Walking on (Limping off)
I am just a typical guy that happened to letter in five sports if you count chess. Ok so maybe that is not quite so typical but it never went to my head. I was a decent left offensive tackle on a good team working fairly well with what I had; a good first step with balance, and I didn’t get beat. I don’t want to sell myself too short though; I was as fast as Usain Bolt, for two steps.
After that I was at top speed no matter how many stop watches were used.
My senior year I was injured on an off-tackle play. As I blasted my man and starting identifying my next target, a LB submarined me with his helmet. I heard a pop and and even as I writhed in pain, I knew I wasn’t gonna quit. I made it back to the huddle trying not to limp too much and played until halftime. After reaching the locker room my knee went cold, tightened up, and I never played another down that year. I thought I would never play football again. Even though I lacked speed, size, and perhaps some talent, I still dreamed of playing college football; I certainly wasn’t getting a scholarship now.
That was during the mid 80s, it’s now the early 90s and I am a student in college teaching chess to kids in Tacoma, when a high school football coach looking at my size asked if I played in HS. No brag just fact I said I did and mentioned that I thought I used to be pretty good.
The next thing I know, I’m wearing pads going one on one versus his top defensive end.
First play I pancaked the kid. Well, he was giving up experience and 50+ pounds, and I had jumped the snap count. On the next snap I timed it good and drilled him fair and square, another pancake job, and this time I put him down hard.
Now keep in mind I hadn’t heard hike in 4-5 years and I was outta shape and no way in game condition. I usually took it easy unless a pile of French fries was on my horizon, in which case it was pity the fool who stood between me and my goal.
Anyway, on the third and final snap I again dominated my overmatched opponent and my ego soared. The coach is yelling and cursing something fierce about how I had an insane first step and that I should be playing defense and rushing the passer, and after a couple of months in the gym I would be starting for the University of Washington Huskies.
I heard the choir singing at this point so I was easily hooked, line and sinker into trying out for the Dawgs, playing football, one more time.
The following spring I walked-on at U-Dub for open tryouts. I went down with my cleats and some gym clothes, threw on some pads, and even though I was still a bit out of shape, I was going to give this a try. I had worked out for 3 months, running the treadmill and lifting some weights, so I believed I was ready to go.
The drills they were running were like those I ran in high school and I was doing ok against some Podunk kids that I don’t think ever even played Pop Warner, let alone against division 1 competition. I told them I was an offensive lineman so they shifted me over to doing some pass blocking drills. It was going well until the defense starting sending the CB on a blitz while I was engaged with the DE.
This one brother, a very fine and talented individual I might add, for some reason zeros in on me; completely and succinctly annihilating me each time.
I never saw him coming, and boy it hurt! This sequence repeated itself several times, me getting completely obliterated while entangled with the DE. Now I don’t know if he thought I dated his momma, but he was wearing me out. Our school colors were purple and gold and my body was matching after an hour of this torture I was enduring because of my delusion that I could play ball for the Huskies.
I held my own in other passing and pulling drills but the speed and power these kids hit with was crazy. LBs were detonating my body on contact, just killing me, and I was not in shape. Now it would have been nice if one of the coaches would have stopped the fight like in boxing, but no luck, I was black, purple, and bloody, but I didn’t give up. Now I’m not trying to say I was like Rudy and eventually walked on, started a game and scored a touchdown. No this story has another true ending; as I limped home after being completely and thoroughly decimated, I realized the game had passed me by. I quit after practice that day and have never looked back since.
I heard the preacher this time too, only the choir was singing a new song, I was done.
I never again want to think about the beat downs those linebackers, defensive ends, tackles and cornerbacks administered to and on me that day. The speed and strength in college is so much more than in high school, I can only imagine what the next level up is like; the thought of getting hit by those guys gives me chills.
To this day I advise kids and parents alike, before you put on the pads, understand that there will be lots of pain and punishment, and if you get past that, somewhere out there, it’s fun too.
From the timeless Helmet phone commercial to the first year that the cyborg Mel Kiper Jr. and his bullet proof head first appeared on ESPN, I was hooked on the NFL Draft. I have been following since 1980 and I have missed seeing only 2 picks in 30 years. I am a bit of a sports fanatic and enjoy writing about football especially, as well as other sports occasionally.
I hope my true story brought you some laughs. I look forward to sharing with you my knowledge and insights about this sport we love.
And that fine young gentleman that was wearing me out? It would not surprise me if he played in the NFL, retired and became a successful businessman.
Let the games begin.