Kids Dream of Playing in the NFL

Was it Destiny?

It seems I wanted to be a professional football player from the time I understood what the game was all about.   That was probably when I was 5 years old.  And, I wasn’t a Viking fan at that point in my life. In fact, I lived in Houston and was an Oiler fan because I didn’t even understand that I was born in Minnesota, or what a Minnesota Viking was.

I started my football career in the little league in 4th grade, and my first position was to be at Quarterback.  Yes, sir (and ma’am), I began as QB1.   By now, my family had moved to Dallas, and I think our team name was the Tigers.  We were coached by Hall of Fame receiver Lance Alworth, who had just recently retired after winning a Super Bowl ring with the Dallas Cowboys.

Coach Alworth put me in as the signal caller, not because I was a remarkable specimen of athletic talent.  Nope, when he called for volunteers to play the position, seems that 20 guys took a step back, and I missed the memo and stayed in place and had “volunteered”.   It seems at the age of 10, most self-respecting young men don’t want to place their hands under the backside of another dude’s rear-end.

After a few practices, I was really getting the hang of it.  In that era, you were mainly going to hand the ball off to your tailback or fullback, and you might pass the ball 5 or 6 times.  If you completed two, you had experienced a “big” passing day.

I was relatively accurate, and I was always right where I was supposed to be with the ball.  I never fumbled, and now it was time to show my stuff in a real game.

 

Sometimes Your Best Quarterbacking is Done at Another Position

I remember to this day how nervous I was to be playing in my first football game.  My parents were there, as were my older brothers – who had become pretty good athletes themselves.   Into the second quarter, I had guided my team to an 8-0 lead (no kicking PATs at that age), but then things went all wrong.   On a simple “belly” play, where I was to hand the ball off to my fullback on the right side over the center, I turned and held the ball out right where it was supposed to be.  The fullback went to the left side, and instead of instinctually tucking the ball and getting the few yards I could, I was frozen in time, only remembering Coach Alworth saying, “You just make sure you put that ball where you are supposed to, and your running back will do the rest.”  So, I did just that.  I held the ball out there on the right side for what seemed an eternity, until, finally, a defender took the ball from my and raced the other way for a touchdown.

Lance’s mouth was gaping open when I got back to the sidelines.  He said nothing, and on the next series, I was at Wide Receiver (actually called Split End back then) and someone else had ascended to QB1.  My QB career was over.  I was just another JaMarcus Russell, with so much unrealized potential, and had failed my Hall of Fame coach.

 

In the Trenches

As my little league years rolled on, I had gotten quite a bit bigger.  In fact, I had exceeded the maximum weight I could legally play in the backfield when I surpassed 100 pounds.   So, I decided, the next best thing to a skill-position, was to become the Center on the offensive line.  I rationalized that, there, my impact would be huge.  No play could be completed without me, and I would touch the ball on every offensive down.

It was “home” for me for the next 6 years of Junior High and High School, where I held down that starting spot.

Because I had played skill positions and was big, but not fat, I was allowed to be a pulling center, and was fast enough to get into the secondary to block safeties on running plays.   It was the perfect fit.

 

Going Both Ways

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was common for football players to start on offense and defense.  Although my high school graduated over 1,200 per year, and we had almost 100 players on the Varsity football squad, only about 15-20 of us played significant minutes in the games.  On defense, I was a Middle Linebacker, while I remained at my Center position on offense.

I played at Pearce High School, and due to our sheer student body size, we played against the best of Texas.  Friday Night Lights is a real thing in Texas, except most hear about the small town teams where the city closes shop and rolls-up the sidewalks to watch the Friday night tilt for their squad.  But, in big cities, it is big money.   We consistently drew over 5,000 per game, and played twice at Texas Stadium (Cowboys) in front of as many as 30,000 people.

Our offense was a modified veer offense.  As the Center, it got exhausting, because the QB was supposed to literally crouch down to the Center’s back and almost lay his head and body on you to make it harder for defense to read his planned movements.  Imagine playing all 48 minutes of a game, and having some 170-pound dude laying on your back half the game too.

Hydrating?  Forget about it.  Back then, you didn’t get water based on need or extreme heat.  You got it based on a pre-season schedule that called for one water break at practice per week.  Typically, it was on a Wednesday, when you installed the game plan at full speed for Friday night.   We are lucky no one of died, but strangely, none of us had any significant problems with the Texas heat.

 

Win Some, Lose Some

In the early 1980s. there was no expanded high school playoffs.  The districts had not yet figured out how lucrative more teams in the playoffs could be.  As a result, my three years of varsity ball (two years starting) resulted in more wins than losses, but since we never won our district, we never appeared in the playoffs.

One of our players was Ray Childress, who would go on to become a multi-time All-Pro player for the Houston Oilers.   He was 6’6″ tall at that point and about 245lbs with a full set of 6-pack abs.  He was massive in an era when most D-Linemen coming out of high school, were maybe 210-220lbs.   Of course, he was a Defensive Tackle, so guess who got to block him?  The Center!   But, here is something unexpected, he really was not that good yet at that point.  Big as he was, he did not realize how to use his natural abilities and size, and so he could be schemed against and beaten by smaller blockers.  He got lots of recruiters and media attention, and ultimately signed to go to Texas A&M.

The rest of us, we simply were not good enough for Division I football, and we knew it.

 

Letting Go of a Dream

After starting the game of football way too young, by my senior year in high school, my body was showing signs of breaking down.  My knees ached, and the thought of 3-hour daily practices in the heat gave me a nauseating feeling most days later in High School.   Saturdays after games were spent at the school working out, watching film, and nursing injuries from the night before.   Mainly, they had us get there at 7:30am to make sure we were not drinking and messing with drugs after games.

But, the alcohol and drug abuse was pretty extreme anyway.  Most drank, and many smoked pot to take the edge off after games.   Worse than that, one of our player’s dads was a physician, and he was administering steroids to many of the lineman.  No one had any idea what kind of negative impact steroids could have at that time.   They were needle-injected, and I did not use them because I am not fond of needles.

But, enough did take them that their strength and size was notably advanced.   I was 6’3″ and 215lbs, which was plenty big for both Center and LB in 1981.   Some of my linemates had bulked up to 250 or 260 in a matter of months.  One player, the son of the physician administering the (not then illegal) drugs, got hideously large with a misshapen head.  He would contract cancer in 12th grade and died just 2 years after that – we all feel steroids played a big part in his demise.

The routine had gotten monotonous, and the dreams of life of just football just started to fade away.   I could still get plenty jacked up for games, and loved every minute of it.

I had interceptions and fumble recoveries.  I had highlight reel sacks of opposing quarterbacks (although only still photos survive of that time), and I even scored once.

But, as November 1981 rolled around, and we faced our final game of my senior season, I had made the decision in my mind that I would NOT accept a Division II (now Division 1-AA) offer to play linebacker, and I would end my career on a cold night in Greenville, Texas.

 

Turn Out the Lights 

We lost that final game on the road, in unseasonably cold 19-degree weather in East Texas.   Knowing it was my last game in pads, I wanted to go out with a bang.    I put it all on the line that night, and finished with about 8 solo tackles, 2 sacks and a fumble recovery.

When the final horn (not a gun) sounded to end the game, I had nothing left.  I had put it all out there, and left it on the field.   I was exhausted.

But, when the game ended, I didn’t go shake hands with opposing players as was the normal protocol.  No, instead, I went to our bench, where I had spent not one minute sitting in 2 years, and just sat down.  To me, there was no sound, it just got really quiet.  I looked around, and visualized all the good times I had had in the sport and on the field, and then broke down and cried.  I knew an era was over, and I would never put the uniform on again.   I was proud of what I had accomplished, but so sad to have it end.

Years later, Walter Payton would play his last game as a Chicago Bear, and at the end of a playoff game, he too would sit on the bench after the game and ponder what he had done.   I completely understood what he must have been feeling.

It is hard to explain the loss you feel for a simple game.  It becomes life for such a long time, it’s hard to let go.

With just one light-stand remaining lit in the stadium, our QB and my best friend, came and got me from the bench to go shower and go home.

I removed the shoes from that game, and today, they remain in my closet, with the tape still on them, looking exactly as they had on that last high school play over 30 years ago.

My dream was over, and it was time for a new life chapter.

 

Curtain Call

I accepted a partial track scholarship to attend SMU in 1982.  I was a discus thrower, and loved the sport.  It was much less taxing on the body, but still took a lot of time to hone the craft.  I liked the individual competition.

However, at the time, SMU was a national powerhouse in football.  A top 15 team from 1980 – 1986, and top 5 in 1982.   We had the likes of Eric Dickerson and Craig James in the backfield and a defense full of future NFL players.

Yet, we were a school of only 6,000 full time students, and a program of that size traditionally can’t field a strong Division I program against the 50,000 campus sizes of Texas, Texas A&M and the others of the, then, Southwest Conference.

As a result, the team size was smaller, and in order to try to get the right reps for the starting players to compete effectively on the D1 level, the football coaches recruited a couple of the larger discus, shot put and hammer throwers to join the team as scout players.  They did not pick us because they thought we’d make any meaningful game day impact on the winning cause, rather, they needed bodies.

The criteria?   If you had played High School football and had started, you were given a physical and if you passed, you were automatically accepted.  The physical was little more than seeing if you could make fog on a mirror with you breathed.  The benefit you’d get in return?   The upscale dinning benefits that other players got, and REAL flexible class schedules with liberal attendance.  While I never really took advantage of the latter perk, it was nice to have every once in a while.

There was cheating going on all around us.  Players literally being paid salaries.  Recreational drug usage was there too.   I never saw many of my teammates in classes.  But, for those who saw the ESPN 30 for 30 expose “Pony Express” about the Death Penalty scandal of SMU, it is all real, but when you live it, you don’t realize how bad it is, as it kept culminating a little at a time.  I never received any monetary benefit.  Not because I wouldn’t have welcomed it, rather I was not a significant player who warranted any financial consideration.

How bad did we flaunt our transgressions?  Ever see those bios they put on screen during college games that gives height, weight, hometown and college major?  My roommate’s listed major was “Forestry” – which was not even offered at SMU!

 

My Job Was Simple

I played the scout team in practice to allow the 2nd and 3rd team offenses to get used to the looks that the likes of Baylor, Texas, A&M, Houston, Arkansas and other Southwest conference teams would throw at us.   It wasn’t really any harder for my role than High School had been, but your commitment in the fall to the sport was AT LEAST three hours per day.

I was able to be a part of a team that finished #2 in the nation after beating Dan Marino’s Pitt Panthers in the Cotton Bowl following the 1982 season.  I did not play one play in that game.  But, it was cool to be part of that squad.

I would serve the role for one more season, but the benefits were not worth the time investment.  I knew I would never play any meaningful role on the team, and that could not justify so many hours invested at the expense of social life.  I played in a few games on special teams in season 2, but I just did not have the desire to participate in the practices if I couldn’t really play much in games.

Walking away from the game a second time was much easier, but I am forever grateful for the experience it gave me.

 

The Reminder of Football Remains Constant

In all, I had played 12 years of competitive football – about 5 less than the average NFL player who plays at a much higher level with much more punishment.  Many fans today say that players who suffer from injuries and concussions, “know the risks, and we should not feel sorry for them”.  That is a very cold assessment.   I can tell you in the 1980s, I definitely did not know the risks.   Couple that with the draw to play football at the highest level is like an intoxicating drug.  You know it is a violent sport, but it is in your very core.  You not only want to play the game – you have to play the game.

The pain that is inflicted on your body is immense, even if you don’t know it then.   I broke both thumbs (on separate occasions in the same year) in half!!!  They were taped up and I continued to play.  Both now are arthritic due to the injuries sustained.   I have had 7 knee surgeries since I last played football, and my shoulder has been rebuilt with 4 surgical steel pins placed inside to hold it together.  I broke an ankle, I broke my femur (think EJ Henderson’s gruesome injury), and I have had stitches to my chin, eyebrow and arms from on the field punishment.  I am sure I had concussions, but we just called that “getting your bell rung” and we just got a drink of water and we were good to go.  I suffer no obvious effects today from concussions.

But, when the lights go out on careers of Viking greats like Antoine Winfield, or Jared Allen, or Kevin Williams, or even Chad Greenway and Adrian Peterson, keep in mind about what they sacrificed to play at an elite level.  A level better than I could have ever imagined.  They too will suffer the injury effects later in life.   But they gave it their all on the field for the teammates and the fans.    They each deserve our respect for what they sacrificed.

Sure, money is big, but the tradeoff is big too.

So, when you next see a player alone in despair on a bench at the end of the game, keep in mind, it is not “just a game” to them.   It is their very life, and a very short one it is.

And, knowing all those risks, at 52 years of age today, I still recall the beauty of football when I smell the grass in the summer.   As I stood in Mankato last July, smelling that grass on the practice field, I realized that, with all the injuries and aches and pains I have today –  I’d do it all over again, and still wish I had realized my dream of being an NFL player.

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15 thoughts on “Kids Dream of Playing in the NFL

  • Profile photo of Tom Moore
    April 15, 2017 at 2:31 pm
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    This is a bit easier to read from the home page.

    I put this together to get the insights from all you who played, were cheerleaders, in the band, in the drill team or somehow involved in football.

     

    What is your story?

    Reply
  • Profile photo of Burt Burton
    April 16, 2017 at 9:37 am
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    To be able to play this game at this level for this team, there would have been nothing better.

     

    I was just as good as Page, Eller, Marshall, and Larsen COMBINED, but at 5’9′ and 150 , who needs you kid. Everyone I went against was 6-3 250 plus 9 (I played the Line)  yet nobody could handle me. The mentality of ending up in Minnesota was just to strong to be dominated.

    Giving the choice of boffing the best looking broads of the time or doing some form of drug or alcohol or going to some party versus going to football practice, There was no doubt. I would go to football practice. The thoughts of Minnesota were greater than all that other crap.

    I never made it to Minnesota. Still today, when I curse the T.V. when the Vikings are playing not up to my standards, I explode unable to accept what is going on to the filed, the same way Gen. Patton exploded in a rant during W.W.11, the wife looks at me funny.

    Even though the dream never became a reality, the dream still lives.

     

    What do you want more. Boff the broads or play Viking Football?  Viking football still wins out! 

    Reply
  • Profile photo of A1Janitor
    April 16, 2017 at 10:02 am
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    That’s an awesome read Tom.

    My high school experience … I was a decent basketball player.  With a few injuries on the o line my senior year, coach asked me to play offensive line.  I was 6′ and 175 pounds.  I would have been the biggest one and the best athlete on the line.

    I told the coach I’m either a wide receiver or safety.  We laughed … And I am glad I didn’t play.  I’m also glad my son quit after 6th grade.

    Reply
  • Profile photo of Tom Moore
    April 16, 2017 at 11:44 am
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    A1Janitor said
    That’s an awesome read Tom.

    My high school experience … I was a decent basketball player.  With a few injuries on the o line my senior year, coach asked me to play offensive line.  I was 6′ and 175 pounds.  I would have been the biggest one and the best athlete on the line.

    I told the coach I’m either a wide receiver or safety.  We laughed … And I am glad I didn’t play.  I’m also glad my son quit after 6th grade.  

    Imagine that. 6’1″ and 175 and the biggest lineman!

    were you a guard in basketball?   How good is pretty good?  How many points a game did you average and what was your go-to shot?

    Reply
  • Profile photo of A1Janitor
    April 16, 2017 at 12:29 pm
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    I was a point/shooting guard. 

    Hustled.  Solid defense. Great passer.  High basketball IQ.  Probably averaged 12 to 14 a game.  

    Probably good enough back in the 80s to make a D3 school as a practice dummy.

    I wish I could shoot like my son.  In 7th grade he was a 91% free throw shooter.  In 6th grade he would hit 25 to 30 3s in a row. 

    I suppose the result of his hard work and my laziness.  

    Reply
  • Profile photo of Tom Moore
    April 16, 2017 at 7:50 pm
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    A1Janitor said
    I was a point/shooting guard. 

    Hustled.  Solid defense. Great passer.  High basketball IQ.  Probably averaged 12 to 14 a game.  

    Probably good enough back in the 80s to make a D3 school as a practice dummy.

    I wish I could shoot like my son.  In 7th grade he was a 91% free throw shooter.  In 6th grade he would hit 25 to 30 3s in a row. 

    I suppose the result of his hard work and my laziness.    

    12-14 ain’t bad at all.  I remember when I could dunk a basketball in my late teens. Now, I can’t get it done when the rim is at 9 feet.  Aging is cruel!

    That’s a really high percentage for 7th grade.  Most hit 50% at best.

    Reply
  • Profile photo of A1Janitor
    April 16, 2017 at 8:34 pm
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    It’s different with defense obviously.  He shot about 40% from 3s on JV this year.

    Two games he went 4 for 4 from 3.

    Reply
  • Profile photo of KingBash
    April 16, 2017 at 10:37 pm
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    I genuinely bought the bullshit adults told kids that, if you work hard enough, anything is possible. I thought I’d be a professional football player until I was about 12/13.

    I went into my 8th grade physical at the doc. He did all the checks they do, and then – I guess – was doing a little psych exam to see if I was normal. He asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I confidently told him I was gonna be a WR with the Minnesota Vikings

    To this day, I’m embarrassed by that because I meant it. Rightfully so, he laughed and said, “Okay, okay… what’s your second choice for a career?” That’s when I knew all that shit about working hard at something doesn’t always mean success. 

    Reply
  • Profile photo of A1Janitor
    April 16, 2017 at 11:04 pm
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    KingBash said
    I genuinely bought the bullshit adults told kids that, if you work hard enough, anything is possible. I thought I’d be a professional football player until I was about 12/13.

    I went into my 8th grade physical at the doc. He did all the checks they do, and then – I guess – was doing a little psych exam to see if I was normal. He asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I confidently told him I was gonna be a WR with the Minnesota Vikings

    To this day, I’m embarrassed by that because I meant it. Rightfully so, he laughed and said, “Okay, okay… what’s your second choice for a career?” That’s when I knew all that shit about working hard at something doesn’t always mean success.   

    Lol I learned early on you can’t teach talent or athleticism.  devil

    Reply
  • Profile photo of prairieghost
    April 17, 2017 at 10:10 am
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    Tom I don’t remember ever hearing that you’d played that much football. Great story, very well-written 😀

    I never played football (obviously) but I did play basketball and track in high school. My story is far less illustrious than yours, however. In basketball I played from 4th grade until my senior year of high school. I was basically a bench warmer extraordinaire. In practice, I could light the world on fire with 3 pointers and whatever other shot you gave me, but in games I froze up…it didn’t matter how much I tried to calm myself, how much my teammates tried to pump me up for games, how much the coach counseled me…I either would pass the ball when I could take an easy shot or I’d miss horribly. My teammates, each time I had the ball, would all shout “Shoot!!!!” from the bench…that’s how bad it was…I would usually dish it off and let someone else collect the stats.

    The spring of my sophomore year I’d fell on the track while in practice. The track was icy after one of our infamous North Dakota spring snow storms. It hurt, and I felt something really not so good in my left foot. But I got up and kept running. Over the next couple of years, that foot still had a throbbing pain. I still played BB, I still ran track and threw the javelin. I kept right up with it until the summer of my upcoming senior year. While doing my mowing job for an apartment complex my mother managed, I slipped on the side of the hill while mowing, and tried to catch myself by extending my left leg and pushing hard to get traction with the left foot. Again, I felt something akin to a crack, and my foot was not happy from then on. After years of attempting to find out the issue, apparently all along I’d had a hairline fracture in one of the sesamoid bones in my left foot. Now, with this latest injury, it had cracked into 3 pieces. I had a date with the operating table in August of that year, 1986, and that effectively ended my distinguished basketball career.

    Later that year, after recovering from my foot fiasco, I once again hit the track. My coach didn’t want me to do any running events, so he left me with javelin as my only contribution to our team. Somehow, some way, I managed to crack my middle finger on my left hand (I’m left-handed) after a freak accident of extending my hand out to push on a heavy glass door at school. My finger throbbed like crazy and I couldn’t throw…thus ending my equally scintillating track career 😀

    Reply
  • Profile photo of Tom Moore
    April 17, 2017 at 11:32 am
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    prairieghost said
    Tom I don’t remember ever hearing that you’d played that much football. Great story, very well-written 😀

    I never played football (obviously) but I did play basketball and track in high school. My story is far less illustrious than yours, however. In basketball I played from 4th grade until my senior year of high school. I was basically a bench warmer extraordinaire. In practice, I could light the world on fire with 3 pointers and whatever other shot you gave me, but in games I froze up…it didn’t matter how much I tried to calm myself, how much my teammates tried to pump me up for games, how much the coach counseled me…I either would pass the ball when I could take an easy shot or I’d miss horribly. My teammates, each time I had the ball, would all shout “Shoot!!!!” from the bench…that’s how bad it was…I would usually dish it off and let someone else collect the stats.

    The spring of my sophomore year I’d fell on the track while in practice. The track was icy after one of our infamous North Dakota spring snow storms. It hurt, and I felt something really not so good in my left foot. But I got up and kept running. Over the next couple of years, that foot still had a throbbing pain. I still played BB, I still ran track and threw the javelin. I kept right up with it until the summer of my upcoming senior year. While doing my mowing job for an apartment complex my mother managed, I slipped on the side of the hill while mowing, and tried to catch myself by extending my left leg and pushing hard to get traction with the left foot. Again, I felt something akin to a crack, and my foot was not happy from then on. After years of attempting to find out the issue, apparently all along I’d had a hairline fracture in one of the sesamoid bones in my left foot. Now, with this latest injury, it had cracked into 3 pieces. I had a date with the operating table in August of that year, 1986, and that effectively ended my distinguished basketball career.

    Later that year, after recovering from my foot fiasco, I once again hit the track. My coach didn’t want me to do any running events, so he left me with javelin as my only contribution to our team. Somehow, some way, I managed to crack my middle finger on my left hand (I’m left-handed) after a freak accident of extending my hand out to push on a heavy glass door at school. My finger throbbed like crazy and I couldn’t throw…thus ending my equally scintillating track career 😀  

    Sounds like you played hurt a lot.   On basketball, I was a driveway king, and when you put anyone on me in a game, I choked and either could not take the shot, or missed badly.  My nerves were so bad in this sport (never had it in Football or track), before a game,  I puked on my white short-shorts right before our team photo.  I had the wonderful idea to roll the pant leg up.  I look like I’m wearing a speedo in that 5th grade team photo – I laugh at it every time I see it.
     

    Reply
  • Profile photo of prairieghost
    April 17, 2017 at 1:23 pm
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    Tom Moore said

    Sounds like you played hurt a lot.   On basketball, I was a driveway king, and when you put anyone on me in a game, I choked and either could not take the shot, or missed badly.  My nerves were so bad in this sport (never had it in Football or track), before a game,  I puked on my white short-shorts right before our team photo.  I had the wonderful idea to roll the pant leg up.  I look like I’m wearing a speedo in that 5th grade team photo – I laugh at it every time I see it.
       

    LMAO!!! Now that is some funny stuff!!! I think we had the same affliction. I know I really frustrated my coach. He knew I was a good shooter but my nerves were shot. Maybe that’s why Blair Walsh drove me so crazy over the past couple of seasons….too much a reflection of my own athletic shortcomings.

    One thing I do know…you can have all the talent in the world athletically but if you can’t keep your bean from a nerve disaster you’re going to gather dust and slivers on the bench…much like I did…

    Reply
  • Profile photo of AllBS
    April 19, 2017 at 6:39 pm
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    Great story Tom! 

    My football career exploded and died all within about a month.  I had been playing football since I was young, but I didn’t ever really think much of me playing beyond high school.  That was until my coach came to me, a couple of times, after games and said that I had scouts in the stands.  He never wanted me to know before the game.  I think he was afraid I’d press and do something stupid, if I knew they were there.  Which was probably a wise and accurate assumption. lol  One of the scouts I talked to after a game was from a major university.  He just offered some small talk and one sentence.  “I’m watching you”.  I was so excited I could barely sleep at night.  I was 6′ 3″ about 205 pounds of all muscle.  3 sport starter (football, basketball and baseball)  I was a forward in basketball, starting pitcher and 3rd baseman in baseball and LB, DE, FB and long snapper for football.  Filling in at LT when required.  I wasn’t the heaviest kid on the line, but I was by far the strongest.  Gym rat, farm kid strong. 

    About 3 weeks later the dream died in about .00001 seconds.  Less than 2 minutes left in the game, I’m in at FB.  Play call is for a end around and my job is to take out anyone coming around the end of the line.  As I’m coming around the end, I see the other teams LB coming and know there is going to be a collision.  What I don’t see if that their DE has slipped off our T.  I end up tripping over him, as he hits me just below the knees.  As I’m going down, the LB knee is coming up, catching me directly under the chin.  My vision goes black, I’m instantly in pain all throughout my head and neck and I swear I could taste sound.  By the time the play finishes, my vision isn’t black anymore, so I get up (head POUNDING) and I walk back to the huddle.  The next call is a handoff to me up the gut.  Right side handoff.  Of course I go left and get crushed by the line.  Again tasting sound and feeling my head explode.  Get up again and go back to the huddle.  This time, hand off to me going left.  You guessed it, I went right and got leveled again.  The pain was so intense I couldn’t hardly open my eyes or even think.  I made it off the field somehow and just laid down on the side line under a table.  (I needed shade and the sunlight was killing me)  The throbbing and shooting pain was almost over the top.  I grabbed some ice and basically wrapped my head with it.  It didn’t help much, but I said it did.  My friends mother game me some Tylenol and I decided to go camping with them and their family right from the game.  Dumb decision!  The pain was horrible! But I wouldn’t admit it. 

    I got back on the field about 2 weeks later for the first time.  I made one hit on defense and my vision went black again.  This time the coaches caught it and pulled me off the field.  I was thankful for that decision, because the pain was back full force.  I ended up going to the doctor the next day and found that I had fractured two vertebrae (C2 & C3) in my neck.  I never heard from another scout after that. lol  Scary to think how close I came to almost killing myself, all because I wouldn’t admit to being hurt.  That injury still hurts me to this day.  My average “normal” good day, is equivalent to a hangover headache.  But some days are still horrific.  Pain killers barely touch it.  It’s almost crazy to think it…..But if I could go back and do it all again,  I would without seconds hesitation.  I loved playing football!  And I do miss it badly at times still today.     

    Reply
  • Profile photo of Tom Moore
    April 20, 2017 at 10:41 am
    Permalink

    AllBS said
    Great story Tom! 

    My football career exploded and died all within about a month.  I had been playing football since I was young, but I didn’t ever really think much of me playing beyond high school.  That was until my coach came to me, a couple of times, after games and said that I had scouts in the stands.  He never wanted me to know before the game.  I think he was afraid I’d press and do something stupid, if I knew they were there.  Which was probably a wise and accurate assumption. lol  One of the scouts I talked to after a game was from a major university.  He just offered some small talk and one sentence.  “I’m watching you”.  I was so excited I could barely sleep at night.  I was 6′ 3″ about 205 pounds of all muscle.  3 sport starter (football, basketball and baseball)  I was a forward in basketball, starting pitcher and 3rd baseman in baseball and LB, DE, FB and long snapper for football.  Filling in at LT when required.  I wasn’t the heaviest kid on the line, but I was by far the strongest.  Gym rat, farm kid strong. 

    About 3 weeks later the dream died in about .00001 seconds.  Less than 2 minutes left in the game, I’m in at FB.  Play call is for a end around and my job is to take out anyone coming around the end of the line.  As I’m coming around the end, I see the other teams LB coming and know there is going to be a collision.  What I don’t see if that their DE has slipped off our T.  I end up tripping over him, as he hits me just below the knees.  As I’m going down, the LB knee is coming up, catching me directly under the chin.  My vision goes black, I’m instantly in pain all throughout my head and neck and I swear I could taste sound.  By the time the play finishes, my vision isn’t black anymore, so I get up (head POUNDING) and I walk back to the huddle.  The next call is a handoff to me up the gut.  Right side handoff.  Of course I go left and get crushed by the line.  Again tasting sound and feeling my head explode.  Get up again and go back to the huddle.  This time, hand off to me going left.  You guessed it, I went right and got leveled again.  The pain was so intense I couldn’t hardly open my eyes or even think.  I made it off the field somehow and just laid down on the side line under a table.  (I needed shade and the sunlight was killing me)  The throbbing and shooting pain was almost over the top.  I grabbed some ice and basically wrapped my head with it.  It didn’t help much, but I said it did.  My friends mother game me some Tylenol and I decided to go camping with them and their family right from the game.  Dumb decision!  The pain was horrible! But I wouldn’t admit it. 

    I got back on the field about 2 weeks later for the first time.  I made one hit on defense and my vision went black again.  This time the coaches caught it and pulled me off the field.  I was thankful for that decision, because the pain was back full force.  I ended up going to the doctor the next day and found that I had fractured two vertebrae (C2 & C3) in my neck.  I never heard from another scout after that. lol  Scary to think how close I came to almost killing myself, all because I wouldn’t admit to being hurt.  That injury still hurts me to this day.  My average “normal” good day, is equivalent to a hangover headache.  But some days are still horrific.  Pain killers barely touch it.  It’s almost crazy to think it…..But if I could go back and do it all again,  I would without seconds hesitation.  I loved playing football!  And I do miss it badly at times still today.       

    Wow, I was much luckier than you.  I don’t have the headaches, but your statement of your “normal” day sounds like what Leroy Hoard goes through today.   It is so odd how something can give us so much lasting pain, but we still love the game.

    Sorry you suffer, and hope most days are the “good” ones for you.  Thanks for sharing the story, it was sobering, but insightful.

    Reply
  • Profile photo of Mike Olson
    April 20, 2017 at 11:25 am
    Permalink

    KingBash said
    I genuinely bought the bullshit adults told kids that, if you work hard enough, anything is possible. I thought I’d be a professional football player until I was about 12/13.

    I went into my 8th grade physical at the doc. He did all the checks they do, and then – I guess – was doing a little psych exam to see if I was normal. He asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and I confidently told him I was gonna be a WR with the Minnesota Vikings

    To this day, I’m embarrassed by that because I meant it. Rightfully so, he laughed and said, “Okay, okay… what’s your second choice for a career?” That’s when I knew all that shit about working hard at something doesn’t always mean success.   

    Hahaha dor some reason I just cracked uo at this. Sorry to have cracked up at a disappointment but it did make me laugh.

    Reply

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