Outside of the 15th Street Church of Christ in Temple, there is an old bush with a small hole in the middle.
Every Sunday, before church, a young David Ash started his morning by hiding his football in the center of that bush, and, when church was let out, it was the first place he ran.
Slinging off his church clothes to reveal his play clothes underneath, he and his brother, along with a few of his cousins and friends, ran routes, pretending they were future stars. While these times wouldn’t be the first or last they played football, it was likely the most memorable.
“Those times really meant a lot to us,” said Stephen Ash, David’s younger cousin who lined up with him on 15th Street. “It just meant a lot that we were together playing, and football just happened to be something we all loved.”
Even back then, David knew football was only a game. He knew he couldn’t play it forever, so he realized the importance of family and spirituality in his life, which has guided him since and, most recently, helped him make the tough decision to retire from football.
“The biggest joy I’ve had in football was doing it all for my dad,” David said. “And I dedicated my career to Jesus when I was in eighth grade, and it’s really incredible to see how far I’ve come. But my football period is ending.”
Ash grew up in a conservative home in Belton, 60 miles north of Austin, with five other siblings. Growing up, his family never watched television and only watched movies on the weekend — his favorites were “The Fox and the Hound” and “The Grinch” — so he spent most of his time outdoors.
“Instead of watching TV, we spent our time on sports,” Stephen said. “It just gave us the time to just do and learn other things. We always played football. He would make me run routes all the time with him, and even sometimes, though rarely, I got to throw it to him.”
Outside of his comfort zone, Ash is reserved around most people, but his demeanor flips around close family and friends, showing off his goofy, fun-loving side.
Friends know him best for his compassion and commitment to others.
“He is a great example of caring for others,” Stephen said. “A lot of college football players are arrogant, but not David. He’s a servant at heart. He always tried to make people feel important, and it really meant a lot to you when he took time like that.”
Ash always had a knack for football. His electric blend of talents impressed coaches at a young age and propelled him to the top of the pack. When he scored his first touchdown as a running back in Little League football, he came back to the sideline and told his cousin, “That was too easy.”
Ash attended Academy High School until his sophomore year when he transferred to Belton. When his coach Rodney Southern first saw him, he knew Ash was talented.
“The first day he walked in the school, we happened to be outside playing football during our athletic period,” Southern said. “He warmed up, and, when I first saw him throw the ball, I turned to our offensive coordinator and said, ‘That’s our starting quarterback for the next three years.’”
Over the past month, Ash has realized his football career had to end. He knows his health comes before the game, and, once again, he realized there was more to life than football.
“I had a lot of goals … [and] had I remained healthy, I would have gotten to accomplish [them],” Ash said. “But there’s so much still; there’s so much good life out there besides football. I’m really excited to put time in those things now.”