By Sam H.
His knuckles are pink. Itís a pass. This canít get any better.
I shift to cover the third receiver that just motioned out to my side. I set up, 3 by 1 off of the receiver to cover the slant. I know it was going to be a pass because the offense tackleís knuckles are pink, meaning all the weight was on his legs, for pass protection. I give the receiver one look in the eye, a knowing stare. As the quarterback starts his cadence, I focus on all the reads. The wide receiver's eyes, his stance, his lean, his very breath, trying to figure out where he is going and whether or not he expects the ball and how to react before the play even begins.
ďGo,Ē is called, and vision blurs as I lock onto man coverage, the wide receiver starts eating up coverage, and right before I turn my hips to run with him, he makes his cut. His first foot plants to the outside, but the fake out was poor, and I know the post is coming. As he angles towards the goal post, I see his head turn and mine, almost simultaneously, does the same. I see the quarterback release the ball, this one is mine. I run along beside the receiver, cutting slightly between him and the ball, and as the ball starts to drop, I plant my foot, turn, and jump to get it. I can feel the surprise in the receivers as I tuck the ball into my protective arm. The receiver was not slow to react, as he dove into my legs and brought me down ó it was too late. Eagle football.
All of this happens in 7 seconds. The entire game is shifted in 7 seconds, but I donít even think about it. I am in the flow, and my coaches have prepared me for this moment. Drill after drill, the back pedal and flipping of the hips and t-stop plant and jumping for the high point of the ball, it's all muscle memory.
Time after time, Coach Kinkade rallies us to the football, and keeps the fire in our bellies glowing to await the open flame of a game. Because Coach knows that we will not have time to think during a game, he works us 'til we donít have too and that is why I could change the momentum of the entire game in 7 seconds.
The flow of the game, where my ability is perfectly matched with the competition I face, has overwhelmed my body. The blood running down my forearm does not register because it doesnít matter. All that matters are the 10 other men in maroon and white working around me to achieve victory. I know I did not fail my brothers of the field that play, and as I come off the field greeted by chest bumps and head slaps, the world is perfect.