CoverHawkSports

Pass the Pen: The Kevin Haverdink Story

Today, thousands of hours of coaching, practice, scouting, and playing time come to fruition.  For a select few high school football players, this Wednesday, February 5th, will be the biggest day of their lives.  National Signing Day will see over 120 FBS schools each hand out around 25 full-ride scholarships to the most promising of Varsity athletes.

Awarded only to the best, these sparse honors are the holy grail(s) in the world of sports.  They change lives.  They are the golden ladder that is lowered for but one in a million athletes.  Engraved on every rung is the promise of a college career that that one athlete will not have to pay for.

But it isn’t nearly free.  As with everything, there is a price.

The cost of this opportunity is the kind of commitment, skill, and experience that few possess.  Having the potential for improvement is essential for success.  That which distinguished them from the crowd in high school will not be good enough to distinguish them in college, and they will have to rise to the challenge.  Conditioning and practice and hardship are redoubled to recompense the gift they were given.  Their payments are doled out in the blood and sweat and time they spend playing the game.  Bodies may be forfeited due to injuries and hardships sustained while paying their debt.  It is a future intended only for those who can handle it.

To the athletes, the scholarship is not just an award in and of itself, but a springboard for future success.  Kevin Haverdink, a 1984 Hamilton graduate turned WMU football player and later a pro, is a clear case of the potential for upward mobility that gifted athletes have.  In addition to his distinguished football career, he was a star basketball player during the 1983-1984 season.  Tracy Haverdink, Kevin’s sister-in-law, fondly remembers his enthusiasm and excitement, both on and off the court.  “He was the loud, energetic player who made everyone want to get more involved in the game,” Mrs. Haverdink recalls.  His presence was felt in Hamilton on the basketball court, football field, track, and beyond.

“It was a whirlwind,” Haverdink said.  Remembering the call, the signing, and the hungry eyes of coaches watching him during his senior year.  Growing up in Hamilton, the process was strange and foreign to him at the time.  He was initially confused as to why he specifically was chosen, but not at all pressured by the idea of playing football at Western Michigan University.  He vividly recalls Greg Mattison, the then-defensive coordinator at Western, taking an interest in his career.

Haverdink didn’t stop climbing the ladder though.  In 1989, he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints.  He played for the Saints until an untimely injury took him out of the game for good.  This was made even more untimely by the fact that he wasn’t even playing when he was hurt.  While stretching on the sidelines, trying to work out his perpetually-tight hamstrings, two players came barreling off of the field.  Their momentum was too great to stop the both of them from landing on the unsuspecting Haverdink, crushing his outstretched arms and torso flat against the lower half of his body.  The impact permanently wrecked his lower back.  He didn’t know that he had already played his last game.

While he was unable to fully recover, he has since gone back to Western, gotten a degree in banking, and started a successful business.  Haverdink Financial Management has flourished in recent years, and is just the next step in Kevin Haverdink’s journey through life.

“High school football is the purest form of the sport,” Haverdink said.  The higher up the ladder a player climbs, the more the sport becomes a business.  He cherishes, above everything, the memories of playing football with his friends all those years ago.  Even after climbing to the top, Haverdink remembers how much fun it was when he himself was a beginner.

Today, some lucky athlete may have the chance to do exactly what he did.

 

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