Matanzas High School football coach Matt Forrest gathered his players in the weight room and read them the obituary of Air Force 1st Lt. Joseph D. Helton.
It was 7 a.m. on July 1, the last day of Summer Conditioning Phase 1, and that meant it was red, white, and blue day.
Many players wore red, white and blue for practice, which was followed by games and a picnic to celebrate the July 4 weekend.
The workout was a CrossFit “Hero Workout of the Day,” which honors military personnel and first responders who have died in the line of duty. The training, “Helton”, was a tribute to the Air Force officer who died on September 8, 2009 near Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. He was 24 years old.
Helton, of Monroe, Georgia, graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2007. He served in Iraq as part of the 6th Security Forces Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
“It’s training that honors a lieutenant who didn’t know any of us, had nothing to do with us, but paid the ultimate sacrifice so we could come here and do what we do.”
The Pirates adapted the workout, doing six rounds of a 400-meter run (one lap around the track), 15 squat cleans with a 45-pound barbell, and 15 burpees (one squat push and one jump). That’s a total of 2,400 yards of running, 90 squat cleans, and 90 burpees.
“There are probably over 2, 3, 400 workouts,” Forrest said. “We just picked the one that was a bit more doable for us. Like many of them had rope climbs or kettlebell stuff, just stuff we don’t have. We try to (choose) someone who was stationed in Florida or Florida or someone who relates to our area.
This is the second year the Pirates have held the event, celebrating Independence Day and honoring a fallen hero before taking a week off from summer training.
“It’s training that honors a lieutenant who knew none of us, had nothing to do with us, but paid the ultimate sacrifice so we could come here and do what we do,” Forrest said. “Just having that gratitude and that perspective, I think, is not just good for our players, but for our coaches and everyone associated with our program to understand that even though we may not be not perfect as a county, as a society in the county, in the city, in the community, there are people who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be here. Just to have this gratitude and respect, I think it’s important for all of us.
After practice, the players formed four teams of shirts and skins and played two simultaneous games of “Pirate Ball”.
“It’s like Ultimate Frisbee with a football,” said cornerback Jordan Mills. “You can only take two steps with the ball. If the ball touches the ground, the other team recovers it.
Forrest said the bye week will give players time to recover before starting Phase 2 of summer training.
“Coach (Kyle) Johnson is doing a great job with our strength and conditioning program. He’s going to add some things, make things a little more difficult for Phase 2, a little more football specific,” Forrest said. .
Pre-season training begins August 1. Matanzas will host Mainland in a Launch Classic on August 19.