The controversy surrounding the New England Patriots deflating footballs to get an advantage in the AFC Championship game is being debated all over the country.
That’s especially true among those who look up to those professional athletes as role models.
“I think that every high school football player, at some point, their goal is to achieve the highest level of playing football,” said Campbell Clarkson, a senior football player at St. Thomas High School.
To many, the NFL and what is on display there, at least in New England, is not pretty.
Lorenzo Neal knows a little about football because his dad was a pro who played for the Tennessee Titans, and Neal would love to get to that level himself.
“It is hard as a fan and an aspiring player to sit back and see all the ways that people are trying to win and gain advantages and think that it is OK for them when you know that it is not OK,” Neal said.
Deflategate reaches all the way to the weight room at St. Thomas High School, where there is a winning tradition—the team is 30-5 the last three years—but a different take on winning.
“There are edges that you can get on your competition, but that edge is in here,” said Mike Netzel, St. Thomas High School’s athletic director.
Hard work should be the edge, but all of the talk that should be about the Super Bowl—its matchups, its excitement—is instead focused on cheating and its role getting there.
For those who are charged with molding the athletes of the future, Deflategate might not be all bad.
“It can be a teachable moment for that, that winning at all costs is not the way to go,” said Mike Fitzpatrick, the head football coach at St. Thomas.
Many players look at the Patriots very differently whether they are winning or not.
“Winning makes you do stupid things. When you keep winning and you think that you might not win, you have the slightest chance that you might not win, then you will do anything you can to keep winning,” Neal said.