LANSING | T.F. South senior lineman Sammy Kessler has a favorite video of his first game as a Rebels varsity football player.
He came up as a sophomore for the 2010 playoffs and his dad, Richard, videotaped his son's varsity debut. It wasn't so much that the younger Kessler was the star of the tape, but the voice that was on it.
"My dad filmed it and you could hear my mom (Ruth Ann) yelling on the tape and her voice was loud and clear," Sammy Kessler said. "She was so happy and so proud that I got moved up (to varsity) for the playoffs. Even with all the cheering (a win over Thornridge), I could hear her through that crowd."
Ruth Ann Kessler died in June of 2011 of cancer, but Sammy and his siblings will never forget their mom, a T.F. South grad, and her influence on their lives.
Before the regular-season finale against Oak Forest, South had a "Pink Out" and the Kessler family participated in the memorial before the kickoff.
"I had my mom's picture with me and after it was done, my dad turned to me and said, 'Sammy, it's your night. You go out and play hard. Make your mom and me proud'."
Kessler admits it was a big week with the Rebels playing for the South Suburban Blue championship. They lost the game, but still came away with a three-way tie for first place.
"Last week was kind of rough for me with this being 'Cancer Awareness Month,'" Kessler said. "I knew about the 'Pink Out' and wanted to participate in it."
In his locker, Kessler has a copy of his mom's obituary, which he looks at before every game, and a family picture which also includes his grandfather Richard Kessler, who died this summer.
"It is just something I need to look at before the game," Kessler said. "I take a moment of silence, we all do on the team, and I think about my mom and my grandpa. It kind of gives me that strength. It is something I need to do."
On the field, Kessler has been a force for the Rebels. One of the team captains, he has been one of the reasons for the team's 7-2 record. They host Thornton at 7 p.m. Friday in a class 7A playoff game.
"After last year (4-5), we didn't want another season like that," Kessler said. "The seniors, we knew it was up to us to lead, get the job done and make sure the younger players know what to do."
Offensive line coach Trent Jensen said Kessler is one who goes out and gets the job done. Nothing fancy, he just flattens the opposing defensive lineman.
"He has been out most consistent lineman the last two years," Jensen said. "He works hard and blocks well against the pass rush and blitzes.
"What Sammy is, is a mentor to the other kids on the team. He goes out and does his job and wants to win."
Kessler knows Thornton will be a tough game and is prepared.
"We don't want to lose, but we know how good of a program Thornton is," Kessler said. "It will be a tough game and should be a good one."