The tradition of Thanksgiving football is about bringing people together.
Scituate senior back Will Sheskey and his younger brother, Michael, were essentially born into that tradition.
Their grandfather, Don Watt, was an offensive coach at Scituate in 1987 with their mother, Jen, serving as the team statistician. She met her future husband, junior quarterback Mike Sheskey Sr., on the football field as she recorded each play call and listened in on team huddles.
By the end of season banquet following Scituate’s Thanksgiving tilt against Hingham, Jen knew the player she wanted to honor by “graduating” with their number. She took Mike’s jersey, and eight years later, they were married, eventually moving to Hanover and then back to Scituate when their sons were born.
This Thanksgiving, Mike Sr. and Jen will watch their sons lead Scituate onto its recently renovated turf for the 26th installment of the Sailors’ rivalry against Hingham. When Mike and Jen were in school, Scituate’s rival was Marshfield, but the tradition is similar.
“From the time I was a small child I grew up going to all the games,” said Jen. “There’s a lot of memories on that field. It’s such a great sport, and it’s very cool how it all has come full circle with our boys.”
For Will Sheskey, being able to end his career on the same turf where he developed his passion for the game adds significance to an already significant game.
“That’s where it all started,” said Will, who set a program record with 1,785 rushing yards and scored 28 touchdowns while leading Scituate to its first Super Bowl title last season.
“Every time I passed the field this year I thought about it. My first game against Milford as a sophomore, we won, 34-7, and I can remember every play to this day.
This year, Scituate (6-4) has not had the same success, but Will has enjoyed running behind his brother Michael, a standout lineman who moved from center to right guard this season. Michael’s sport of choice was soccer until eighth grade, when he started to grow into his 6-foot-1-inch frame and he decided to follow the family’s gridiron tradition.
“It’s special having two boys, and seeing one blocking for the other,” said Mike Sr.
The Sheskey brothers might not have played the sport if their parents didn’t meet through Scituate football, which would not have happened if Jen’s father didn’t decide to try his hand at coaching.
Don Watt moved from Canada to Scituate in 1970 with a background in hockey and box lacrosse, but he was unfamiliar with football.
Longtime Scituate coach Paul Johnson brought him on as a coach on the freshman team, and Watt slowly moved up to the varsity level while his sons, Jim and Jeff, moved up through the Pop Warner ranks to Scituate High.
By the time Jim was a senior defensive back, Watt was a key offensive coach on Scituate’s 1979 Super Bowl team.
“Johnson told me I should think of [football] as a chess board and the players as pieces,” said Watt, who retired in 1988 after Mike Sr.’s senior campaign.
“When he told me that, the game took on a whole new significance. Now I see that football teaches [Will and Michael] a lot about life. It teaches them that you can’t do anything in life alone. In this thing called life, if you try to do it yourself, you’re going to fail. You have to rely on somebody.”
A couple years after graduating from Scituate, Mike Sr. was at Bryant, a sophomore on the baseball team. Faced with a tough choice, he decided to forfeit his spot on the team to join Jen and her family on a first-class trip to Hawaii, courtesy of Don Watt.
Although he gave up baseball, he gained a companion for life, and now the couple owns three coffee shops called “Pour” in the South Shore.
Watching his sons play on Thanksgiving, along with fellow former players, has confirmed it was all worth it.
“I go [to Thanksgiving games] and see a lot of the guys I played with, and now they have sons and nephews on the team,” said Mike Sr.
“To see the success these boys have had, it’s a great thing for our town. Being a former player, you’re so proud, especially with what Will did [to win the Super Bowl].”
When they met on the football field over 30 years ago, Jen and Mike Sr. never knew how much they would add to the Scituate tradition, but as Jen put it, “We got to know each other through football, and the rest was history.”