The unnerving, jittery feelings came to Miles Addison somewhere between stretching and the pregame drills.
Wearing his shiny silver helmet and sleek black cleats, Addison was about to play his first football game - and about to put behind him the thousands of hours he had poured into becoming an elite-level figure skater.
It had been eight months since he had decided to walk away. Some people didn't believe he could quit figure skating after all the wins, all those competitions. Could he give up his Olympic dreams? Go cold turkey on figure skating?
Not a chance, they thought.
Now, in his green Enloe High School jersey, No. 82 stitched on it, Addison was about to show them. He was about to prove he had as much love for football as he once had for figure skating.
First, on this August night, he had to shake those opening-game jitters.
As Addison, 17, waited for the game against Garner to start, linebacker A.J. Winston approached him. The two met a year ago in math class and became best friends. This was the moment - Addison's nerves - Winston was expecting.
"Miles, you've come a long way," he told Addison, giving his pep talk. "You've been working hard all summer. I know you can do what you want to do. You have the ability to go out there and do it."
Winston's words erased the uneasiness on Addison's face. Just maybe his friend could pull this off, Winston thought.
He'd find out soon enough.
Born to skate?
At first, the boy never wanted to leave the skating rink. That's how this all started for Polly Addison and her 5-year-old son. Miles Addison would put all of his energy into his skates. Soon the hobby became a way of life.
The skating camps were first. Then Oleg Efimov, the Russian coach. Then the pairs partner, Kay Bergdolt. Each day started at 4:30 for a morning session and ended with an afternoon skate after school. With each year, the pair increased their ability and stature in the skating community. They trained, they traveled, they won.
When he started high school, Addison started to feel less drawn to the rink. He didn't tell anybody at first, but he couldn't stop thinking about football.
Addison met Ron Clark, Enloe's football coach, when he took Clark's weightlifting class as a sophomore. He wanted to stay fit for skating - and to see if there was any chance Clark would welcome him to the team.
Clark never said no, which was enough to let Addison's imagination grow.
"I've been bugging Coach Clark ever since freshman year," said Addison, who is 6-foot-2 and weighs 190 after six months of weight training. "I've always wanted to play, but I couldn't because skating restricted me."
He understood football, and he watched much more of it than he did skating. Bergdolt noticed Addison changing, but hoped he would get re-energized.
Even though they qualified for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships held in Greensboro in January, Bergdolt, 15, said it was difficult to train with Addison last year.
"I've always looked up to him, but I knew he was going to quit last July," said Bergdolt, who will attend Westtown, a college prep school in Westchester, Pa., to continue her training. "I could tell he had no desire."
Addison and Bergdolt received a lot of media attention as the only local skaters in the event; scouts and members of the American Figure Skating Association also were watching because the pair was one of the youngest to compete in the novice pairs division.
They didn't know this was going to be Addison's last competition - just as he and Bergdolt had reached the biggest stage.
Could a great performance keep him in skating? His mother hoped so.
"You don't realize that it really means something to you as a parent until something like this happens," said Polly Addison, who estimates she and her husband Martin spent at least $350,000 for Addison's skating. "At first I was devastated, but I know this is his life."
Addison and Bergdolt skated well, performing their routine without flaws, including side-by-side double axels, star lifts and spiral sequences. Addison was proud of his performance, but a seventh-place finish disappointed him.
"I probably wouldn't be here right now if we would have medaled," Addison said before a recent football practice. "But we didn't."
Even though his mother asked him to think about it, Addison was ready to walk away.
"I probably cried for three weeks," Polly Addison said.
The hardest part for Bergdolt came two months later, when the AFSA invited her and Addison to represent the U.S. in international competitions for the summer. Bergdolt didn't try to persuade her partner to come back. She knew he was off getting football cleats.
Football on Fridays
The opening kickoff against Garner was smooth, an uneventful play for Addison. The second one wasn't.
On the kickoff return, he found himself facing one of Garner's biggest players. He lowered his shoulder, but it didn't matter.
"I just got trucked," said Addison, who can now laugh about it. "I didn't get up until the whistle blew."
The play didn't discourage him.
Instead, he ran to the sideline in excitement to see if Winston, the linebacker, had seen the hit.
"At first I was really skeptical," Winston said, "but he just got better and better."
Now, Addison has made the full transition as a starting receiver with five receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown.
"To be able to come out and play at the position he's at says a lot about it him," Clark said.
Addison knows he has given up a lot for football.
He may never skate again, never get a chance at the Olympics.
His partner, Bergdolt, isn't waiting for him.
He realizes others are disappointed, or don't understand, his decision.
All he has right now is a football game every Friday night, and that's all he wants.
"I knew before I even came out that I would love it," Addison said. "This is something that I've been waiting a long time for."
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