Steamboat Springs High School senior quarterback and linebacker David May played four years for the Sailors and heard every excuse in the book from the Front Range and big-school teams about how Steamboat athletes were spoiled and not tough because they lived in a resort town. "That's all everyone thinks we are -- skiers and cowboys," May said.
When you think about it, maybe having their toughness compared to that of skiers and cowboys wasn't so insulting to the Sailors, considering blown-out knees or busted bones are a rite of passage for skiers and cowboys.
May, 18, has had his share of broken bones, bum limbs and bruises playing football, baseball and basketball.
During the 2003 football season, in which May became Steamboat's all-time passing leader with 2,425 yards, there were days when he struggled to lift his right arm. His teammates and coaches knew how much pain he was in, but no one said a word because May was always ready for games.
"Which is his personality," Diane May, David's mother, said. "I've seen him playing football games with a concussion. On one occasion, he came home and his hand was swollen and he asks if something is wrong with his thumb, and it was broken. It doesn't stop him."
If such injuries did stop him, May would have quit sports before he became a teenager. Most likely, May said, the right shoulder pain that has plagued him for the last seven years is the result of playing a 60-game baseball schedule when he was 11.
That same shoulder injury was the cause of his back and neck soreness during the football season and the reason behind elbow problems that forced him out of baseball as a junior.
"The pain was worth it," May said.
But the most stinging pain of May's senior season wasn't the result of a blind-side sack or a late hit. The season's low point followed May's incomplete pass to Chris Dombey as time ran out in Steamboat's 13-6 semifinal loss in Florence on Nov. 22. It was mid-December before May could bring himself to watch the game tape.
"I haven't watched it since," May said. "I think we still should have won the state championship. It was so close."
Despite his persistent shoulder problems, Sailors' coaches had no reservations about giving May the starting quarterback job, and May welcomed the responsibility of leading the football team to the state semifinals, a place no Steamboat football team had been since the early 1990s.
May isn't the most vocal of people and finds little enjoyment in talking about himself. He still refuses to take any credit for the Sailors' successful season, choosing instead to point out the progress made by the offensive line and the improved play from the defense toward the end of the year.
"He was never a rah-rah type of person, but when he opened his mouth, people listened," former Steamboat football coach Mark Drake said. "Sometimes you have people with that ability, and you hope they take charge, and he was more than ready in crucial situations. He wanted to have input and call his own number. He's a competitor. That sums him up."
May has decided to continue playing football at Mesa State College in Grand Junction where he will be given the opportunity to play linebacker, despite limited snaps at that position during his senior year.
"It was a pretty easy decision," May said. "I was a linebacker that got stuck playing quarterback."
Drake said May is more than capable of playing linebacker at the collegiate level, but he was surprised there weren't more opportunities for a quarterback that passed for nearly 2,500 yards and threw only eight interceptions in 273 attempts.
May looked into playing quarterback at Black Hills State University in South Dakota but felt more comfortable at Mesa State because it's closer to Steamboat and has a winning tradition in Division II.
David is the oldest of two -- his sister Julie is a sophomore -- and the idea of the first child leaving home is something his mom isn't ready to think about yet.
"The fact that he's closer will be nice, and you always want to see your kids move on," Diane said. "It will be tougher on Dad more than anything. "
Frank and Diane have been taking David to practice, traveling to games or sitting in the stands since the senior was in elementary school. Diane said she couldn't even guess how many hours have been given to David's athletics, but it has always been an experience all four have shared together.
Joe Ramunno, former Steamboat Springs player, is the head coach at Mesa State, and May, who will redshirt next season, said he expects the transition from high school to college to be a smooth one under Ramunno.
"When I went there for my visit it was almost like listening to coach Drake talking about football and family," May said. "I think it will be tough to redshirt, but at the same time it will help me get used to football and going to college."
May is undecided as to what he will major in at Mesa State, but he is leaning toward teaching and getting his coaching certificate.
"He has a demeanor about him that people look up to and respect," Drake said. "He's a very intelligent young man, and I think he'd be a great teacher and coach."
When asked if his college team would institute a pass offense similar to the one the Sailors used during the 2003 season, May already sounded like a coach with his answer.
"It would depend on the personnel," he said. And then he paused, cracked a smile and added, "But I would love to throw the football."