Talked with my old friend Neal Anderson the other day. Neal is a former classmate and football teammate as well as a fellow banker. We have known each other for a long time.
Old memories are strange. Fifty years can cloud things up a bit. I had written a story about a basketball game. Neal read the stories and said it brought back some old memories for him as well. I told him I had a story about us playing football as well. He is part of this story whether he remembers or not.
Neal and I played football with a guy named Billy Dennis. Billy was an exceptional football player and went on to play for the University of Virginia. He was also a successful doctor.
This little memory was at a football practice and not in a real game. We were scrimmaging during practice. The first string defense was putting in new plays. Billy was part of the first string defense. Neal and I were on the offense. Neal was at tackle and I was running halfback. The coaches would call plays and make adjustments.
The coach called a play. I was supposed to get the ball, run behind Neal and pick my way through the hole in the scrimmage line. Easy, right? They do it on TV all the time. The defense was going to shift around and Billy was going to move from the middle of the field and come through the line and stop the play.
Here we go. The ball is snapped, handed off to me and I’m headed for Neal on the left side of the line. For all the practice and drills, football is still 22 people running around trying to hit one another. People running in different directions can become rather chaotic.
Neal is blocking someone and I run right into the back of Neal. Meanwhile, on the defense Billy is coming around to slip through the line and stop the play. I’m stopped because I’ve run into the back of Neal; Billy comes running past us and into the backfield. Suddenly there is a large hole in the scrimmage line. I keep running and gain five yards before the safety tackles me. That’s football.
The coach starts yelling “Dennis where were you?” “I was in the backfield coach.” The coach is yelling at somebody else. Neal and I don’t see any need to say we didn’t execute the way we should have, after all the coach is yelling at Billy and not us.
The coach would always run a play over to get it right. Naturally, he yells out “Run it again.” Now everyone on both sides knows what play we are going to run. Even you know what’s going to happen next.
They snap the ball; I get it and run toward Neal. Neal is blocking his man out of the way and a big hole opens up on the line of scrimmage. On the other side here comes Billy. Remember he has just had a chewing out by the coach and he is mad. The next thing I remember is Billy’s helmet hitting my chest and I’m going backwards and hitting the ground. My eyes are flashing white stars and Billy is standing over me.
That’s my football story with Neal. I don’t know if he remembers that or if that is just my strange way of remembering.
My old friend Charlie Walker used to say he didn’t know what it was about football that made people want to watch it. Still, he said he just loved it. I don’t know what it is about the game but sometimes these crazy old memories just make you remember it was fun.