Walter Ford: For the love of the game |

Walter Ford: For the love of the game

For high school football players, this season is about playing for school pride, for their teammates and for the love of the game.
Photo: Elias Funez

I’m a big fan of old adages and folksy sayings.

They often help me reconcile my thoughts with my emotions.

One in particular has been echoing through my head all week: ‘You don’t truly know what you have until it’s gone.”

Talking with coaches and players during the lead up to last night’s gridiron matchup between Nevada Union and Bear River, I heard first hand how much the game of football means to them and how devastating it’s been for the players to be without it.


For a full recap of Friday night’s gridiron clash between Bear River and Nevada Union, visit or check Tuesday’s print edition.

Even though everyone I talked to is excited and grateful to play, it’s unlikely any of them would have chosen the current scenario over a more traditional one.

This football season will have only six games, maybe less if there are any COVID-related cancellations. There won’t be packed stadiums of jubilant fans. And, with postseason play being nixed, teams won’t be chasing section championship banners.

It’s a stripped down version of a regular high school football season, but players are beaming about being back on the field, nevertheless.

Good high school coaches will tell you football is about giving young people the tools to be successful adults. To teach them the work ethic, time management and interpersonal skills needed in a world that can be quite harsh at times.

For the players I spoke to, it’s much simpler. It’s about playing for school pride, for their teammates and for the love of the game.


It’s always good to see local athletes make it on the big stage. It brings pride to the community and inspires its youth.

So it was great to see Nevada County native Tanner Vallejo signed a two-year, $4.1 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals this week. First reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Josh Reynolds (11) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals linebacker Tanner Vallejo (51), during an NFL football game Jan. 3 in Inglewood, Calif.
Associated Press

Vallejo, a 2013 Nevada Union graduate, is coming off a 2020 season with Arizona in which he led the Cardinals in special teams tackles with 15. He also saw limited time on defense and finished the year with 26 total tackles and a sack in 16 games played.

During the season, Vallejo was recognized as the NFL’s Week 7 “Way To Play” award recipient, which goes to players who exemplify proper tackling technique. He was awarded $2,500 to donate to any cause and he chose the Nevada Union football program.

The 6-foot, 1-inch, 230-pound linebacker has been in the NFL since being drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the sixth round of the 2017 draft. He’s since spent time with the Bills, Cleveland Browns, Washington Football Team and Cardinals.

During his time at Nevada Union, Vallejo tallied a school record 419 tackles in his three-year varsity career. He was also a two-time Sierra Foothill League Defensive MVP, three-time All-Metro selection and three-time All-Sac-Joaquin Section selection. Vallejo led the Miners to the playoffs in 2011 and 2012.


“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” ― Lou Holtz

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email


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