Sunday, September 09, 2012

Are You Ready For Some Football? Part One:



I don’t really think of myself as a sports fan. I don’t watch much baseball or basketball. I’ve never seen a soccer game all the way through, or a hockey game. What I am, is a football fan. I love football, and have ever since I can remember.

When I was a little bitty tyke I had a helmet my dad bought me. It was painted red to look like the Arkansas Razorback helmets, and had the number 10 in white on the side of it. 10 was Billy Moore’s number.  Billy was the Razorback quarterback in the early 1960s and was my first football hero. He led the Southwest conference in rushing in 1962. I wanted to play football when I grew up. Not pro football, which we almost never watched, but college football for the Hogs.

The first year that they had competitive football in my town when I was growing up was 7th grade, and I went out for the team. I played halfback on the 7th grade team but I think we only had four games. I played in the 8th and 9th grades as well, mostly at running back, or sometimes at defensive back.  I was little but I was fast.

10th grade was the first year of big-boy football. I weighed 112 pounds; I wasn’t a very big boy.  All the running backs on the Senior High offense were upper classmen but we had less than 30 boys out for the team so there was room for me on the defense. Me and a couple of other Sophomores traded off time in the defensive backfield at safety and cornerback. I found that I preferred hitting other players as a defensive back to getting hit by other players as an offensive back.  That is, until I learned that offensive players can hit too.

We were playing Huntsville. They had a very big running back who had made All State the year before as a Junior. I was playing safety that night. I remember strongly encouraging our defensive line and linebackers to tackle the monster halfback. I assure you it was for the good of the team and had nothing to do with wanting to protect my own hide.

As luck would have it, on this one particular play our line and linebackers failed to bring down the creature and he burst through into the secondary. I was in the secondary. I believe my entire thought process at that moment consisted of, “Oh Crap!”

We are at about the fifteen yard line.  Our fifteen yard line. I was the last man between this Huntsville Sasquatch and our end zone.  My training kicked in. I met him with a textbook tackle, my body squared, my legs braced. I planted my face mask directly into his chest.

In later years, I twice hit the concrete during motorcycle accidents. The concrete was quite soft compared to the blow this guy landed on me. I remember that he didn’t even try to give me any moves. I wonder if he even saw me through the red mist no doubt hazing his bloodthirsty vision. He just lowered his shoulder. The chin strap on my helmet broke as we collided and the helmet twisted to the side. I flung my arms around the runner, perhaps in hopes of still getting the tackle, perhaps in fear of my life should I be trampled under his feet.

I hung on as he churned on toward the end zone, but began to slide down his body. I tried to wrap my legs around his, failed at that, but then got hammered in the chin by a knee pad and found myself grasping his lower legs. I’d like to say that I realized I had to take his feet out from under him. That would be a lie. I realized nothing except the pain in my face.

But then he was down, tripped up by the wadded form of my body entangled around his ankles. I heard a cheer. I had a fleeting thought that it might have been for me as I saved a touchdown. I let go of the runner’s legs and rolled over. I was looking out through the ear hole of my own helmet. There was grass in my teeth. I climbed shakily to my feet to find that we were in the end zone. The guy had dragged me fifteen yards. Huntsville had scored.

Welcome to Big-Boy football, I thought to myself.
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28 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I played a little inter mural football. Ended up with a concussion. Prefer just to watch!

Ty Johnston said...

I played in high school, but lost interest after I graduated. Not really sure why. Pro sports in general have pretty much lost me over the last couple of decades. Was a big Raiders fan back in the day, early to mid-80s, and I loved baseball during most of the '90s, even made it to a couple of Atlanta-Cleveland World Series games. I played soccer for a couple of years during junior high, enjoyed it, but it was missing something for me.

I don't have any stories about getting hit really hard in football, but I was a right defensive tackle and was doing more hitting than getting hit. I remember I knocked out a couple of guys, and I didn't necessarily enjoy that potential in the game or myself, which might be why I didn't stick with it in college.

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex, I got a concussion and a neck compression at one point playing. Bothered me later in life some too so it wasn't a good thing.

Ty, I kind of liked the hitting, although I felt pretty bad at one point when I and another defensive back clobbered this guy and broke his leg. It was a clean hit but it was pretty harsh to think back on it now.

Snowbrush said...

I don't know how tall you are, Charles, but you look about average, so I don't know what in the heck possessed you to go out for football since a position with the Razorbacks didn't look likely. Tennis? Okay, I can see that. Track? Yep, that too. Maybe football was just all that your school had because it would have had to be an awfully small school to take such a skinny little fellow as you were back then. I'm also wondering if you father was fan since he bought you helmet.

Cloudia said...

It's a boy thing.



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Snowbrush said...

"It's a boy thing."

Ha. Not this boy.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I played a lot of football, cricket, hockey, and badminton in school but switched over to watching these sports in college. Now I rarely watch any sports and if I do it's usually football: it gets over faster. I stopped watching cricket, India's No.1 sport in the popularity stakes, following serious allegations of rigging across the cricketing world.

the walking man said...

Never could make myself want to play football, baseball, hockey, soccer or badminton...but if you're up for a game of buck a point Euchre I'm there.

Hell I got hit enough just going home from school to want to play and when I finally got big enough 5' 11" 250 lbs to hit back most of them who liked to hit me had got too intimidated to come in for the tackle.

So good job Charles not letting that big dude stop you from trying him on for size.

laughingwolf said...

i was never a huge sports fan, either, since being elbowed in the solar plexus, with the breath knocked out, falling to the floor, smacking the back of my head hard enough my glasses flew off and broke, as i came down from making a jump shot basket, in a nothing game... totally a cheap shot... i was 6'2", about 115 lb and 12-yr-old...

later, we would watch saturday night hockey on tv, as we went through at least one twofer [24] of beer... and the odd football game, earlier in the year

Charles Gramlich said...

Snowbrush, my father was a fan, although he never played because of a heart condition, and actually died the year the spring of the year I first went out. so he never got to see me play. Our school had a very small team most of the time, often less than enough to field a full offense and defense so we often had to double up. I did run track as well.

Cloudia, must be. :)

Prashant, it's a shame when that kind of cheating happens. It happens in all kinds of sports because there is so much money and pride involved.

Mark, It makes for a funny story in later years. ;)

Laughingwolf, Charleston had a basketball team but I'd never grown up playing it so I didn't even try out. Football was simpler to play around the farm.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

LMAO! Great account of the Huntsville Sasquatch.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I was glad my son never played football. I could never have taken it. Baseball was tough enough. My grandson at five already is on a hockey team. I dread what might happen to him. He can skate backwards faster than I can go forward.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernard, I figured you might like it. Kind of similar humor to Days of Beer,.

Patti, my son chose baseball and I was relieved, although he did get a few injuries even there.

X. Dell said...

Great story. No one can accuse you of leaving your post, or of not giving it everything you had. Had I seen it, I would have said that you actually made a good play. It's just that this running back made a better one.

One thing puzzles me, though. as you describe this hit, you must have slowed him down considerably. Where the #$@! were the rest of your teammates? They should've been swarming around you.

Lana Gramlich said...

"The concrete was quite soft compared to the blow this guy landed on me."

Ha!

Oscar said...

I played football on the Junior varsity in high school and had a similar experience to you and Sasquatch, but when I hit him he went down and so did I shaken to the core but no bones broken. I had knee problems later and quit the Varsity team when my coach said he wasn't going to let me play. I played Varsity basketball and went on to try out for college, but got cut. Played in the Navy when I had the chance.

Charles Gramlich said...

X-Dell, you know that's a very good question. Where the hell were my teammates. Although, I may not have slowed him down that much until I got down around his ankles.

Lana, tis true.

Oscar, I went and watched a college tryout for football and decided the better part of valor was not to go out considering my size compared to theirs.

G. B. Miller said...

Wasn't much of the sporting type while growing up.

However....while playing floor hockey in gym class one day, I decided to body check an opposing player.

Who happened to be the captain of the football team.

So here I am moving my extremely large body (all 250 lbs) at him at the speed of slow, telegraphing my intent by screaming. He simply stepped aside...and I landed a vicious body check into the stands that were folded against the side wall.

Took myself out purty good.

jodi said...

Charles-What a great tale. I love most sports but was only marginally good at them! P.S. We could use a 'Lana update" when you get a chance.

Tyhitia Green said...

Wow, Charles. Sounds quite painful. Ouch. Did you continue playing throughout high school?

Charles Gramlich said...

G. B., yeah, having size or speed isn't necessarily a winner in sports. You need both.

Jodi, she is feeling somewhat better, is swallowing better, but still not eating much. It's a little improved but not as much as we both would like.

Tyhitia, I did and loved 'almost' every minute of it. :)

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

I was only a football fan during high school because I was a cheerleader. Had more fun walking the guys off the field and going to after-game-parties than cheering though. :)

My daughter is a huge fan after reading the book Friday Night Lights and getting involved in the series. She can talk football with the best of them and informs us she's involved in Fantasy Football this year.

When I search my memory of when I was her age, I can remember having a crush on Roman Gabriel (Rams) and reading Lance Rentzel's book, When All The Laughter Died in Sorrow, about his indecent exposure charges.

Today, I'm a Saints and LSU fan. Not getting much of the Saints here in OK.

Loved your play by play. ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

Jess, I really liked the book Friday Night Lights too, the football part anyway, and the movie. I would have watched the series but it interfered with something Lana was watching so I never caught it. You didn't miss much with the last Saints game. I hope they pick it up now.

Erik Donald France said...

Charles, that was superb!

I did the football gig in 7th and 8th grade, tried soccer in 9th, then back to football for "big boy" h.s. -- playing guard and linebacker. Linebacker was fun -- guard less so. Our team was trampled into the dust a few times, also -- one year, all season long.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, we were a small team in a pretty big conference at that time so we seldom had winning seasons. Our victories came hard fought but we still had fun.

Travis Cody said...

I remember my first ear hole experience. It happens when you take on a guy who has 50-60lbs on you. It also committed me to defense permanently.

Oh, I did my time as a wide out once in awhile. But my primary function was to lay the wood as a free safety.

Vesper said...

A very vivid scene. I'm ready for Part Two...
The concrete was quite soft compared to the blow this guy landed on me. :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis Cody. I played safety or cornerback most of the time, more cornerback as I got on toward my Senior year. It was a lot more fun hitting than getting hit, for sure.

Vesper, part two is on it's way.