Once a Wildcat

“Great moments are born from great opportunity.”

Alright, so I stole that quote from Herb Brooks and the inspirational sports movie Miracle, but I feel like it perfectly describes Villanova basketball, the 2016 season and the fairy tale ending of the NCAA tournament.

I don’t think any one of us will ever forget how we felt when Kris Jenkins (“Big Smoooooth”) hit that game-winning buzzer shot. It’s pretty hard to erase the memory of bursting into tears in a bar of screaming Nova fans.

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…But there was another moment right before all the confetti and the excitement that solidified my intense love for Villanova. With 4.7 seconds left, Nova was getting ready to inbound the ball, and I made myself look around. The bar  was packed wall-to-wall with die hard Nationers, and every single one of us was staring at the game like our lives depended on those last 4.7 seconds.

There was hope. There was fear. But there was mostly just pride. It didn’t matter if we won or lost, because damn, we’re all just so proud to be wildcats. 

And when the ball left Kris Jenkins hands… Silence. My friend Kelsey said it best: it was like every Villanova fan everywhere collectively stopped breathing. It didn’t matter if you were in Philly or Houston, California or Copenhagen. In those last moments we were all together, believing in the same thing. And that’s the foundation of what makes Villanova our home.

This is more than just basketball. This has always been more than just basketball. And that’s been apparent through this entire season and particularly through the tournament. The amount of shares, re-tweets, Instagrams and sappy fan posts should be enough to prove to anyone that this season was more than just basketball to us. Jay Wright’s team is a true manifestation of the values of Villanova: humility, integrity, community and most importantly, love.

With all due respect to all other college basketball fans, you will never find more dedicated, loyal and borderline completely obsessed fans than us. We’ve persevered through less- than-stellar seasons, early tournament exits and of course the thousands of haters/doubters. But we never stopped believing. Even when we’ve doubted, it was always followed by intense faith that we would have our time. That our team’s hard work would bring us all greatness.

I am humbled by all the gifts Villanova has given me and has continued to give me. While part of me wishes this championship could have happened when I was on campus, we won when I needed it the most. In a time where most of us recent grads are grappling with “what’s next,” it’s comforting to know that Father Peter wasn’t lying: once a wildcat, always a wildcat. 

Congratulations to our amazing team for a historic tournament run. We will all remember this for the rest of our lives. But mostly thank you to every Wildcat out there. You took a decision that I made as an 18 year old and made it the best decision of my life. I’ve always said that Villanova is great because of the people, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a Wildcat, today and every day. &.

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