By Nikolas Grossen.
I play tackle football, a high contact sport. My brother broke his hand playing this sport; he also tore his ACL, PCL, and MCL. My other brother got a concussion and received a back injury that still bothers him. In short, football has afflicted my family with many injuries. Surprisingly, I have chosen to follow in my sibling’s footsteps by playing tackle football.
It all began in junior high when I played flag football: I was the worst player, but I had the determination to get better. I practiced and worked hard, and I was still the worst player. For instance, one day during practice, coach told the team that they would not move on until I caught a football. Needless to say, they moved on without me. I had little experience playing in an actual football game.
Now, I am in my junior year. I did not play football during my freshman or sophomore years due to my cowardliness and “full schedule.” Finally, I gained the courage to play. Unwillingly, I woke up earlier during the summer to go to practice. They were harder than I thought they would be. There were many times when my body whined saying, “Just give up; don’t have to do this.” When we feel pain, it is our body telling us to stop, but in football, you learn to break through that mental barrier. I also broke through my phobia of not being able to catch a ball. Each practice, we had to throw fifty passes on each side, back and forth between you and your partner. This improved my hands tremendously. I could catch. At first, practice dominated my life. When I got home, I would rest for at least an hour before I was able to do anything. Soon, I learned that I did not have enough time to rest an hour after school. I had to break that barrier as well. My body hated me for it, but my grades did not suffer. Eventually, we had our first game. I was working hard, but not hard enough. We lost. Throughout the next couple of weeks, we train harder. The day came for our first home game.
*** Before the game begins, I look over my shoulder, I see familiar faces, but I can’t focus on them, for I have a game to win. The game starts. Coach has me go in as a blocker on kick return. I wait for the opportune moment. Now! I use my body to get in his way, thus blocking the other football player. My teammate runs up the sideline right behind me. Without my block, he would’ve been tackled. Suddenly, we make a touchdown. The first touchdown of our first home game. We are all celebrating, but we made sure to keep our minds right. That way, we could get the extra points as well.***
The noise of the fans grew silent as the football team lined up. We scored! The fans were no longer silent. We fought hard in that first quarter; in every way. We were pushing them back. I was relaxing on the sideline yelling and hollering because I had seen all of my teammate’s hard work finally pay off. Then, coach yelled my name. “Was that my name?” I thought to myself. Coach called my name again, louder this time. I quickly threw on my helmet and ran up to coach. “There you are,” he stated. “You are going in as a running back.” The team ran out onto the field. I was a little hesitant. “Me?” I questioned. Annoyed, Coach said, “Yes! Get on the field!”
Shaking, I was greeted by my sweaty teammates on the field. I was nervous. “Are you ready?” They asked. “Yeah, totally,” I lied. I try to pretend that I am in the most stressful situation I have ever been in. My whole team is counting on me. The quarterback eventually runs up into the huddle. He whispers the play. I go over the play in my head. I know what to do. I am ready; I didn’t lie before. Calmly, I go up to my spot. The smell of grass and sweat is in the air. The bright lights illuminate the field. Everything else disappears. It is just my team and theirs. Hike is called. Running to the left, I notice the ball is too far. I can’t reach it! My mind is going a million miles per hour. I come to the decision to jump on the ball. That way, the other team can’t get it. I don’t believe I have ever jumped on something in a sport before. I never had the motivation to. Thankfully, I did in that instance. I protect the ball. Then, the other team notices the mistake. They jump as well. They are going for the ball, and there is only one thing in their way: me.
Slowly everyone got off me. They acted kinder when they got off me than when they were on top of me. I thought coach was going to take me out, but he called time out because he thought I got a concussion. “Did I get a concussion?” I asked myself. I quickly ran off the names and faces of people I knew along with some simple math. No, I did not have a concussion. I did not include my coach in my findings. He kept on asking me questions. I answered them while grinning. Eventually, my teammates spoke up, “He’s fine! You can tell because he can’t stop smiling.”
Reluctantly, coach sent me back in. We ran the ball almost every single time. In fact, our quarterback pleaded with coach not to call another toss play after he messed up the last one. Coach had other plans. We redid the play that I got dogpiled on. I ran out to the right this time. I caught the ball. The only thing on my mind was that football, so I followed my coach’s instructions from earlier. I cut up the field. Thanks to my blockers, I was able to get past the line. Then, I was tackled. It didn’t hurt. I bounced back up and was ready for the next play. Eventually, we ran another toss play; however, this one was to the left side.
***My mind is racing. I can only think in simple thoughts. I run to the left. I catch the ball. I cut up the field. I am now one on one with a linebacker. I position myself as if I was going inside. He bites. I had no intention of going inside; I use that momentum to change directions and instead go to the outside. This all happens in a couple seconds. Trying to get me, he reaches out a hand. It barely brushes me. I run as fast as I can. I get into the end zone. Touchdown.***
I was relieved that I could finally come to a stop. Then, it hit me. I got a touchdown. Then, my teammates hit me. They were all running up, screaming my name. It was my first touchdown in tackle football. I felt as if I were invincible. All my practices have finally paid off. All those sprints we did during practice allowed me to reach the end zone before anyone else. I needed to feel all the pain I did during practice, along with all of that failure, so that during the game, I could feel the joy and the success of winning.