Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Playing Football

Ross Tucker was the guest host on the Dan Patrick Show today, and there was a discussion about youth football. It was focused on concussions, but Ross (who was a journeyman guard in the NFL) asked the Danettes if any of them had regretted not playing organized football.

I did play organized football--once--and there's a story. I've probably told you this before, but after nearly fifteen years, who can even remember?

I was a huge football fan growing up. HUGE. I wanted to play football so bad. In our extremely small town, though, there was no youth football until sixth grade, and that was just a few practices and one game.

No matter. I couldn't wait for sixth grade.

For some reason (I think it was a tight end on the Packers, maybe), I wanted to be a tight end. This was good because every single other kid wanted to be a running back, a wide receiver, or quarterback. So I got my pick of position.

That's good. Other things, though, weren't so good.

For one, I was skinny. Fast, but really, really skinny. So skinny that when I put on my helmet and pads for the first time, it felt like they weighed more than I did.

And hot! You cannot imagine how hot it is in Corpus Christ, Texas, in September, and how humid. Wearing a football helmet and pads made it feel like my body temperature was four thousand degrees.

I could have gotten past all this, though. After all, it was football.

On the first day of practice, the first drill we did was the Nutcracker. That's a drill where two kids face each other about five yards away, with the rest of the team lined up close on each side.

The objective of the drill? Run into that other kid at top speed and destroy him. Seriously, if you knocked the other kid out the coaches would laugh and pat you on the back.

Good hit, boy. Maybe you've got a future.

So I faced off in the Nutcracker against Mike Hall, who weighed twice what I weighed and was probably five times as strong. I was faster than he was, but when you're in such a small area, speed means nothing. Plus, the express purpose of the drill is to NOT avoid the other player.

I think I might have juked when I ran toward him. Hell, I must have done something. But all I remember is him hitting me in the chest with his helmet at approximately two hundred miles an hour and my entire body disintegrating.

I didn't black out or anything. But there was the kind of pain that comes from an explosive hit. It consumes your body, for at least a few seconds. Your brain is paralyzed.

I'd never been hit like that before. And I knew, immediately, that I never wanted to get hit like that again.

I played through the rest of the practices, and played in the game (where we threw exactly zero passes, so all I did was run block on every play).

It wasn't much fun, really.

After that game, I hung up my helmet for good. Canton never called.

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