Paul Day, a 66-year-old who graduated from Salamanca in 1965, played with his sons, Adam and Aaron, on the NT alumni team July 11. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes.
It was the kind of father/son moment you don’t get to see very often, if ever.
In the closing minutes of the second T-NT Alumni football game, North Tonawanda co-captain Adam Day stood on the sidelines and hugged his father, 66-year-old Paul Day, who was also Adam’s teammate that day.
At 66, Paul Day was far-and-away the most senior member on the field when the Jacks beat Tonawanda 18-0 July 11 at the new Clinton H. Small Stadium. For Day, being able to suit up in full pads and play alongside his sons Adam, 34, and Aaron, 35, in a full-contact game was a dream come true.
“It feels great,” said Paul Day, as he stood at midfield after the game, watching his grandkids play. “I never got to play with these guys. I just always came and watched them. I feel like a kid again, actually. I wished I could have gotten in more but physically it wasn’t going to be possible.
“When I finally got in I got knocked about five yards backwards. But it was OK,” said Paul Day, who currently lives in Texas with Aaron Day. “Then the second play, thank God, they went the other direction. I used to play defensive end when I played so I was thinking if they come back maybe I’ll make a tackle, but they didn’t come back.”
Standing at about 6-foot-2, Paul Day, even with a shock of white hair, puts forth an aura of a classic old school, hard-as-nails guy that you would think twice about messing with. Still, Day was very aware of the risk he would be taking by throwing on the pads and competing against men more than half his age.
“I’ll be honest, I actually prayed about it,” said Paul Day. “And I told God this was too good of an opportunity...I prayed for safety for everyone.”
Adam Day and his brothers were understandably concerned about their dad’s well being, but could not have been more proud to see their father on the field.
“Aaron and my father are from Texas,” said Adam Day. “And Aaron asked ‘what do you think about dad playing?’ I’m like if he wants to play it’s awesome. We’ll just keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn’t get hurt. My oldest brother is a football coach in Missouri. He said ‘Don’t let him play! Don’t let him play!’ We’re like, ‘He’s stubborn.’ We’re just proud of him.”
Paul Day played two years of varsity while attending Salamanca High School (Class of 1965). He was able to suit up with NT due to his sons connection as former Jacks and the fact that Paul himself was a physical education teacher at North Tonawanda High School. The game also allows both teams to have three players who did not actually attend either school to suit up.
While Paul’s initial thought was the thrill of playing alongside his two sons, as the game unfolded, what touched Paul Day the most was the unquestioned respect and support he received from every player from both teams.
“Something that was even more inspirational was how the rest of the guys on the team embraced (me),” said Paul Day. “They all wanted me to get in and on the last play, I was just going in to be a blocking back, and they let me take the snap and I haven’t taken a snap behind center since little league.”
Knowing that their was the chance that someone could potentially resent Day being on the team because of Adam’s stature as a co-captain, the Days were also very thankful and appreciative of how welcoming and respectful everyone on NT and Tonawanda was to his dad.
“The sportsmanship of this whole T-NT thing is awesome,” said Adam Day.
Not a one-shot deal by a long shot, Paul Day said he plans on returning and playing in the 2015 T-NT Alumni game.
“I’ve been playing softball my whole life. And when you get on the softball field you feel like a kid,” said Paul Day. “That’s exactly how I felt when I came out here.”