High school football: Bingham coach shared championship ring to help players understand the ultimate goal
When he called on Chandler Wahlstrom, the linebacker couldn’t speak.
Vaka Vehikite was simply shocked that his coach would trust him that much.
“I thought, ‘He must love us to death to let us take his (state championship) ring home, and let us do whatever we want with it,” said Vehikite. “It just shows how much Coach Peck really loves this team, how much he trusts this team.”
Peck is one of the few coaches who will admit to discussing on a daily basis the dream nurtured by most high school athletes — winning a state title.
“A lot of coaches will say, ‘Take it one week at a time,’ and to a point, that’s great,” Peck said. “But you have to have that ultimate goal in mind. It gives you something to strive for. Our goal was to get ready to play in the state championship game every week, to be the best team in the state every week.”
Instead of banning talk about state championships, Peck encourages it.
But as he talked with his players throughout the grind of spring weightlifting and the monotony of summer conditioning, he realized that a state title might be one of those things one had to experience to understand.
It was in trying to find a way to help his players understand the special joy of a state title that he decided to do something that shocked his players.
“Every week I give a different person my 2006 state championship ring,” Peck said. “I tell them that other than my kids, it’s my most precious item. ... I think it became a trust issue, as well. Some of them wore it all week. Some of them kept it at home in a trophy case. But they all got up when I gave it to them and said what it would mean to them to be a state champion.”
When Vehikite saw the young men Peck was entrusting the ring to, he thought the honor would never be his.
“He even said, ‘I never thought I’d give this kid my ring, but he deserves it,'” Vehikite recalled. The senior linebacker said he didn’t feel worthy to wear it, so he kept it in its case at home.
“I didn't feel worthy to wear it because I’m not a state champion myself,” he said, adding that he felt different just having the ring in his possession. “You feel like you have to step it up a notch because Coach Peck is a state champion coach, so you have to play like a state champion.”
Toki, a 17-year-old defensive end, said he broke down when his coach asked him what inspired him.
“I started bawling,” he said. “He asked me what drove me, and I told him it was my mom.”
Toki’s father has been hospitalized for two months with Crohn’s disease, and his mother, Sela, has had the responsibility of caring for her seven children alone.
“She’s really strong,” he said.
He didn’t plan to wear the ring much, but changed his mind once it was entrusted to him.
“I ended up wearing it every day,” he said smiling. “Just because it was awesome.” Most of the boys said they felt different with the ring in their possession. Nick Heninger, a senior outside linebacker, was the first to be trusted with it.
“You have to know what you’re working for every week,” he said. “And it’s a state championship that we’re working for.”
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