As we pick up the pieces and move on with football season, it's important to remember the lessons we learned from the late Jackson Prep junior Walker Wilbanks.

Wilbanks passed at the age of 17 nearly two weeks ago, and Mississippi's football community - surely one of the most tight-knit in the country - is still in mourning.

Eventually, we will get back to the business of football as usual. We've been here before, and we always do.

We'll get back to it because that's what Walker would have wanted. We'll get back to it in a way that will honor his memory.

But what we should not do is forget the lesson that his life - and death - have taught us: that we should appreciate every day, and each other, because it can all change in an instant.

As I was speaking with those who were close with Walker for an article in last week's paper, I couldn't imagine how I could get back to the business of covering football from the same standpoint as before - let alone how these players would manage to get back to playing the game the same way.
But as usual, these young men from Jackson Prep have answered that call.

They've dedicated their season, and play, to Wilbanks, and they already have another game under their belt, a 43-7 win over Copiah Academy (see C-3).

If these young men - and that's what they are today, even if they were boys two weeks ago - can pick up the pieces and move on, so can we.
Some people say football is a distraction - I'd argue it's a way to learn life lessons. It has been in this case.

Wilbanks died doing something he loved, and although he was taken from this world far too early, everyone who knew him seems to agree that he was the kind of guy who got the most out of life.

So when I'm walking the sidelines of a football game in the coming weeks, whether it's MRA or Madison Central or Ridgleand, I'm going to watch and enjoy the game as I did before, but never forgetting the lessons of Walker Wilbanks.

You can bet that's what he would have wanted.