Some people make it a career ,others get to live the life for several years ,most only a few, and some never at all. I’m talking about playing the game of football.
I started playing when I was probably eight years old with my older first cousin ,Allen and anyone else we could get to play.
My cousin Allen was three years older than me and considering the fact that I really didn’t start growing until my freshman year of high school, I was very small compared to everyone else. This mandated the necessity of becoming fast quick, elusive and mean, I excelled.
There was a game we played at our grade school that by today's standards would probably be deemed politically incorrect, as it pitted the mob against one. The name of the game was politically incorrect as it was called Black man. The game started out with one person (it )and in the center .Our playground had a fence on each side so the fences were base. The object was to run from one base to the base on the other side of the play ground without being tagged(or tackled if we were playing tackle).As each person was tagged(or tackled) they too would be the hunters till at the end you had a mob all trying to get one person. That person was usually me as this type of game honed my running back moves survival instinct ,and technique.
When I started my Freshman year in high school I finally got to play the game .Even though I could outrun all the running backs I was so fast explosive and mean that the coach put me on the line as Strong side guard on offence and weak side guard on defense. I quickly developed a preference to defense ;as on defense I got to go after the quarterback. One memorable play the strong side guard pulled to block for the halfback .As soon as the ball was snapped I shot across and of course the guy I usually hit wasn’t there he was pulling to the right behind the line preparing to block for the halfback who was running on the other side of the quarterback with the intentions of pitching to the halfback who was running around the right end. The play book somehow forgot to take into consideration a little farm kid who grew up playing football with all the older kids and was fast and meaner than …well you know.
I shot through the hole left by their guard, I grabbed the quarterback’s shoulder pads with one hand and half jumped half catapulted myself over him and slammed that halfback into the ground for a loss. The whole time the coach was screaming ,(That’s what you! are suppose to do)to everybody on the sidelines. I became particularly fond of playing kickoff and return special teams as I got more than my share of tackles. I played both offense and defense on the freshman team some games with only a couple plays on the sidelines before coach would put me back in, I hated the sidelines as I wanted to be in there. We were undefeated and I played the rest of the Jr varsity schedule and was one of only four freshman the coach let dress for the last varsity game of the season. Ironically the last varsity game The coach pulled my cousin who was a senior out of the game and put me in as his replacement. I forgot to mention the fact that as a freshman I weighted 120 pounds, and was only five foot two. Allen to this day says that it was a proud moment for him .
The same team I played with as a freshman, won the state football championship as seniors, but I was not with them.
My dad because of several reasons two which were farm commodity prices, and an opportunity to ease into retirement, took a job which took me away from my beloved river bottom farm, my cousins which I had grown up with and football, which for me was the most important thing on this earth. We moved over the summer to a small town in Ohio that did not offer football. I would find a ride to St Marys on Friday nights to watch them play football, On Sunday afternoons I found a that a bunch played tackle on the football field So yes I was there playing tackle football with no pads. The good thing was that no one could catch me. We usually played until someone was bleeding I made some lifelong friends out there beating each other up on Sunday afternoons out behind the High school.
I excelled at track and cross country, having some records that have stood even until my daughters were in high school ,however my main goal through all the track and all the running in cross county was to stay in shape for football college style.
I was accepted to Heidelberg college in Tiffin Ohio, and upon arriving went straight to the athletic department to introduce myself.. And they said who? From where? Never heard of you are you sure you are in the right building? I said yes I wanted to play football, and the coach told me that all the football players were there on scholarship, so you know they would be playing the chances of me playing were not good ,But they had no Idea the desire they were looking at.
\I Picked up all my equipment and practice uniforms and put everything in my assigned locker, then showed up for practice. I can imagine what all the other players thought .
At Heidelberg The way the varsity practices for its opponent each week is by running against the offence of he team we were playing that week from the films the scouts had brought back .The assistant coaches (One of which was coach Gruden--Jon Gruden of the Bucs Dad)would have us (the slaughter squad)Run the plays of the opposing team and the Varsity would try to stop us --Well all well and good except a halfback like me If I blew through the line for a huge gain the coach would say run that play again A) they know where I’m going coach B) That’s why they called it the slaughter squad.
I ended up catching the eye of the varsity coach because of my hard hitting and ended up playing special teams and backup halfback behind a guy names Simone who was an all state halfback from Niles McKinley high school In Cleveland.
We were getting ready to play Whittenberg and so we were running their plays . The coach called a play where I got the ball and ran between the guard and the tackle well I blasted through and ended up breaking through for a touchdown. The coach blew the whistle and started yelling at the Line backers then said run it again. When I hit the hole I had run through the play before I was met by zippy a 280 lb 6’4”defensive end and all the rest of the defense. Zippy hit me so hard that I ended up straight up and down with just my feet sticking out of the top of the pile and Zippy with a bloody nose where his face guard has cut his nose. Head coach Malmusar yelled Shriver if you can run the next play I’m starting you next year, I ran the next play but by next year I was on my way to south East Asia and Viet Nam I had joined the Marine corps.
I guess for most people that would be the end of the story but for circumstance it would be for me also.
Thirty years pass and My wife and I are milking sixty head of Jersey dairy cows on two hundred twenty acres in Missouri. We (After a successful Real Estate career in Florida) had sold our properties in Florida and basically moved to the Missouri Ozarks to raise cattle and retire. Our milk house had a large grain tank outside but was missing the flex auger that was originally there So I improvised with three large garbage cans in the pit that we scooped grain a scoop at a time for them when they were actually being milked. I carried grain in to fill The garbage cans every morning and evening in two five gallon buckets in the milk house ,down five steps into the parlor pit empty the buckets then back for more until the garbage cans were all full. This was my daily workout so needless to say I was in good shape. One of my neighbors came over as I was preparing to milk one afternoon and watched me as I carried those buckets trip after trip ,carrying those heavy buckets down the steps over and over, I just looked at him as he was shaking his head and I said to him--- I’m not Amish, I’m just poor.---
We were at the local high school football homecoming game when a friend of my wife’s nephew named Garrett Paulette looked over at me and said hey are you going to play in the alumni game tomorrow? I said why I didn’t Graduate from here ,and he said that they were short on players and asked me to come play he said his uncle was playing and he was almost as old as I was so I said sure. Turns out his uncle was playing but his uncle was in his thirties and I was fifty.
I was there the next morning at the high school locker room, signed the waver, paid my twenty dollars for insurance, and was issues my equipment full pads ,helmet, been a long time lets see where do all these pads go?
I played, and I hit hard ,I lined up across from Garretts uncle and he lasted about two plays then moved to the other side of the line .I found out that most of the guys that played had graduated only a couple years ago, and they really hit hard. I was able to get rid of a lot of pent up aggression and frustration that day ,I had such a great time I actually played two more years until the last year I had a couple ribs get broken as I got clipped, and that was the end of my football career. Well maybe,---who knows ,Maybe Jon Gruden will read this and want to use me for one play. Yeah that’s it I’m only fifty nine I bet I can still run one more play.