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One Happy Airedale
One Happy Airedale
By Kevin Taylor
ALMA - Alma football coach Rusty Bush has dealt with all types of players, from the hard-working overachievers to those happy to be on the team.
Joseph York isn't just happy to be part of Alma's football team. But he has every reason to be.
"The first thing that popped out to me, just being in the weight room and being around him, was his personality," Bush said. "He's a very talkative kid and he wants to have adult conversations with you, and that he really enjoyed the game. He talked about playing offense and defense; he's got high standards for himself and for this football team."
York's presence off the field is key for what happens a year or two down the road.
Joseph Michael Bermudez York isn't your run-of-the-mill Alma Airedale football player.
Reared in California, York's mom, Kara, took her son 1,500 miles to Arkansas.
"Where I grew up, I grew up homeless, pretty much," York said. "When we moved out here, it was to get better. I felt like, 'If I don't get better, then what's the point of coming out here.'
"When we lived in California, it just wasn't a good place for us, so we decided to move out here."
York played one season of little league, which didn't amount to much but remained steadfast about signing up for seventh-grade football.
A new town, new classmates, a new house.
"I was nervous; I was hesitant," he said. "In seventh and eighth grade, I got a lot of garbage time. My ninth grade, that's when I actually started getting to play. After that, it just became natural."
"Sometimes when kids have different backgrounds than just the average player, they bring a different thing to the table," Bush said. "Watching him in practice, he's one of the toughest kids we've got."
Bush saw that in August.
After being cleared by the Arkansas Activities Association to practice football in preparation for a season some thought might not happen, York was struggling one day.
"He raised his hand, which he never does, and wanted to come out," Bush said. "He went over to the sideline, threw up, and then went right back in. He's the type of kid you can build a football team around."
York is comfortable with his surroundings, whether he's buckling up his chin strap or heading to class.
"I love the love I've been building with my classmates," he said. "Being able to lead the younger classmen this year, it will be good for me later on in life."
York's advice to those scrawny, unassuming seventh-grade football players?
Keep going to practice.
"I would say just stick with it," he said. "You never know when it's going to be next man up and your shot's going to come."
"Being that I got here in January, I didn't know any of the kids," Bush said. "Coaches talked to me about everybody, of course, but when they brought up York they told me how good of a football player he was and that he had a unique family situation."
Alma started August practice just like everyone else - happy to be on the field but miles behind where they had planned to be.
No 7-on-7 tournaments; no team camp. York and Co. learned more about Zoom than they did Bush's defensive alignment.
"I knew about google docs but nothing about zoom," York said. "We did a lot with that on zoom. When we were on quarantine, we had weekly meetings with position coaches. We had team meetings, senior meetings ... just to stay connected with each other.
"We still learned when we were out."
Missing spring drills, not to mention summer workouts, only heightened August workouts.
"I wouldn't feel like we were rushed, but I would feel like it makes us push each other more," York said. "If we had spring ball, we would have been going full speed."
The Airedales (0-1) travel to Poteau Friday and Rogers Heritage the following week in preparation for their Sept. 25th 5A-West opener with Pea Ridge.
Bush went to work Monday morning with the same smile he had in August. York has his back.
"I love the energy," York said. "Nothing can replace coach (Doug Loughridge). But he (Bush) brings a different energy. He's always in a good mood, it seems."
Bush would be even happier if he were to see his players celebrate a victory this week.
"Football is a family; you become one," York added. "I know being in football helps me out personally."