Matanzas Pirate leaves family to stay with family
How much can one football team mean to one teenager in Palm Coast? Ask Nikolas Polite, and you might be surprised at the answer.
Polite recently talked his mother into allowing him to stay in Palm Coast to finish his high school football career with the Matanzas Pirates.Due to a family illness, Polite’s family moved to Iowa to care for his grandfather. The original plan was for him to go along with them, and, though he still plans to move later in the year, Polite didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to finish what he’s started with his band of brothers and with the only coach who has ever seen anything special in him.
“My mom really wanted me to go, but she understood my situation,” Polite said. “When I was younger, she never let me play football because I was too small. I had always watched football with my dad but never got the chance to play. He passed away when I was younger, so she knew why I wanted to finish my senior year here, especially since this is where someone gave me my first chance.”
That someone was head coach Robert Ripley. With a small stature throughout his life, Polite was always overlooked, literally, for bigger kids. At Buddy Taylor Middle School, he didn’t even make the team his seventh-grade year, and, when he made it the following season, he saw very little playing time. Polite didn’t play his freshman or sophomore years, but he went out last year and became the starting cornerback for the Pirates, in Ripley’s first year as coach.
“He’s just everyone’s favorite teammate,” Ripley said. “He shows up. He works hard. He’s always positive. He’s always helping someone. He’s what ‘team first’ was meant for in our team rules. He’s the example for all to follow. He’s a great kid.”
Although the Pirates only won two games last season, Polite knows how hard his team has worked, and he wants to contribute to the future success of the program that means so much to him.
“It’s my senior season and second year playing high school football, so I wanted to stay for this upcoming season because I see the potential my team has built, and I want to help win more games,” he said. “Last year I had two interceptions, but I believe this year I will do even better, as I continue to work hard with my teammates. I’m aiming to be among the area’s top players in interceptions. My best friends since elementary, Hunter Turner and Daniel Dillard, push me to be better, and since last year, Andre Bodison has taken me under his wing and taught me.”
When it came time to decide where Polite might stay, as his family went off to Iowa, all the coaches opened their homes to him.
“That’s just a testament to who he is as a person,” Ripley said. “We wouldn’t invite a troublemaker into our homes.”
A couple of weeks ago, at the team’s potluck event, Turner’s mom asked Polite if he’d like to stay with them, and, to make things easier on the coaches, he agreed.
In less than a month, Polite and his football family will take the field, closer than ever before.