|Jordan Giza has turned in a sensational final season for the 'Cats|
|Photo Courtesy of Rusty Rae: View Rusty's Photos Here.|
I played soccer my entire life. There are pictures of me as a child sitting on my dad’s lap, watching Landon Donavon play in his inaugural game, eyes wide, clutching a size three-soccer ball for dear life.
In 1994, my dad and his best friend convinced their wives to take our two families to Disneyland. I guess it was simply a lucky coincidence that the World Cup final was being played at the Rose Bowl that year.
I played at Linfield and my older sister played at Oregon State. She flew all over the country for games; where my team was usually designated to the northwest.
But no matter where we played, how far away from home it was or the amount of effort it took, we always had a family member at every single game we have ever played.
The Linfield football program knows a little something about family. And for Jordan Giza, he knows the feeling of seeing a parent’s smiling face in the stands.
“Having my parents come to every game means a lot to me,” said Giza, a senior for the Wildcats. “Most guys on the team aren't as fortunate as I am to be so close to home, which means their parents are only able to attend a few games, if any. So, I definitely take advantage of the time I get with my parents after games, and for some of my closer buddies whose parents can't come, my parents try and substitute as best as possible.”
Giza was recently named to the North West Conference defensive first team. He also was honored with Division III football’s play of the week after he ran back a punt return for a 63-yard touchdown.
“After games where I had a big play, such as that punt return, I always give my mom a hug first, and then my dad,” said Giza. “They tell me good job, and then my dad is usually quick to jokingly say thank goodness you got my athletic ability, or something like that.”
“That’s probably one of my favorite memories of Jordan at Linfield,” said Giza’s mother Debbie. “That and last year at playoffs, I’m so proud of him.”
Debbie and Greg Giza, like several other families, will be following the Cats to Texas to watch them take on nationally ranked Mary-Hardin Baylor. And Giza is incredibly grateful.
“Being a senior, and having this be the playoffs, any game could be my last,” said Giza. “Having my parents come is truly a blessing since this could be the last time they ever see me play in a Wildcat uniform.”
Giza’s family is used to watching Northwest Conference games. However, instead of wearing purple and red, Giza’s older brother Tyson played for Willamette. He graduated in 2013, meaning that there were two years where the Giza brothers faced off on the field.
“It was excruciating,” laughed Debbie. “I dreaded those games because one would always be very, very said afterward. It was always way harder on me then on them.”
During the years when both boys played, the Giza parents would switch off who went to which game, always making sure one parent was watching.
“It was always hard deciding which to go to,” said Debbie. “My husband, and I both wanted to be at both so we would split up and then switch. It was always a really hard decision.”
Now, that it’s Giza’s final season as a wildcat, both Debbie and Greg attend every game possible.
“The only game we didn’t go to was the Redlands game at the beginning of the season,” said Debbie. “Especially with it being his senior year, we want to go to all of them. We’ll go wherever they go; it’s a last hurrah of ours.”
Travel plans began last weekend after Linfield beat Chapman 55-24 at home. Now, after a Thanksgiving dinner together, they head to Texas for the second round of playoffs.
Linfield football has and always will be about family. So, even those whose parents aren’t able to make the trip, they have a family in their coaches, teammates and the Wildcat fans who love and believe in them.
“Football has been such a part of our life forever,” said Debbie. “I don’t know what it will feel like when it’s over. I do know that it’s the greatest feeling to see how hard Jordan has worked and how it’s paid off for him.
“I’m going to miss Jordan getting to play with all his friends, being a part of the Linfield atmosphere and the rest of the parents. I’ll miss everything.”