Go ahead, cheer for The Citadel
After Auburn wins and Toomer's Corner is rolled, I want you to remember something.
After the eagle lands and the tap is emptied, take a moment to reflect.
After all the bands unplug and College Street is barren—except for that one guy who can't find his balance—have a moment of silence for the team that was on the losing end of this weekend's celebration.
But this remembrance shouldn't be out of mourning or pity.
It should be out of respect and thanks.
The guys who will be leaving here tonight, beaten handily by a much more talented Auburn squad, are the true winners.
Most of those players out on the football field today will be the soldiers out on the battlefield tomorrow.
Twenty to 30 percent of all cadets who attend The Citadel take a commission into the armed services when they graduate.
To them, it's not just about an education. It's about a future. One they have an active hand in protecting.
See, to a Citadel cadet, it's all about future. A way of life they can be proud of, and secure in.
From Day 1, the Military School of South Carolina instills in its cadets the values and importance of honesty, pride, country and selflessness. Something most other college students have a harder time finding than the library.
You don't go to The Citadel just for an education. You go for a challenge and a better tomorrow.
Cadets live by a code that is foreign to College Joe Kegger.
They abide by a set of rules that go far beyond "never mix beer with liquor."
It's about honor. It's about sacrifice. Two things that will help them cultivate that future.
Here's a typical day of a cadet who doubles as a football player:
6 a.m. - Wake up? Yeah, right. They're already up for about an hour, either doing their physical training (PT) or studying. This is when they meet as a team.
7 a.m. - Formation. Breakfast.
8-11 a.m. - Class.
Noon - Lunch.
1-3 p.m. - More class.
4-6:30 p.m. - Football practice
7 p.m. - Dinner.
8-10:30 p.m. - Mandatory study hall.
11 p.m. - Lights out.
Now here's a regular college student's average day:
6 a.m. - Zzzzzzzz.
11 a.m. - Zzzzzzz.
Noon - Snooze bar.
1 p.m. - Lunch.
2 p.m. - Maybe a class. Maybe a nap.
You get the picture.
Worn on the sleeve of every cadet, right next to the finely polished brass, is a belief that they are a part of something far greater than themselves.
Why else would they sacrifice so much?
"To revere God, love my country and be loyal to The Citadel," begins The Citadel Code which is learned by all cadets upon arriving at the school. "To be faithful, honest and sincere in every act and purpose and to know that honorable failure is better than success by unfairness or cheating ... To take pride in my uniform and in the noble traditions of the college and never do anything that would bring discredit to them ... To face difficulties with courage and fortitude and not to complain or be discouraged."
For The Citadel, this isn't just a code. It's a way of life.
With that in mind, do me one more favor.
When Auburn runs onto the field, go ahead and cheer. But when The Citadel runs onto the field, cheer louder.
Mike Szvetitz is sports editor of the Opelika-Auburn News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-6271 ext. 3113.