Wednesday, September 12, 2012

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL: GLORY DAYS


Anyone who played high school football almost certainly enjoyed a few glory days, or at least glory moments. One of mine came when I was a Junior and we were playing an Oklahoma team called Pocola.

Pocola had a running back with something of a reputation. He was nowhere near as big as the Huntsville Sasquatch halfback discussed in my last football post, but he was fast and shifty. He painted his shoes silver, no doubt to show how cool he was, and we didn’t much like that.  In those days, showing off was still considered a bad thing.

The upshot of it all was that we hammered that poor running back mercilessly all night long. I don’t think he had any gain longer than about seven yards, and most of the time it was considerably less.

Toward the end of the game, though, Pocola was driving toward our end zone. We needed to stop them because our offense hadn’t done any better than theirs throughout the game and the score was very close.

Pocola got a first down at about our twenty-five, and on the first play after that their quarterback dropped back and lofted a pass toward our end zone. I was playing cornerback that night and the throw was in my direction. I intercepted it at about the two and returned it a good twenty yards up field before being tackled.

I didn’t have to climb to my feet after that; my teammates hoisted me to my feet with much slapping of palms against my helmet and pads.  The defense ran off the field and the offense came on. Every one of them cheered me on the way to the sideline. And once I reached the bench the whole team gathered around to congratulate me. I even saw our coach smiling in the background, an expression not commonly to be discerned on his face. I basked in the glory.

As our offense started churning back up the field on the momentum of the turnover, the other players gradually moved away from me and the coach came over. He squeezed my shoulder pad with one huge hand and leaned his six feet, five inch frame down about a foot to look me in the eyes.

“You know you were out of position, don’t you?” he whispered softly, so that no one else could hear.

I gazed back at him. “Yeah, coach, I know,” I said.  He nodded, straightened, squeezed my shoulder pad one more time, and moved away.

He was right, of course. But only he and I seemed to know it. Now I guess I’ve just told the rest of the team, although I doubt any of them read my blog.

You see, because we’d been focused on the run all night, I’d started inching closer to the line of scrimmage on most plays.  And on the play where I intercepted the pass, the receiver I was supposed to be guarding beat me fair and square. He was at least three yards behind me, in the end zone for an easy touchdown, when the Pocola quarterback threw his ill-fated pass.

And did I say I “intercepted” that pass?  Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration because it sounds like I did some work in the affair. The ball was woefully underthrown and hit me square in the numbers. I do give myself credit for closing my hands over it as it hung there against my chest.

Better to be lucky than good, they say. It was true for me that night. Though, you know, I’ve gotta wonder just how many “glory days” memories are based on that same kind of luck. Probably more than many would like to admit.

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27 comments:

Tom Doolan said...

I never played football (though I wanted to, but was too chicken). I did play baseball, though. And I have a few "glory moment" memories as well. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Tom, baseball was my son's sport too. Some day I'll probably share some of his glory moments. He was a heckuva player

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You hung on to that sucker - that's what counts!!!

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Oh, Charles, I love the way you tell a story. This was great, and honest and captured the spirit of football. At least, for me. I would think a lot of luck is involved (along with skill) simply because so much depends on every action by every player.

Richard R. said...

Great story, and an interception is an interception, so enjoy that golden memory. If it had been thrown a little higher you would have made the greatest leap of your life and batted it away!

I had plenty of glory days in high school, but since I was on the water polo squad no one saw any of it except the rest of the team and the coach, and the teams we beat. The game was different then, but we went to the state finals behind my scoring, lost that last game. Rats.

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex, indeed, that was the most important part. :)

Jess, a lot of luck for sure. And so many complexities because of the numbers of players.

Richard R., I choose to believe you about jumping higher! :) We never got close to state at that time in football, although our basketball team did.

laughingwolf said...

who cares if you were out of position... and few knew?

you added the needed momentum!

in high school, i had height, no bulk, so no football other than flag during 'gym' class...

we did have track'n field when not in the gym....

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

As you say, it could have hit you in the numbers and bounced out to the ground. Embracing the luck is what it's all about. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Great football story! I've never watched much of the sport, but it was fun to read about one of your glory days.

Erik Donald France said...

haha, good one. Agreed on such things -- the original version and the retelling. I loved recovering fumbles, causing fumbles -- it happened. Every once in a blue moon -- really. Lucky.

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, better to be lucky, at least that time. :)

Bernard, now if I could get a little luck like that on the writing front. I'd embrace it for sure. :)

Golden Eagle, thanks, glad you enjoyed.

Erik, although I remember the interception very well in this story. I'm not as sure that I'm remembering the game just as it happened. That is a little more faded in my mind.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

You and me both, buddy. :)

Travis Cody said...

You're an honest man. But you caught the ball, out of position and under thrown or not. That's what counts in the end.

My best moment...senior year, 3 interceptions, 1 run back for a TD, 8 solo tackles, 2 sacks against our cross town rival, whom we hadn't beaten in my high school career. Spoiled their perfect season, we did. On homecoming night.

Sweet.

Cloudia said...

Greek to me, but "In those days, showing off was still considered a bad thing." stirred some memories of Truth Justice and the American way.





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epicresearch5 said...

yes i am ready for football glory. i am waiting for it.
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Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, I enjoyed reading this little anecdote from your football days. I guess American football and soccer as the rest of the world plays it are as apart from each other as baseball and cricket. I have always been fascinated by American football and the way it is played though the "tackling" part looks freakin' dangerous to me. The body collision must be painful in spite of the helmets and pads. I often catch the sport on ESPN or Star and, of course, in films like THE LONGEST YARD.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernard, indeed.

Travis Cody, good memories, man. We had a pretty good Senior year too. I was picked as an alternative for Cornerback for the All district team. Overall, I remember my high school football with fondness.

Cloudia, I still feel that way about folks who shout and posture and talk about how "bad" they are. It just doesn't resonate with me.

Epicresearch5, fun to recall those days. I couldn't play today.

Prashant, it's definitely a contact sport, that and hockey can be really roughAnd while there is contact in other sports, it's generally by accident. For football, contact is by design.

Tyhitia Green said...

It's interesting to read about your experience. Something I have no insight on.

Greg said...

At least you got a good story out of it. Guess you gotta take the glory when you can get it. Maybe subconsciously you knew he'd throw short, so that's why you were out of position.

Charles Gramlich said...

Tyhitia, as I'm sure you had many experiences that I would have no insight on. :)

Greg, yes, that might be it. :)

X. Dell said...

For starters, defensive backs are notorious for having hands made of wood. Because if they could catch, they'd be wide receivers.

So holding onto the ball was a victory in and of itself. Not bad for a CB.

You might consider yourself lucky. But I'm wondering how much intuition played into your fortuitous screwup. If your coach is as wise as you depict him here, he might have thought that instinct took over reason, hence his rare smile.

Of course, I'm thinking you probably made plenty of fine plays during your high school career. If you messed up more than you did good, you probably wouldn't have played much at all--unless your school, say, had only twelve guys on the team (and there are schools around here like that).

But the main thing is that you had fun at the time. I hope you had fun reliving it here.

X. Dell said...

For starters, defensive backs are notorious for having hands made of wood. Because if they could catch, they'd be wide receivers.

So holding onto the ball was a victory in and of itself. Not bad for a CB.

You might consider yourself lucky. But I'm wondering how much intuition played into your fortuitous screwup. If your coach is as wise as you depict him here, he might have thought that instinct took over reason, hence his rare smile.

Of course, I'm thinking you probably made plenty of fine plays during your high school career. If you messed up more than you did good, you probably wouldn't have played much at all--unless your school, say, had only twelve guys on the team (and there are schools around here like that).

But the main thing is that you had fun at the time. I hope you had fun reliving it here.

sage said...

Great story and we'll still think of you as a hero!

Charles Gramlich said...

X-Dell, I'm pretty sure the coach liked me because he knew that I always gave it everything I had. Durng my high school years we often had less than the 22 players it would take to field a full offensive and defensive squad. I was somwhere in the middle of that group in skills.

Sage, lol. Thanks, dude.

Vesper said...

You used your luck well, didn't you?
I much enjoyed reading the account of it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Vesper, use it when you have it. It never lasts long

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