August 16, 2016
Now, before I start, you guys I knew from high school remember me as a 130 pound semi nerd. ( I hope “semi.”)
You’re thinking, “Right. When did he ever play football?”
Well, think again. No longer 130 pounds, tipping the scales at a healthy 150, I am talking about a time, about 5 years ago, in my 60th year in this world.
I was a part time teacher of math at a private school in Tyler, and homecoming week had arrived. A touch football game had been planned for the Saturday morning of the day of the homecoming dance. I remembered the old days when there were faculty/ student games, and I had always thought that would be fun. Wendy had volunteered to decorate for the dance, so I went to Tyler early for the game. I thought, “We teachers will show these kids some stuff.”
We teachers was me.
All the players on the field when I arrived were the current football team, the former players, and the 30 year old coach. Wearing cleats, athletic shorts, exuding youthful unbounded energy.
And me, balding old guy in jeans and tennis shoes. With glasses.
They were doing warmup pass routes, so I got in line, then ran five yards up field, cut right, and caught the pass thrown at me. Cool.
I did another. Caught. Yea.
Kinda winded now. A little bit glad when one of the players says, ” Mr. Epps, we don’t need you on offense, but you can play defense.”
When defense came, I discovered that there was a reason these guys wore cleats. Every time I reached for a flag, the guy would cut, and I would slip down.
Man, I was really getting tired, too. Sucking that water down when the offense was on the field. The other teachers ( on the sidelines in lawn chairs) tried to encourage me.
In a little while, one of the guys had to leave.
“Mr. Epps, you wanna play some offense?”
They had already huddled, and no one thought it mattered whether I knew what they were doing, so I lined up on the line, went down five yards and cut across. (Just like I practiced.) The quarterback sees that no one is guarding the old guy, throws the pass, I reach up, catch,(picture perfect), cut to the left to turn up field, slip and fall down. (Just like I practiced.) Still, a five yard gain. Couple of plays later, same route, catch, slip down, first down. Yea. (Felt a little pop in my knee. Uh-oh. That’s not good.)
Time to leave the comfort zone.
I decide to go long.
Apparently, the guys decided to go with me this time. I’m running full throttle for the post, defenders strolling along with me. Seriously, guys? Four of you to defend an old man? I look back, and I see the quarterback decided to try me again, the ball was in the air, my feet pounding the turf, my glasses bouncing up and down. I’m thinking, “Even if I catch up to where that ball is going to land, there is no way I will be able to catch it,” because it appeared to be bouncing up and down in sync with my glasses. I was five yards too slow. Interception. I’m done.
“Sorry guys, I have to go help my wife decorate for the dance.”
They bought it.
Drank more water, drove to the school, parked and got out of my truck.
Suddenly, every move hurts. Two by four beating kind of hurt. I was fine five minutes ago when I left.
I limped for three weeks.
“Wendy, if I ever tell you that I am going to play football, just say, ‘No!'”
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