Tag Archives: Twin City Dawgs

The Playoffs

The playoffs start on August 14.

The playoffs of the Great Midwest Football League start this Saturday.  The Dawgs travel to St. Louis to take on the Midwest Chargers.

I’m not making the trip.  It hurts, but I think that my season is over.  It has been a wild ride, and I am so glad I did it.  I met a lot of great guys that accepted me onto their team.  I worked my tail off , and played some pretty good football.

I am proud of our team.  We have been through a lot of turmoil this year, yet when the chips were down we came together.  We’re riding a three game winning streak into the playoffs, and I’m not betting against my Dawgs the rest of the season.

Back in January, we started talking about rings.  Well, we had some ups and downs, but we stuck together.  We’re still a long way from a championship, but we’re in it.  We have a chance, and when we were sitting on our home field after a second tough loss and a 3-4 record, we didn’t even think we had that.

I’m proud of my team.  I wish I could be with them now that we’re in the playoffs, but my family comes first.  Hopefully they all know I’m pulling for them.  I don’t know if I will be able to make a trip during the playoffs, but I will be there on Sept. 11, when they come back to Chenoa to win it all.

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Pastor Dawg: My prayer

The Twin City Dawgs walk by Chenoa United Methodist Church during the Chenoa Fourth of July parade

We’re halfway through the season, and I thought I’d take some time to reflect on my adventure as a semi-professional football player.  It has been frustrating, exhilirating, sobering, and rewarding.  So far I’ve played in three games (one was an exhibition).  In two of them I was the starting right tackle.  Our team record is 3-2.  We started 1-2.  We have five games left, and still have a shot at the playoffs if we keep winning.

I’ve been frustrated by my body and my schedule.  I’ve missed three games.  I missed one for a wedding I officiated.  I missed another on the weekend I was ordained (Yes, it’s officially Rev. Dawg now).  I missed a third because of an injury.  The whole season I’ve gone from one annoying ailment to another.  Right now  I feel relatively good, and I’m looking forward to five straight games without a bye starting on July 10.

I want to share a little about what goes on in my mind on a Saturday as a game approaches.

One of my favorite parts of the day is arriving at the field.  There are guys getting ready around the team bus.  I am greeted with hand shakes, fives, fist-bumps, and nods.  I am with my teammates, getting ready for a game, and I feel good.  There is a special relationship between teammates before a football game.  I think this feeling, above all else, is what I was wanting to find again when I started on this preposterous adventure.  I take my time as I prepare my pads – putting them in the right place, adjusting straps, and taping parts.  Eventually I walk down to our bench.

I walk out onto the field.  I feel the sun on my face.  I look at the field, the clean white stripes.  I look out at the sea of green corn fields.  I look up at the watertower.  I look over at our opponents getting ready in much the same way we are.  I find a place to sit, a little seperate from the rest of the team.  I pray, usually something like this:

“Thank you God for all that you have given me. Thank you for my wife and daughter.  Thank you for the incredible blessings in my life.  Thank you for my church and my home, and for the chance to serve you.  Thank you for the ability to play this game.  Thank you for my teammates, for the relationships that I have built.  Thank you for allowing me to pray and to play with them.

“I know God, that it is a violent game.  I know Jesus said that the meek that will inherit the earth, and that meekness is seldom valued on a football field.  Yet meekness is about putting the glory of others in front of my own.  That is, after all, the job of an offensive lineman, right? And so I feel in my heart that you have sent me to this field.  I believe you have called me to play for your glory.

“I ask that you bless this field.  Send your Holy Spirit to guide me, my teammates and my opponents.  Let us play this remarkable game with dignity and respect.  Keep us free from injury, and allow us to go home from this place with heads held high.

“Again, I thank you God for this chance.  There is no way I could be here without you.  Use me today, as you do everyday, for your will.  Let me be your instrument of grace so that someone may know the love of Jesus Christ, even on a football field.

“I thank you above all for your Son Jesus Christ.  I thank you, the source of life, life abundant, and life everlasting.  I pray these things in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.”

After I pray, we usually stretch as a team and do some warmups.  One of the first things I do is find my wife and daughter.  I almost always tear up  when I see them – its a wave of emotions I cannot really describe.

I try to take it all in as much as I can.  I savor every moment.  I enjoy the sweat dripping off my brow.  I enjoy taping my hands to get ready for battle. I enjoy looking into the eyes of my teammates knowing that we are in this together. I enjoy looking out at the crowd that is gathered, knowing they have come to watch us play our game.  I enjoy hearing guys whoop and holler.  I am usually quiet, yet inside my stomach is turning, my blood is pumping.  I am simmering, ready to boil over.

It is time for football.  It is the greatest game I have ever played, and I know that there are thousands of men wishing they could be doing what I am about to do.  I thank God again for the chance to be doing something I love.  I am ready.  Kick-off.

If you want to read about the earlier parts of my journey, you can read my previous posts called “Putting on the pads,” “Pastor Dawg,” and “Glory Days.” You follow the Twin City Dawgs by CLICKING HERE.

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Pastor Dawg: putting on the pads

Since January, I have embarked on an amazing and terrifying journey. I am 32 years old, last played football as a freshman in college, and am trying to make the Twin City Dawgs, a semi-professional football team that plays their home games in Chenoa.  To read more about his journey, you can read about my Glory Days, and about my first experience as Pastor Dawg.

I stand on the line. One man is next to me. He is my ally. There is another man behind us. He carries a ball, and wants to carry it for as long as possible. We are offense. Two men stand across from us. Another man stands behind them. Their job is to stop the man with the ball.

As I take my stance, there is little time to think. Little time to process what is about to happen. It is so incredibly simple. I am to launch myself at the man across from me. We are going to collide. Hard. There is about two seconds between when I put my hand down and when the whistle blows. I’m not even sure who stands across from me. He is big. I need to fire off, be quick. Explode. I haven’t done this in eleven years. I visualize quickly what I want to happen: We collide, I punch with both arms upward into his pads, using them as a lever. I am lower, and use that as an advantage to push him backwards. The man with the ball behind me goes by us untouched.

That’s not what happens. The whistle blows, I launch myself at him, but he steps a little to the side. I graze him as he skirts around me and tackles the man with the ball. Not exactly what I was hoping for.

It is someone else’s turn. I’m a little dismayed, but not defeated. It is my turn again, and quickly. I step into the line again. “Don’t make the same mistake,” I think. Fire off, but under control. Don’t lunge. He has to come to me too. The whistle blows. We collide. This time the collision is square. I stand him up. I try to drive him back, but he’s not going anywhere, so I try to wall him off to the outside. The man with the ball sees the direction I am turning my man, and he adjusts accordingly. He runs by untouched.

I win this one. I want to let out a whoop. I am too winded. It’s going to be my turn again in about 45 seconds.

My experience as a Twin City Dawg went to a new level yesterday. Tuesday was the first day with pads, but I had a stomach virus since Sunday night, and spent the previous 48 hours before practice in close proximity to a bathroom. Thursday night was my first practice withpads. It felt good. Really good. I got beat up, bruised, and scraped, but as I drove home I felt amazing. I filled in as a right tackle a lot, and got a lot of reps. My problem was I was a little too cautious. Cautious is a bad thing to be on a football field. Standing still is dangerous. Once when I wasn’t sure where to go I stood a little bit, and a running back ran into me pretty hard.

The other aspect of me playing football – the evangelical part – is also going well. It has opened doors to new relationships in places I would not have expected it. Like I said at the outset, I am not going around preaching to anyone. All I want to do while on the football team is build relationships. The guys know that I am a pastor. Most of them are starting to call me “Preacher.” In time, if someone asks me to pray – I’ll be happy to do so. If someone asks me about my church, I am happy to tell them. If someone asks me a question about faith, I’d be willing to listen. I hope all of my teammates would agree that I have not pushed myself as a “pastor” on anyone.

At a recent Christian youth retreat though, where the fact that I was a pastor was a given, the fact that I am playing football helped. I don’t want to get into the specifics of how it happened, but me playing football created common ground with some of the guys. We talked about football for awhile, which then lead to more serious questions. It lead to very helpful spiritual and practical discussion

When I started this, I had a few goals in mind, and all of them are looking good.
1. Don’t get hurt. So far, so good. I’ve been using our ice packs a lot more, but I’m still good.
2. Have some fun playing football. There is nothing better.
3. Get in better shape. I have lost some weight, and gained some strength.
4. Build relationships that may or may not lead to spiritual exchanges. Already started in surprising places.
5. Inspire others. Not sure, but I haven’t really told a lot of people yet either.

Twin City Dawgs Roster (Notice that I have the number of my favorite TE of all-time, prize for the one that guesses who it is)

Twin City Dawgs Schedule


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Pastor Dawg

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.


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Glory Days

I have had a Bruce Springsteen song stuck in my head for a few days.  “Glory Days,” has always been one of my favorite Springsteen songs.  I like it because it so brilliantly combines an upbeat melody with melancholy, almost tragic lyrics.  Like “Born in the USA,” which is often misunderstood to be a hyper-patriotic anthem (see Wrangler commercials and Ronald Reagan), “Glory Days” is often misunderstood to be a happy song waxing nostalgic about good memories.

Instead, it is a biting look at people that are unable to escape their past.  It is about sad people unable to accept their current condition, but waste away pining about their “Glory Days.”

I guess I’ve been thinking about that song because I don’t want it to be about me.  I’ve been working out for the last few months, and I’ve gotten myself into pretty good shape.  I am now stronger than I’ve ever been in my life.  I can bench press 225 pounds 10 times. I can leg press 500 pounds 10 times.  I am still fat, but underneath I can feel and see muscle that had sort of gone away for awhile.  In addition to getting stronger, I have lowered my cholesterol into the safe zone for the first time in years.  My first motivator to get back to the gym was to be healthier, but there has been another motivator in the back of my mind. 

I want to play football again.

Real football.  Should pads and helmets football.  I want to play for the Twin City Dawgs, a semi-pro football team that plays a ten game schedule over the summer in Chenoa and other cities in Illinois.  Last year I was in the press box, doing the PA or doing the scoreboard.  Next year I want to be on the field.

Maybe its a midlife crisis a few years ahead of schedule.  If so, there are certainly worse things that I could do, yet I’m terrified that I’m going to be that guy in the song, “telling boring stories about my glory days.” 

Yet here’s the thing: I never had any glory days.  My glory days were taken from me by an assistant coach that didn’t believe in me.  I didn’t start my senior year in high school.  If it was because I wasn’t as good as the guy that did start, it wouldn’t bother me, but I’ve never believed that.  So I’m preparing 15 years later to embark on a journey that could endanger my very livelihood. Maybe I’m not the one talking about my glory days.  Maybe I’m searching for them.  I know that is not a good reason to endanger myself in a violent, dangerous game.

I also know that I want to be a part of the team.  I want to be a positive influence in the lives of the 50 young men on the team.  I am not going in to convert anybody, but I want to expand my mission field, and reach people that might never otherwise approach a church.  I want to inspire people at my church, especially the young people, to reach for goals that seem impossible.  And yes, I want to prove to myself that I can do it. Is that really such a bad thing?

The try-out is Saturday. I talked to the coach today. There won’t be any pads.  We’ll do some agility and speed testing.  We’ll do break into positions, and we’ll do some 7-on-7.  I am going to see where I fit.  I’m going to talk to the coach, my wife, and my health insurance company, and figure out what I can contribute.

I have no business being on a football team, and I know that.  I might, however, contribute something to the team anyway.  I might contribute something to a young man searching for God.  I might contribute something to the community of Chenoa.  I might contribute something to someone wondering if they can achieve something they have no business achieving.

I’m going to give it a shot.  Say a prayer for me.  I’ll need it.


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