COLUMBIA — In his speech to his teammates inside the Hickman locker room before Friday's game against Rock Bridge, Alex Fredette did not recount how his football career was taken by a split second.
The senior made those gathered around him emotional, but he did not speak to them about what happened four months back on June 14, on the day of his 17th birthday, on that cloudy Friday in Warrensburg where the team was participating in a three-day camp.
Jefferson City (3-2) at Hickman (2-3)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Hickman High School
He did not tell his teammates huddled in the locker room about how he was curving around the field in a scrimmage that day, pursuing the opposing quarterback as defensive ends normally do.
He did not tell them how his right knee buckled and how he crumpled to the ground, and how in that instant, all the raucous joy from celebrating his birthday during the bus ride in seemed to be far away.
He did not tell them about that instant.
"I didn't want to make it about me. I wanted to make it about the guys," Fredette said. "I didn't want to give them a sob story."
The season has carried on with Fredette on the sidelines. He has a black brace clamped over the knee restructured with BioCartilage, acting as a lab-produced scaffold over the fractured defect surgeons found.
He was slated to start his senior year after playing his first high school season just the fall before. In that season of trying football, he found unexpected fulfillment.
"It just kind of came out of nowhere," Fredette said. "I started developing relationships with a lot of the guys and getting close with them. I hang out with all the guys on the weekends now. The coaches brought it together, too. I could tell that they loved me, and they actually cared about me. I just felt really welcomed."
"I think the biggest part was not letting my team down,", he added.
Looking back on it, Fredette said, there was pleasure even in the scorching grind of practice. There, he could be in one place with his best friends, preparing together with them for Friday night.
He misses the feeling of getting into his stance across from his opponent, knowing that victory could only come from individuals conquering.
"Just knowing one-on-one, I'm gonna line up and I'm gonna kick your ass," he said.
He and the Kewpies enjoyed a 9-2 season last year, which included a playoff win over Rock Bridge.
"Last year was one hell of a year, and I'll remember it for the rest of my life," Fredette said.
Now, there are Mondays where he sits in team meetings where the film from the previous weekend's game is analyzed. And he's not on the screen.
"And I see somebody mess up, and I know that I could’ve done the job," he said. "It's selfish, but that's the worst feeling."
During the week, he likes to work on his 1997 Trans Am, which he bought a few months ago. He's replaced the clutch and souped up the engine.
He'd like to make a career out of working with cars — pinpointing problems in them and making them function better.
He also does physical therapy and goes to his job as a service attendant at the Sinclair Station.
"I make sure I'm off Fridays, though," Fredette said. "If I miss a game, I feel like I miss a part of my life."
On those nights, he watches his teammates under the lights from the sidelines.
"I see them out there, tired and fighting and sweating and breathing hard," he said. "And I just think ... I wish I could be out there with them."
Still, Fredette carries with him the lessons of last year, and he knows what it means to be a teammate.
"Being with the guys is a huge part of football," he said. "You know, just being with your teammates no matter what. So I'm still out there as much as I possibly can."
At practices and at games, he fills water bottles and brings them to players during breaks.
"Whatever helps the team, that's what I'm gonna do," he said. "If it's gonna help us win games, if it's gonna help make them get through practice, I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna do it because I love my team. I love my guys."
Last week, coach Arnel Monroe thought of another way for Fredette to help his team.
In the three days leading up to the Rock Bridge game, Monroe asked Fredette to speak to the team in the locker room.
Despite losing the game, Monroe said he thought Fredette's words were "part of the fight we showed, the relentlessness and not giving up — they were fighting for Alex."
Fredette had several paragraphs of the speech typed into a note on his iPhone.
Before speaking, he deleted all of it. He just wanted it to come from the heart, not from a script.
After all, football, he decided, has no script.
So he spoke.
"He's been motivation for us," senior quarterback Mason Murray said. "(The speech) meant a lot. It was really touching for us."
Fredette told them how he wished he could be out there with them. He explained how being able to play something as simple as football can sometimes be taken for granted.
He didn't want to make it about him. He didn't want to give his teammates a sob story.
But some would say later that it made them feel fortunate to play, and for that, they cried.
Supervising editor is Erik Hall.