The Summer of '62; Episode 54
A week before try-outs Rich spent a lot of time with Larry Coleman in his specious backyard. He was expected to be the starting quarterback. Rich ran nothing but passing routes for him as he tossed the football.
For a fifteen year old Larry had an incredibly strong arm.
After a few sessions Rich and Larry seemed to be in sync with each other. Larry knew right where to throw the ball to Rich and Rich knew exactly where to be. It was inevitable that Mr. Carpenter would hear about Rich's and Larry's ability to team up.
Larry lived next door to Carpenter’s Market. Carpenter watched them in Larry’s backyard and spoke to Rich about playing football. He was impressed with Rich's speed and ability to concentrate on the ball. He was impressed with Rich's six foot two inch frame, but not with his one hundred and fifty pounds.
Eventually Mr. Carpenter talked Rich into playing football. He went so far as to design three passing plays and two running plays for Rich.
“If you catch a ball run out of bounds,” he said jokingly.” I don’t want no body hurtin’ ya. You're so skinny ya might snap.”
The first time Rich strapped on the pads and had a contact practice Larry and he teamed up for two touchdowns. The buzz in the locker room was that Rich might see a lot of action as a freshman. Mr. Carpenter also said he’d like to throw to Rich at least once a quarter.
It was the second day of full-contact scrimmages. The offense was in a huddle as the defense waited at the line of scrimmage like hungry lions.
“Slot left, fake thirty-four left, pitch right on two,” Larry said and a chorus of huddled football players said, “Let’s go!”
“That's my play,” Rich thought as he broke from the huddle.
There nervousness in Rich's stomach and legs.
He mentally reviewed the play. “Line up to the right of the fullback. Larry fakes a hand-off to the fullback who runs to a hole created by the left guard and tackle. It's designed to look as though it is a straight hand-off to the fullback. The defense moves to the left. I watch the linebacker to see if he took the fake. The right tackle blocks straight back and then turns inside. The end turns his man out. If the linebacker takes the fake I'm supposed to go through the hole created by the tackle and end. If the linebacker did not take the fake I'm supposed to try and out run him around the end and turn up field. If the fake is good and the blocks are good the play should be good for at least five to seven yards.”
“Ready! Set! “Hut! Hut!” Larry barked and the ball was snapped to him. After the fake to the fullback Larry turned his back completely to the line and flipped the ball underhanded to Rich. He saw he tackle and end parted the defenders perfectly. The entire opposing defense rushed toward the fake. Even as Rich hunched through the hole nobody knew he had the ball. After squirting five yards past the line of scrimmage he stood erect into a full gallop. He did not feel his legs nor pound against the sod. So beset by excitement he doubted he was running. It was like running on clouds. He thought he might fall. He ran and ran and ran until he heard a whistle.
Rich now had confidence. There was feigned acceptance from the older players, but a resentment was building.
Two days later the play was called again. Once again everything cleared for Rich. This time he started to sprint immediately.
Unknown to Rich the middle linebacker circled in behind the linebacker who went with the fake.
The middle linebacker was the team's best defensive player. He was about four inches shorter than Rich and fifty pounds heavier.
They collided face to face as Rich was in full gallop and he in attack mode.
Rich didn't feel the hit, the ride down, nor the thud to the ground at the end. Suddenly there were faces behind face-masks looking at him. Instinctively he rolled over to push myself to my feet. He continued to roll until flat on his back again. He was helped to his feet and suddenly there was a pain in his right knee. He nearly fell, but gained his balance. He saw small twinkles of pin like lights. His head began to ache. The pain traveled to his shoulders, down his back and his buttocks cramped. He limped to the side lines not knowing what he was doing nor where he was going.
A whistle blew. “Mister, you don’t leave this field until I tell you to,” Mr. Carpenter shouted.
Rich turned and limped confused to the defensive side of the field. He was trying to mentally assemble where he was. Nothing made sense.