From my earliest memories, I’ve always loved football. Being born at 11 pounds, my dad assumed I would be a big guy, big enough to be a linebacker, his favorite position. Unfortunately, I stayed big until about 5-years old and then stayed small the rest of my life. I still tried, however.
One of the things I had going for me was that I was fast. I could outrun nearly everyone on the field…as long as we didn’t have pads on. When you put all that gear on a scrawny little guy, it takes away from the speed by a lot. Offense was out of the question for me because of both the weight of the gear slowing me down and my small size. My only hope to make a team was on defense.
I only tried out for my high school team for one year. I had to work the other years. But amazingly, I made the team as a third-string defensive back that year. I didn’t really expect to play, but the coach had a rule that when we were up by twenty, the second string went in. When we were up by thirty, the third-string would get to play. Our team was so good, I was able to play in every game.
The coach called me comic relief. He loved to watch me tackle. Since most everybody was bigger than me, I would fling myself at their legs and wrap up the best I could and slow them down until help arrived. At best, I was a weighted boot that the offense had to put up with. It was fun…kind of…except the next day when the bruises began to show themselves. I would get pretty banged up getting tangled in a guys legs when he outweighed me by a good 30-50 pounds. The huge linemen who were blocking for that person I could avoid pretty easily with my quickness and speed. Obviously, the quickness and speed were derived from not wanting to get killed!
That was it for my entire football career. After high school I played in some pick-up games that were usually two-handed tag and that’s where my speed really came in handy. I even remember a game we played after Desert Storm was over and we were just waiting to go home. All the big athletic guys made their own team and all us smaller guys made the “supposed” team they were going to kill. What they didn’t count on was that “speed” kills. All us smaller guys were fast.
I intercepted one pass and ran it in for a touchdown and the big guy who threw the pass came up to me and said, “Where the hell did you come from? I didn’t even see you!” Well, being small and fast has its advantages, especially in tag football. Being large is only intimidating when you play tackle. We beat them badly. It felt good.
Now that I’m older, I mainly just watch football when I can. I’m an addict so I limit myself to only the Packers and the Wisconsin Badgers…and any games my grandkids are playing if I can make it. Being in Washington state, I don’t get to see every game I would like, but this way my wife doesn’t become a football widow. She even watches some games with me.
When I moved her to Wisconsin for those few years, she couldn’t believe the Packer football culture that existed. Everybody from old folks to infants would be decked out in Packer gear and everything seemed to shut down when they were playing…except for the bars. She couldn’t believe my brother had a dog named Reggie White. When we went to visit my parents one Fall weekend, she thought she would get a break from the Packers, but my dad put the game on as soon as we got there. My dad missed watching games with me and I think my wife began to realize it was more than just football. It was pride in our home team. It was a way to express our “Wisconsin-ness.”
I still love football. I just spent a good 20 minutes talking with one of my sons about the Packers win over Detroit and Wisconsin’s win over Michigan State, which gave me the idea for the blog post for today. I am a football addict…and I’m not ashamed.