eastwood schools in Beirut when he turned to me with tears flowing down his face, he said you must see this, and handed me an essay written by a young child at the school. One forced by circumstance to be wise well beyond her years. Her story resonated strongly with me and I asked to meet her. Fifteen seconds into our conversation I knew I needed to share her story with as many people as possible. Her voice is quiet but strong, her words measured but powerful. She had to leave her home, and her life there, behind. For a reason she can't understand. It's time for all of us to pay attention, and to help.

On August 31st, the Jacksonville Jaguars made sports news by trading Josh Scobee, their kicker for 11 seasons, to the Pittsburg Steelers. Jacksonville fans took to social media. Most of them angry and upset the Jags had traded away the team’s most recognizable player.

Laura with her family at the first Jaguar game in 1995. She was 9.

Laura with her family at the first Jaguar game in 1995. She was 9.

As a Jacksonville native and long-time Jaguars fan, I understand. Only in Jacksonville is a kicker the most recognizable name on the roster. I’ve watched in pain over the last few years as the offense continually stalled. But there was a saving grace. There was #10 warming up on the sidelines. Our last lifeline. Our most consistent player. The only player who has created any memorable moments over the last 5 years of football hell here in Jacksonville. Josh Scobee. Josh Scobee, for much of his career, has been considered one of the best, most consistent kickers in football. But more importantly, he’s a really great guy. Jacksonville fans are as worried about losing their all-time leading scorer as they are about losing the city’s biggest advocate. Josh Scobee is a community icon down here. He visits hospitals and schools, holds charity golf tournaments and is always up for a chat or a joke. He was never too busy. Never too cool. Scobee was always available. It was fall of 2013 when I met Josh Scobee. Bill and I had been tasked to tell the stories of the four NFL kickers who had kicked 63 yard field goals. At that time, 63 yards was the longest field goal ever recorded in a game. But Sports Illustrated writer Tim Layden knew the record would fall, and soon. Several longer field goals had been attempted, but none had yet been made. Bill and I were flying to Atlanta. I can’t remember what our final destination was. I can tell you it was one of three places: New Orleans, San Francisco or Anchorage. Those were the three places we were visiting to meet up with the kickers themselves: Tom Dempsey, Jason Elam, Sebastian Janikowsky and David Akers. I boarded the plane and sat down. I looked across the aisle and saw a very tall and surprisingly familiar man sit down next to me. I noticed his very official looking Jaguars backpack and realized I was sitting across from Josh Scobee. I said hello by telling him it was an honor to be flying next to the best football player in Jacksonville. He smiled and held his hand out in introduction. We started talking football and fishing. He asked where we were headed and we told him about the story. He was exceedingly interested. He wondered what old Tom Dempsey was like and where Jason Elam had retired to. Bill mentioned casually that the only thing we were missing for the video was a foot kicking a ball in slow motion. Something to put over narration. “I’ll do it,” Scobee said. He told us to stop by after practice next week. He’d kick the ball as many times as we needed. We had expected to hunt down a high school kicker and make it look as professional as possible. But now, we had one of the best kickers in the National Football League offering us his talents. That's the Josh Scobee that Jacksonville is sad to see go. He wasn’t in the story and likely never will be, but he was willing to lend a helping hand, or foot in this case. We went to EverBank Field the next week and waited as the team hit the locker room. Before long, Josh Scobee and rookie punter Bryan Anger came out to the field with several balls. Scobee kicked the ball about 10 times for us. All the while talking and telling jokes. When we were finished he stayed and chatted a little longer. Before he went back inside he gave us his email address and told us to send him the link when it was finished. That is Josh Scobee: the most approachable man in football.


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