Over the last two days, after I finally decided to go to the “try-out” for the Twin City Dawgs, a semi-pro football team that plays in Chenoa (hoping they change it to Central Illinois Dawgs), I have been blown away by the outpouring of support and encouragement. There were only three comments on this page, but I had over 30 comments on facebook and two phone calls.
Friends from high school, college, seminary, and a few churches, other pastors, and family have left comments. There were so many words of encouragemnent,
“In addition to being in shape and being very smart and having football sense, you now have wisdom that only comes with age. You will be impressed yourself with what you can see and foreshadow in the game. The icing on the cake is that you are a very inspiring person even without all the athletic gifts you will bring on Saturday. I predict you will be a blessing in many ways Saturday and that these will be among your glory days –and God’s (in your life and the team’s).”
Here was another that meant a lot to me:
“Others think of doing stuff like this. You are doing. I think the Springsteen song is also about those who have given up doing and are, as the song says, ‘sittin’ round talking about.’ “
As I was reading all of the comments this afternoon, I was brought to tears. It was overwhelming to think of how many people were excited for me. This is something I want to do for so many reasons. I hadn’t thought of how many people would be excited for me too. I have to admit though, as I shed some tears, some of themwere from pain.
I am sore.
Really sore. Sarah asked me where I was sore, and I answered without hyperbole, “Only where I bend.” After the try-out I was literally sore from head to toe. I had a headache. My lower back hurt. My abdomen hurt. My hips hurt. My knees hurt. My ankles hurt. And my big toe was throbbing. Someone stepped on it, and now my toenail is a different color then it used to be.
Save for my toe, I have nothing that could be considered an “injury.” There is nothing wrong with me that won’t get better with a hot tub and some ice packs. And man, do I feel good. The try-out went really well. Here’s how it went:
First, we warmed up with running, stretching, and form running. I noticed right away that there were basically three groups of guys. There were about 10 big, classic linemen. They were all taller, bigger, younger and (I hope) slower than me. Then there were about 30 skilled guys. They were all shorter, leaner, younger, and faster than me. The third group were 3-4 scrubs. I felt like I had no clear home in any of the groups, and was pretty sure that I was not group 3.
Then we broke into stations and did some athletic testing. There was no strength test. There was a 20-yard dash. I was the slowest guy in my group, but I know I was not the slowest guy there. Then there was a shuttle run, and I received a B grade (most of the guys got Cs, one guy in my group got an A). The next drill was jumping over a tackling dummy. I jumped over it 11 times in 10 seconds. Other guys did it 9-13 times. The last station was all footwork. I was pretty good at that – not as good as the skill guys, but better than the other guy in the group that was my size.
At this point, I was pretty sore. Then we took a break, so all of my loose muscles constricted like a brand new cotton t-shirt in the drier. I texted my wife, brother and friend that had texted me earlier. My brother responded with a text making fun of me for texting during practice.
After the break we divided into linemen and skill positions. I did not know where to go. In college during my first practice I told everyone that I was a tight end, and went with them the whole first day. Then the next day the coach came to me and told me that I was a guard. I don’t want to be a guard. I want to be a tight end. I also didn’t want the coach to pull me aside and say, “Hey fattie – you’re a guard!”
There were two QBs and about 20 guys that wanted to catch passes. I was a little timid at first, but eventually got in line. It was a simple one-on-one drill. I lined up with a guy across from me. I ran a ten-yard curl, turned and caught the ball. It was the only ball thrown to me. I am glad I caught it.
Later, we went 11-on-11, which is pretty ridiculous without pads. I was concentrating on just fitting in. I took more initiative and stayed on the field. I was one of three tight ends. One of them is a stud. He is probably the best athlete on the team and will probably play linebacker too. So he won’t be able to take every snap as a TE. The other TE was built very much like me. He was in my group during agility drills. He was faster on the sprint, but I did better in the agility drills. He dropped a couple of balls. I caught my one. I’m not saying I’m better than him – without pads, its impossible to tell, but I held my own.
I left the try-out realizing that I could not only make the team. Unless there are some other guys that I don’t know about, I could honestly compete for playing time. The team plays a lot of double tight, which means I could be on the field quite a bit. Its exciting to even think about.
I am nowhere near that point yet. I haven’t even put on pads yet, and there is no way anyone can know about football until the pads go on. For the next two months we will only practice on Saturday mornings in a gym, and I am missing the next two practices. We go outside in March/April and then put on the pads. Our first game isn’t until May. The games are on Saturdays, and I cannot let this interfere with my responsibilities at church. I think I’m sore now, just think how sore I’ll be in the middle of July when I don’t get home until 11 o’clock on Saturday night after playing a football game. That Sunday morning will be interesting.
Today I started something. I don’t know how this story will end, but today I got out there and tried something new – something exciting – something that made me feel good.
Besides catching the pass, I had another highlight. I lined up directly across a guy that is one of the team captains. A real athlete. After the play, which was uneventful (though I was open), he gave me five and said, “Dude, you are terrifying.” I smiled. I generally don’t aim to be terrifying, but today, it was the highest of praise.