It's been a very long week for the once and future members of the Union High football program in Roosevelt, Utah. On Friday night, they were disbanded. On Saturday morning they learned what they needed to do to re-gain eligibility and re-start the team. On Monday the community service and citizenship classes, taught by their coach, began.
Now, on Friday, all but nine of the players who were universally and unilaterally suspended have been reinstated, just in time for the school's Friday night game against Emery High from nearby Castle Dale, Utah. In the end, head coach Matt Labrum re-instated 71 players after a long week of work.
They earned the right to put the jersey back on by digging weeds, spending time at senior citizen centers and even performing additional "services" for their families.
As Labrum told Utah TV network KSL and the Deseret News, the process of reinstating the players was not an easy one, largely because of those who have still been left behind.
"We have enough that we’ll be playing all the games this week," Labrum told KSL. "It was mixed. It's hard. You have mixed emotions because some guys are so elated they have their jerseys back, but maybe the guy next to him wasn't getting his. It was very mixed. But I think the guys handled it well."
While the players who weren't reinstated may be disappointed now, Labrum made it clear that they would still get another shot at being a member of his football team … if they earn it.
"It doesn't mean they're off the team," Labrum told KSL. "It means they won’t be playing this week. Most of them had done 85 or 90 percent of what they needed to."
And just as players return to the football field, Labrum insists that the national exposure his program has received here at Yahoo and elsewhere will only serve to reinforce the values the team has worked to instill both at home and to a much larger audience.
"It's really quite overwhelming," he said. "It's been a positive thing all around.
"We told them, 'This isn’t just Utah. We have an opportunity to be an inspiration to an entire nation by doing the right things, by following through -- and not just this week. We need to continue to do the right things."