Book lights team 'spark'

  • Article by: RON HAGGSTROM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 25, 2012 - 5:20 PM

An Olympic miler and World War II POW is inspiring Eastview football.

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Members of the Eastview football team visited the hanger where the Commemorative Air Force, located at Fleming Field in South St. Paul, gave the players a short history lesson on their restored B-25 "Miss Mitchell" as well as a hands-on tour of the plane itself. It was a day for players to learn more than football and x's and o's, it was a day to learn about history and life.

Photo: Eric Vande Berg, Star Tribune

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Team mottos provide inspiration. They can help attain goals through courage, strength, commitment and resilience.

Eastview's football program's motto this season -- "Unbroken" -- brings each one of those attributes to the forefront.

"The past five years we've had a team motto, and the last few years it's been tied to a book," Eastview coach Kelly Sherwin said. "We choose a motto first, then look for a book to fit the motto. This was the book the players came back with this summer."

Laura Hillenbrand's "Unbroken" is based on the perseverance of U.S. Olympic miler and prisoner of war Louis Zamperini during his excruciating odyssey in World War II.

Zamperini, a defiant delinquent during his childhood days, was known to steal, fight or even flee his home to ride the rails.

He grew out of his troubled youth by discovering a talent as a runner, leading to the Berlin Olympics in 1936. One of the greatest milers in American history was closing in on the four-minute mile before the 1940 Olympics, which were canceled because of World War II. He joined the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier, thus ending his Olympic dreams.

Zamperini's B-24 crashed in the Pacific Ocean, where he spent 47 days adrift on a raft circled by sharks. With an island in sight, he was captured by the Japanese and spent two brutal years as a POW.

"Louie always displayed a lot of strength and courage," Eastview senior defensive end Ben Oberfeld said. "He always had a spark of hope that kept him going."

No matter how difficult the circumstances for Zamperini, he prevailed. He eventually learned forgiveness and peace.

"It's hard to put a positive spin on every thing he went through," Lightning senior quarterback/wide receiver Henry McIssac said. "Some of his best times were spent alone on a raft adrift in the ocean. It goes from bad to worse for him. It's amazing he survived."

In conjunction with reading the book, the team visited Fleming Field in South St. Paul for a history lesson and hands-on tour aboard a B-25, a plane similar to the one in which Zamperini crashed.

"The compartments were so small, and cramped," Eastview senior tight end Keynon Phillips said. "It was really humbling."

To a far lesser degree, the Lightning (2-2) has had its share of humbling experiences through its first four games. It lost to both Wayzata and Lakeville North 24-7 despite trailing by only three points in the third quarter, and beat rival Eagan 15-12 on a field goal with 4.9 seconds left.

"What he went through, the adversity he faced is the situation we are facing right now," Phillips said. "He never stopped believing. That's what we have to do."

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