By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– With the season kicking off somewhat this Friday with the jamboree in Redmond in a few short days, it was Picture Day at North Salem for the Viking Football program Wednesday afternoon.
As they lined up in rows for the picture. It was in the middle row, towards the side closest to the scoreboard in the coaches line, second from the right, stood a familiar face along the line of coaches that feels like a few months out from calling the signals from under center for the Jeff Flood returning to his former High School:
After spending 2017 playing for NCAA Division-III Willamette University, the 2017 North Salem-Graduate returned to his High School Alma Mater entering this Fall to help coach quarterbacks for the season.
And for Sullivan, to have an opportunity to be here. Helping and living out his dream to coach at where he called home for his four High School years was an added plus to start said dream.
“Ever since I was a player, this was where I was going to go with the game and everything I did I got ready to be for this position,” said Sullivan of the opportunity. “It’s a really cool opportunity to start here at North and get to work with my brother and some of these guys here it’s really awesome.
“But this is what I really want to do, this is the next step for me. I like this more than I like playing this game. I’m excited, I’m happy I got the opportunity to start early and I’m excited to see where this takes me.”
For Sullivan, to be able to be around his younger brother Zac during his Senior Season is something special.
Hunter pointed out when he was a seventh-grader coming to workouts, a fifth-grade Zac was right behind him doing the same stuff as he was doing as both came up through the Viks System together with Hunter helping Zac whenever he could.
“Wherever I was, he was ever since he was little,” starts Hunter. “I mean I started coming to North’s workouts in seventh grade, so he was coming to North when he was a fifth-grade. I went through it first so I knew how to do it, so I was coaching him. But it’s cool because I feel like, at least here, I’m confident when I know I get to work with him here and we get to go home and sit down and watch the same thing. “
It’s just all fine-tuning it now, adds Hunter as he helps Zac prepare for his final ride in the Black and Red of North Salem’s colors.
The elder Sullivan too gets to coach some up-and-coming younger quarterbacks as well outside of his younger brother this season. To mold them into the next Starting Quarterback for the Viking Varsity squad in the years to come. He described two of the kids he’s coaching this year along with his history of helping out the future North Salem Varsity players, like he did back when he was playing.
“We know Gavin for a long-time, he’s a baseball guy,” said Hunter, who’s dad coached Gavin on the sandlots a few years prior. “He’s played at the same Little League as a lot of these guys and another quarterback, he’s a freshman, Hayden. Same thing, I’ve coached Little League for Hayden for a little while.
“I do whatever I could to help the guys below me, especially when I was a student here and to be a coach in the community as much as I could. Now that I have an opportunity to be a legitimate coach and coach the guys I’ve already have a relationship with for all the things I’ve done through community service is really cool. Gavin and Hayden, it’s really cool to get the opportunity to now be a satisfied coach and not just an older guy on the team, it’s pretty cool.”
As the pictures wrapped up, and the team began to trickle into the locker room to prepare for practice Tuesday evening, the emotions were there as if he was still playing. Remembering the memories in the locker room and the emotions of being in it. But now, they’re just tailored a little bit differently now then they were two years ago as he looked at it from a coaches perspective.
“Everything. Just coaching on the same field I practiced on and just going into the same locker room,” Sullivan said of the emotions of Picture Day and being out on the field. “Sitting in the coaches office now versus the locker rooms. All the little things that, I don’t know it’s just different.”
Sullivan remembers talking to another coach earlier Tuesday about how bizarre it is looking into the locker room and seeing those same freshman or sophomores two years ago, now in the same locker room as they were…maybe the same locker as them in 2018 as juniors and seniors. It’s something worth taking back and reflecting two years after the fact as Sullivan talks about it.
“I was talking to a coach today, we walked by the Varsity locker room and we saw them in there, It was the same guys that were freshman or sophomores when we were seniors. You see them when you’re a senior and you don’t ever think that they’re ever going to be in the same exact locker as you are. Now being able to wear the hat and the sunglasses and the polo and look into a locker room and see my little brother and the guys I went to school with, in the same shoes as we are, it’s pretty cool.”
But leave no doubt, as Sullivan takes his turn into the building to prepare for practice, he still thinks he’s the better of him and Zac.
“Oh me, there’s no question about it,” smiled Hunter with a little laugh.