I have a unique relationship with my youngest sister. Of course, I have the typical older brother tendencies. I think that no guy in this world is worthy of dating her (the same goes for my two older sisters), and I feel like my main duty is to be her bodyguard at all times. I try to protect her at all cost, like most older brothers do. We are extremely close.
The reason I say that our relationship is unique is because of our athletic careers. My junior season at Auburn University, I remember getting a call from Abby. Over the past year, she had been going through the recruiting process and slowly narrowing down where she was going to play for the next four years.
Being a big-time, national soccer recruit with the same unforgettably long last name as Auburn's starting tight end, it seemed as though Abby would never escape the unfortunate shadow that I had cast upon her ... until I answered that phone call.
I answered the phone, and a shaky, nervous voice said, "Hey so, uhh, I committed to a school today ..." I responded all excited, because she could finally relax and get away from the stress of recruiting: "Where ya headed?!"
Abby paused and nervously responded, "... Alabama ..."
I immediately hung up the phone, and we have not spoken since. Just kidding.
But seriously? I mean, Alabama? C'mon! How can you do that to your own brother, who has made a name for himself at Auburn? I brought you out to the national championship game! Most of your wardrobe is orange and navy! I have witnessed you roll Toomer's Corner! It's the biggest rivalry in all of sports. How can I ever forgive you for going to that school to the west?
That is how I probably should have responded. But in all honesty -- and I might get some sighs from the Auburn family -- I was so freaking excited for her. I was hooting and hollering for her, and when I had finally calmed down, she asked, "So you are really not mad that I am going there?"
Honestly, I was just so proud of her. I would have been proud of her wherever she decided to play. She is blood, and I knew I would have to root for her even though she was going to be wearing the dreaded crimson and gray. So I congratulated her, but made two things clear:
- I will never wear anything crimson.
- I will never say "R*** T***."
I am in the process of searching for a plain red shirt that just says "SOCCER" on it.
So the day came when she signed her letter of intent to attend Alabama, and there was no turning back. She had gone to the dark side. She was officially a red elephant.
When the newspaper articles come out about her signing, that was when all hell breaks loose. My phone started ringing off the hook, and my Twitter was blowing up with notifications about her signing with ‘Bama.
"Lutzie, how can you let your own blood go play for the Crimson Turds!"
"No true Auburn man would ever let that happen!"
Shots were being fired from all over the place. People were getting mad at me like I was Benedict Arnold. Like I had somehow stabbed them in the back, and now I had to fix it. Sorry people, but it was not my decision, and the LOI was faxed in. It honestly humored me how mad people were getting. It was not my decision. Just like my parents tried to not influence me during my own recruiting process, I wanted Abby to go where her heart was telling her.
What the die-hard fans did not understand is that women's soccer typically does not give out full rides. Most players look to go to the school where they are awarded the best scholarship, which is a very smart move, given our country's current economic situation. The higher percentage the ride, the less you have to pay out of pocket or via loans. This plays a big factor in not only soccer, but most other sports that are not allotted full scholarships to all players.
See, my little sister is a freak athlete. People that know me best give me such a hard time, because they know that she is the best athlete in the family. They think I will get mad at them saying that to me, but I agree with them 100 percent. I always knew she was a good player, but then she started high school and was playing with U.S. Olympic development teams and traveling outside of the country to play. As a high school senior, she was listed as ESPN's No. 37 national prospect and nominated for Georgia player of the year.
Powerhouse schools from all over the country wanted her to play for them. She could have played just about wherever she wanted, but also understood the benefit of taking a higher percentage scholarship closer to home vs. having to pay for most of her schooling out of pocket.
So she thought about the future and decided to stay close to home in the Southeast, where she was recruited by many schools who were offering higher percentage scholarships then the schools out west and up north. Staying close to home was the most important factor in both of us choosing a school, because we wanted the support of our family at every game.
So she chose Alabama for many reasons, not just to spite her older brother.
A lot of people ask if my teammates gave me a hard time about her choosing our biggest rival, and the answer is no. Sure, I got teased a little bit in the locker room, but Division I athletes understand how hard it is to even receive a scholarship and the work that it takes to get to that level. Plenty of teammates have siblings that go on to compete in college; mine just so happened to backstab me and go to a rival.
It is awesome to get the chance to drive up the road and watch her destroy the competition on the soccer pitch (Abby, a midfielder and defender, has started all 37 games in her two-year career). I never thought that I would be a vocal fan, screaming at the referees' calls, but I actually get into it. The glares from fans when they recognize who I am and how mad they still are about the touchdown in the 2010 Iron Bowl are priceless.
For Abby and I, it will always be fun and games. She just happens to be an Auburn football fan because I played there, and I just happen to root for the elephant soccer team.
I might just have to paint up in all crimson and rock a "33" on my chest in support of Abby's team next fall. But I probably won't. Blood is thicker than water, but my blood runs orange and navy. War Tide.