The Protege Days

January 8, 2009
By Johnny Le BRONZE, Seattle, Washington
Johnny Le BRONZE, Seattle, Washington
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

“If winning or losing doesn’t matter, then why do we keep score?”

-Vince Lombardi, Green Bay Packers Head Coach 1959-1967

“Down. Set, set! 15-42! Hike!” Jameson Kool, the quarterback for the Seahawks audibled in my Madden NFL game.

I threw a quick slant to my slot receiver as my best friend Rusty Cash groaned in dismay.

“Agh, I can never beat your West Coast Offense, man.”

Rusty is that happy-go-lucky type of guy who is cool to literally everyone. It was nearly impossible to get mad at him because whenever he did something wrong he would flash his Oscar smile and you would forget what just happened. He was pretty competitive too, but he knew that there was no “I” in team unless you’re bad at spelling. I’d known him ever since I was in Pampers.

“Shane Michael Gabole, get down here now!”

Uh-oh, that was my mom and she didn’t sound too happy. Rusty and I looked at each other and he shrugged. Confused, I threw my remote on the bed before hopping over it and rushing downstairs. I leapt down the last few steps to see my mom glaring at me. I slowed down to a walking pace, nervously eyeballing her.

“What is all of this?” My mom said, pointing at a pile of my clothes that were on the floor.

I calmly glanced at where she pointed before looking at the ground, biting my tongue. My mom’s eyes softened and she calmed down.

“Shane. You know that I need you to help me around the house more now that your dad-”

She trailed off looking away. My dad’s death was a touchy subject even though it happened years ago. I continued glaring at the ground, trying to figure out how picking up my clothes was supposed to help my mom that much. In the end I decided to just pick them up anyway.

“Go get Rusty and your stuff; I’ll drive you to your game.” My mom walked away with an air that demanded respect.

I stood there for a long second before coming back to my senses. I slowly sidled up the stairs and walking in my room in time to see Rusty using my controller to make Jameson run towards his own endzone for a safety. Rusty snapped his head around in time to see my death stare.

“Oh hey man, I didn’t see you there.” Rusty grinned, chuckling nervously as I threw him a bag.

“Get your stuff together, we’re leaving soon.” I told him, stuffing my own bag with my gear.

“Hey, aren’t we playing the Thunderbirds this time around?” Rusty asked, chewing on and old Snickers bar that had come out of nowhere.

I nodded at Rusty and sighed. The Thunderbirds were the number 1 ranked team in the entire league we played in, and had just been recently loaded with most of the other best players in the league. A lot of people on our team had quit to join them.

“Oh man, I hope our benchwarmers can do something.” Rusty groaned, finishing off the candy.

He was referring to the players that were left over after most of the key players left. Rusty and I were the only important players left. The old team had been good enough to rival the Thunderbirds and were 2nd in the league. If we managed to beat the Thunderbirds this week, we’d be in the playoffs.

“We’ll make something happen.” I told Rusty, throwing on a pair of dirty sneakers and clumsily grabbing our playbook.

“Yeah, right.”

The car ride was quiet for the most part. Rusty rocking out on his iPod, my mom focusing on trying not to kill us while driving and doing make-up and I was thinking of what plays could work. That’s when we saw it. A pacific blue car with green linings and a Seahawk logo. It had a license plate that read KOOL-08. It’s amazing what money can get you.

“Whoa, is that car who’s I think it is.” Rusty asked inquisitively, raising an eyebrow.

Squinting out the window, I told him, “He’s probably here to scout people from the Thunderbirds. He wouldn’t want anything to do with our terrible team and besides, most of us are too young anyway.”

I had heard somewhere that Jameson Kool was going around and helping to scout out players for the UW where he went to college. His job was to woo the best of the best to go to the UW and play for them. Virtually all the players on the Thunderbirds were juniors and seniors, going to college soon. Rusty and I were just sophomores.

“Who knows, maybe you two can change his mind.” My mom added, turning to park her car right next to what we thought was Jameson Kool’s car.

My mom was actually friends with Jameson when they were both in high school. They were best friends (BFF’s as my mom and most girls would say) and spent a lot of time together. They grew apart when my mom and dad got married and moved to L.A. My parent’s came back to Seattle when my mom was pregnant so I spent my whole life here. I wonder if Jameson still remembered my mom.

Rusty and I hopped out of my mom’s mini-can and grabbed our stuff from the trunk. My mom headed off to the stadium with her “Gabole” jersey to cheer us on from the stands, while Rusty and I headed towards the locker room to meet up with out teammates.

The locker room is usually cramped with dozens of kids walking back and forth, anxiously waiting for the game to start. It smelled of blood, sweat and something someone should’ve wiped off before coming in here. Trying to hold back from retching, I made my way over to my locker and began taking out my pads. Our jerseys were navy blue with white outlining, a little bit like the Dallas Cowboy’s uniform. The pants were the same type of blue with the outlining as well. Our helmets were also navy blue with two swords crossed like an X, and a white facemask. Everyone had a pair of black or white cleats and gloves on. I was putting on some Underarmour when one of my teammates came over,

“Hey Shane, Rusty. Coach O wants to talk to you two.” My friend Willie Jones told us. He was a good runningback behind a bad offensive line.

I put down my pads but slipped on a glove before heading for the coach’s office. We called him Coach O because he was some kind of offensive guru or something. It’s a shame that his better offensive players all left. When we got to his office we saw him shuffling through some papers that I assumed were parts of the playbook. I knocked on the already opened door and it creaked as it opened even further. Coach O stared crookedly at me as his eyes popped up.

“Ah, come in boys, there’s something important we need to discuss.” He ushered us in, closing the door behind us.

We slipped into uncomfortable armchairs as Rusty asked, “What’s goin’ down, coach?”

Coach sat back down at his desk to ruffle though some more papers before saying. “Boys, it’s come to my attention that some of us think we are going to get blown out hopelessly by the Thunderbirds.”

I looked at Rusty out of the corner of my eye. It really wasn’t a secret, they were a whole lot better than us now and our team morale was dangerously low. Coach O stood up and quietly paced around.

“I’ve also heard that you are pretty good at Madden NFL Football games, right Shane?”

“Uh, yeah coach. I’d say I’m pretty good.” I replied quizzically.

“And Rusty, you like to play mainly as a wide receiver in Superstar Mode?”

“Yeah, Coach O. My guy’s all set up to get into the Hall of Fame.” Rusty answered quickly. I bet he was wondering where Coach O was going with all of this as well.

Coach O stopped pacing and stared me straight in the eyes. “You both know that I’m not too big a fan of the West Coast Offense. You could almost say that I hate it.”

You are a guy who’s all about scoring, I thought. “What are you getting at, coach?” I asked, nervously tapping my fingers on the arms of the chair.

“I need you to string together a West Coast style of offense. It’s the only way we can beat the Thunderbirds. I hate this type of offense but at this point I’m willing to try anything.” He answered, sitting back down.

It took a moment for my brain to process this information.

“Uh, Coach O. Just one little problem,” I replied, pointing at a nearby clock, “The game starts in like, an hour.”

“Yeah, I’ve already thought of that.” Coach O didn’t even look at the clock. “You could do really simple plays of tell whoever is involved in the play what they should do. I know you’re experienced enough to do this, and I know Rusty is the perfect receiver to help you.”

Rusty shrugged at me and gave me one of his “what could go wrong” looks. I told Coach O that I would do this and he opened the door and excused us, going back to his papers. None of our teammates even cared to ask us what happened.

“Whoever said winning or losing doesn’t matter, probably lost.”

- Martina Navratilova, American Tennis Player

We strolled out from the tunnel leading onto our turf playing field, called the Pirate’s Ship. It had blue colored endzones and a big screen TV at the north endzone. It didn’t surprise me at all that there were an even number of fans wearing blue and white (Pirate colors) and yellow and white (Thunderbird colors). I caught my mom’s eye near the 40 yard line and waved to her. Smiling at me, she waved back encouragingly. There was a dismal amount of cheering as us Pirated headed for our bench. Then there was a huge booming sound, a roar, and the sound of footsteps as the Thunderbirds came onto the field, wildly waving their arms about. The Thunderbird fans stood up, chanting and stomping simultaneously,

“Thunder! Thunder! Thunder!”

So much for home-field advantage. Some of the Thunderbird plays who used to be on my team came over grinning, flashing off their bright yellow uniforms. Keith Jacobs, the Thunderbird quarterback, who used to back ME up came over and smirked before walking off. There was no doubt about it, he hated me. He was a senior and I was a sophomore, there really wasn’t anything else to it. A lot of people on the Thunderbirds who were his friends hated me as well. I looked on nervously as the Thunderbirds took their seats on their bench. Soon enough, it was time for the game to start and for us to go to the coin toss. Willie, Rusty and I went to go call it with Keith and two other Thunderbirds. They called for tails and it was heads. Like I say, tails always fails. We chose to receive first and the three of us jogged back to the bench to watch the start of the game. Our kick returner nonchalantly kept the ball in the endzone for a touchback and it was time for me to take my first snap of the game.

Coach O gave me a reassuring shove before sending the offense out onto the field. I tightened my chin buckle, putting a glove only on my left hand. Don’t think I’m stupid, there’s a reason for this. I only used a glove on my non-throwing hand because I wanted more grip on the ball, but I didn’t use one on my other hand because I needed more oomph and accuracy when I threw the ball. I lined up under center, scrutinizing the defense, looking left and right. We were going to run the easiest play ever, the best play ever, the slant. I glanced over in Rusty’s direction, who was being triple covered -probably not going to throw to him. I snapped the ball and quickly dumped it off to my receiver on the left who sprang up for it.

There was an ear-splitting crack as the Thunderbird defense pounced on Jack Baird but he still managed to hold onto the ball. I gave him a pat on the helmet on his way back to the huddle. We ran a few more simple plays like that as the Thunderbird defense got more and more frustrated. That’s when I took my chance. I took the snap and looked hard left, pump faking the ball that direction. All the defenders jumped but I brought the ball back and threw a bomb to Rusty who they had pretty much forgotten about by now. He leaped high over the confused defender and made a spectacular grab, practically stealing it from the cornerback before trotting the last few yards for a touchdown.

There was a burst of sound as our fans and sideline went crazy. I did my best to hold back a huge grin, but couldn’t. Rusty shot the ball through the uprights like a basketball as defenders slowed to a stop around him. Back on the sidelines for a moment, I gave Rusty a cup of Gatorade as we watched the kickoff. It was returned to the 30 and we both tightened our chin straps, heading back out to play defense.

Rusty was a feared, hard hitting cornerback and people were scared to try and go after the ball against him. He could go man-to-man against any receiver. I, on the other hand, was a dynamite defensive-end and my job was to make the opposing quarterback’s time on the field, pure hell. Keith stepped behind center for the Thunderbirds and coolly looked in my direction. He must’ve thought I wouldn’t be a problem this time since he didn’t make any audibles to stop me. He was really not that bright. As soon as the football even twitched I sprang up from my position on the turf and did a quick spin move against the tackle and was after Keith. Keith was looking to his left so there was no way he could see me. I almost felt sorry for him as I swooped towards him, trying my best to make him drop the football. I collided with him and he went the other direction and the ball fell splat on the floor. I quickly got on top of the ball as players began to dogpile me. I let out a sigh of relief as I got onto my knees now, thrusting the ball into the air to show that I had possession.

The crowd exploded in cheers while the Thunderbirds jeered. Scowling, Keith kicked me in the side as I was trying to stand up; so Rusty gave him a threatening shove. The referees came just in time to save Keith from a major beatdown.

As he was backing away Keith ran his mouth, “You better enjoy it while you can, Gabole! We’re gonna destroy you and the rest of your pansie little team!” He growled threateningly at me, turning around to punch the water boy on his way back to the bench.

We were back on offense and rollin’. My amazing pass attack was opening huge gaps for Willie to get through for chunks of yardage. By halftime Willie, Rusty, and I had ran, caught, and thrown for touchdowns respectively. We were leading 24-21 as Coach O gave us a little pep talk, to tell us everything that we did wrong or he thought we did wrong.

“We need to go out there and play like we did in the first half, at least offensively. Our defense was terrible! Other than that lone fumble Shane managed to fall on, we haven’t done diddly squat on D! We need to cover better, tackle better, and for Pete’s sake if the ball hits you in the hands, catch it!” Coach O screamed in frustration, glaring at our safety who had dropped an interception. “Defense wins championships boys, defense wins championships.”

Coach O let us out after screaming at us about some special teams stuff as well. Ironically, we started off on defense at the beginning of the second half. I lined up back in my defensive-end position with Rusty on the opposite side of the field. Keith motioned the receiver that Rusty was covering so that Rusty would come over to my side. To my horror and when it was too late to do anything, Keith snapped the ball and handed it off to the Thunderbird runningback who ran to the now defenseless side of the defense. Rusty and I scrambled in his direction but the two of us barely managed to drag him down 60 yards later, at our 20. I could see nothing but redness and anger. I was vibrating frustration as I got up to scream at the other people who were supposed to play defense.

“Get your heads out of your butt! That guy just ran right through us like we’re 5-year-olds! C’mon, I know we can at least get in his way!” I yelled, swinging my arms like a madman that just drank an entire bottle of Tabasco sauce.

I said a few more things that I’m not proud of (such as mentioning some of the player’s mothers) but I cooled down enough to get everyone huddled together. The Thunderbirds tried to do the same thing again but this time Rusty didn’t follow the receiver. Keith snapped the ball and there was nothing I could do. I was immediately taken down by 3 blockers (count ‘em, 3) as our other defensive players tried to tackle the runningback. He scoffed at them as he pushed them all aside and galloped in for an easy touchdown. The defense came off the field waiting for a chew-out by Coach O, but he just glared. Rusty mumbled a curse word before flopping down on the bench. We went back on offense to quickly score, and from then on it was a shootout between the two offenses. In the final two minutes we were set to get the ball back, down 48-42. One more touchdown and we could win this one. I had been taking some punishing hits the last few drives as the Thunderbirds were trying to overload the offensive line. It was not going to easy to drive down the field and get a touchdown.

I lined up in the shotgun formation with 5 receivers, throwing a quick one to Baird who ran out of bounds right before I was laid by a linebacker. I gingerly shot up; pushing the linebacker off of me and rushing my teammates back to the huddle. Hit ‘em when they’re confused, I thought. Same formation again but this time I lobbed a deep one to Rusty who caught it at the 50 yard line. I called a time-out and jogged towards the sideline to hear what Coach O had to say. Our faces covered in sweat, our vision clouded by fatigue, and our breathing like that of rabid dogs, we listened intently to our coach explain.

“Look, even if we don’t make the playoffs, there’s always next year. I want you to know that you all played one heck of a game and against the toughest team in the league at that!” Coach O told us amidst approving glances. “We have one more minute to show everyone what we’re made of, one more chance to win this! It’s time to do or die boys! Put your hands in the middle now, everyone!”

We all managed to get a hand or finger in there somehow and three cheers of “Pirates! Pirates! Pirates!” sent us back on the battlefield. Coach O smiled contentedly at us, going back to the sideline. I sighed, tightening my chin strap for the battle yet to come.

We came out once more in the shotgun, 5 receiver set. I took the snap, a few steps backwards and tried forcing the ball to Rusty, letting out a sigh of relief when the other team’s defender dropped the ball. As I turned to go back to huddle I was dropped by a defender for what should have been a “roughing the passer” penalty, but there was no call. I quickly snuck a look at Keith who was pointing and laughing at me. My side still bothered me from when Keith kicked it but I did my best to ignore the pain. I lined up again and threw a quick-out to the tightend Mark Giles who was 30 yards down the field. Coach O called a timeout but waved us off, meaning he didn’t have anything else to say. We dragged ourselves over to the water boy who was handing out Gatorade a mile a minute. I looked around at the rest of my team; they were a doing a lot better than anyone could’ve thought, better than they could’ve thought. The west coast offense must be pretty good, I thought. The 5 starting offensive-linemen lumbered over to sit next to Rusty and I, then more and more players came until the entire team was sitting lost in thought. The whistle blew as officials declared the timeout over and the 11 of us on offense back out, amidst the cheers of our defense and our fans.

I was under center this time and patted him on the back, meaning that I was backing up into the shotgun. The ball was snapped and I took a few steps back, surveying the field. I looked to the left, nothing there. I looked to the middle, triple coverage. I looked to the right and threw the ball at the correct time as Rusty was peeling off two defenders, grabbing the football but not getting out of bounds before getting tackled at the 1. I called a time-out. Coach O gestured at me, telling us to stay on the field. I decided to say a few things to everyone while they tried to gather their thoughts.

“Guys, we got this. Just one more measly little yard, the point after, and then we’re home-free.”

The people around me were exhausted and fatigued but crawled back into the goal-line formation. All 22 players on the field were panting uncontrollably. The question now was, which team wanted it more? I snapped the ball and handed it off to Willie who tried leaping into the endzone but was tackled hard and dropped backwards. We rushed to do the same play again but the fullback got in the way this time and the ball came loose. I desperately dived onto it but we lost 3 yards. We lined up again as the clock was ticking down. 9 seconds, 8 seconds, 7... I snapped the ball and tried to throw it to Rusty between 2 defenders and it bounced off the hands of a defender, incomplete.

Up until now the fans were pretty quit but since it was 4th and goal at the 4 with the game on the line, both types of fans were going crazy, hoping that they could help their team win. I looked at the clock to see that there were 4 seconds left, enough time to run one play. I nervously got back under center, in the goal-line one more time. I faked the ball to Willie, bootlegging out to my right side to pass it. I saw Mark open and gunned the ball to him, and he got in! Or so I thought. 4 Thunderbird defenders swarmed around him, practically picking him up and dragging him back out of the endzone. I assumed forward progress would him the touchdown but the officials ruled it short at the 2 foot line. Coach O immediately threw the red challenge flag.

As the official in the booth was trying to make the game-changing decision, I sneaked a look up at the stands to see my mom talking to some guy. Maybe I was going to have to break someone’s legs after the game. The replay of the catch came onto the big screen showing that Mark had clearly crossed the goal-line and it was a touchdown. I threw my hands up into the air, screaming at the top of lungs after we had made an amazing upset. That is, until the official came out. Apparently this guy was blind or something because he said there wasn’t conclusive evidence to overturn their original call, so now the game was over with the Thunderbirds taking home the gold (Ha-ha get it, their uniforms are gold).

I couldn’t believe this and neither could any of my teammates or our fans on the sidelines. The stadium erupted in loud boos, since the Thunderbird fans thought it was the right call. My teammates and I all headed towards the main ref to show our disbelief. Some guys cracked their knuckles and another guy had a pair of nun-chucks. Rusty stopped us on the way but scowled at me specifically,

“Choose your battles, Shane, we lost this one, there’s nothing you can do about it. You should know better, you’ll only make things worse for yourself.”

The rest of the Pirates heard this and backed off but my ears were still red with rage. We lined up to high-five the Thunderbirds and tell them the usual lies. “Good game”s and “You’re pretty good”s filled the air. Well I guess the first one was true but not the second one.

After all the “pleasantries” were over I sulked off to locker room, trying to regain my composure.

I took my gym bag and Rusty, leaving as quickly as possible without speaking to anyone. He pulled out his iPod along the way back to my mom’s mini-van. I tapped Rusty on the arm and pointed when I saw my mom talking to the same guy again. He looked angry and he was yelling at her. Maybe we were going to have to break someone’s legs. But then they both doubled over, laughing. I relaxed, thinking it was some kind of joke they had made up.

Rusty squinted his eyes and removed his headphones. “Hey that guy kinda looks familiar...”

The guy did look familiar, but where from? As we got closer to him realization hit me.

“Jameson Kool!” Rusty and I exclaimed at the same time, exchanging looks.

With our fatigue forgotten about, we both bursted into a quick sprint hoping to get and autograph from the 36-year-old quarterback.

My mom turned and raised an eyebrow before saying, “Oh, hey boys.”

I still could not believe Jameson Kool was standing by my car and I raised both eyebrows.

“Uhm, Mrs. Gabole,” Rusty pointed, mouth agape, “why is Jameson Kool standing right there?”

“Mrs. Gabole and I were just catching up on old times.” Kool ruffled my hair, which I shook back to normal. “I’m actually supposed to be scouting out those Thunderbird players but none of them stuck out to me. You two on the other hand, did. It’s a real shame that the officials didn’t see that last play as a touchdown like everyone else in the stadium did.”

“So... what do you want with us?” I asked suspiciously.

“We have this little... apprentice program thing starting up. Some of the players pick highschoolers that they think have immense talent and teach them the arts of their respective position. At the end of 3 months, if anyone really stands out they get to play in an NFL game. It’ll look really nice for other college scouts to see.” Jameson explained, running a hand through his hair.

“OK, what’s the catch?” Rusty inquired, taking the words right out of my mouth.

“The only ‘catch’ is that it requires a tough mentality since you go into a training regime that takes you from a high school level straight to an NFL type one. There’s also probably going to be 1 student from each starter on the Seahawks.” A perfect answer from the cool Jameson Kool. “My wide-receiver friend A.D has been having trouble finding a kid for him. I could ask him to take Rusty here.

I snuck a look over at my mom who was watching impatiently; she winked and headed for the car.

“When and where?” I asked, heading for the backseat of my mom’s car.

“Qwest Field, tomorrow.” Jameson was standing outside the door as Rusty and I put on seat belts.

My mom rolled down the window and Jameson poked his head in, black hair and all.

“Maybe we can all go out to dinner sometime...” Jameson grinned and sneaked his head back out, jogging towards his blue car with the cool license plate.

My mom turned the key, the engine sputtered, and we were off to Rusty’s house.

“Aw dude, this is gonna be so much fun! I’m probably not even gonna sleep tonight.” Rusty shared, grinning from ear to ear and moving his arms around for emphasis.

“What do you think, mom?” I asked, looking at her through the rear view mirror.

“Sounds a little too good to be true in my opinion. But then again, what do moms know about football?” She answered, looking through the rear view mirror.

OK, that was not true at all. She’d come in on me playing Madden sometimes and give me advice on what plays might work, and they almost always did. She could be an offensive coordinator. I noticed she had a big smile on her face and wasn’t paying attention to the road because we missed the turn to Rusty’s house and had to go back.

I had been to Qwest Field a bunch of times before, but never thought it would be to play football here. Jameson and his friend were there to greet us at the main entrance to the locker room when we got there. The wide-receiver was named Adrian “The Dart” Simpson, A.D for short. They called him “The Dart” on account of him being a freakin’ speed demon that could burn anybody, and get out of his cuts very sharply. He’s a tall guy, about 6’6 and almost twice as big as Jameson. I could tell that Rusty was really excited to be learning from this guy.

“Hey, this is the receiver I was telling you about, A.D.” Jameson pointed at Rusty, then at me. “And this is the West Coast quarterback who was killing the Thunderbirds yesterday.”

I didn’t remember him saying anything about the West Coast Offense but I smiled nonetheless. Rusty grabbed A.D.’s hand, shaking it up and down obsessively. A.D stared at him for a moment before chuckling and slapping Rusty on the back.

“Kids these days. C’mon guys, we’ve gotta go meet everyone else.” A.D. told us, grabbing our bags and opening the way to the locker room.

We got inside and I noticed the walls were light blue and the lockers were a darker blue. This locker room didn’t smell as bad as mine did, but it was still pretty bad. There were a lot of people milling about anxiously, like there were waiting for something. It looked like all the starters really did bring a kid with them. I saw a familiar face in the crowd and waved him over to us. Willie was shocked to see me, but he rushed over quickly.

“Dude, I can’t believe this is actually happening, Jesse Jordan” (Seahawks Runningback) “came over to me after the game on Saturday and invited me here.” Willie tore through his words mile a minute. “I thought I was going to be the only one here from our team, man I can’t believe this is happening.”

“Willie, calm down man. Breathe Willie, breathe!” Rusty explained, shaking Willie to and fro.

Willie opened his mouth again but Rusty, Jesse, and A.D. came over and yelled at us to suit up. I looked around and saw that the other kids were all probably juniors or seniors in high school. One guy (who I assumed was an offensive-lineman) looked like he was 23. Rusty, Willie, and I quickly threw on shorts and Underarmour before heading out onto the field with the other students

Qwest Field looked a lot bigger from the inside then it did from the stands or on TV. I looked up at the walls and ceiling which I knew were designed specifically to block and redirect sound, killing the opposing team’s eardrums along with their chances of winning. I continued admiring the architecture until Rusty grabbed my arm and pointed at a guy who was talking on the other side of the field. I recognized him as Mike Greene, Seahawks head coach and rushed over to hear what he had to say.

“...great opportunity for you young adults to show us, and yourself your true skills in football.” Mike said, pushing back his glasses every now and then. “Now let’s cut to the chase. We have 3 months of training where you will get to learn the position from and NFL player and at the end of this period some of you will be selected to play in a real NFL game. That is, unless you all are average or none of you standout. If that happens -- which it probably won’t- we abandon the ordeal.” He paused to check our reactions.

I raised my hand to ask a question, as I was wondering about how most NFL players need contracts and had to go to college and stuff. I hoped I got the right answer.

“Is that legal?” I asked, explaining to Mike what I meant, all the while hoping I wouldn’t get kicked out for being too curious.

“It’s not illegal if that’s what you’re asking.” Mike answered, staring blankly at me. “We have clearance from the league to do this, and we will get fined but our owner is willing to pay the fine. Since all fines get donated to charity anyway, it’s a win-win situation for us.”

I nodded, pretending to understand the legal details but then I noticed everyone staring at me. I raised my hands in a “what?” type of manner. Everyone looked away. My mind began to wander as Mike was explaining more things but soon enough, they split us off into our respective positions to commence the training. I was in a huddle with Rusty, Willie, and 8 other guys. I noticed by now that Rusty and I were the youngest people here and it was going to be tough for me to get respect. I sighed, calling the play, strong I-form, tightend to the right, slant. I lined up under center checking my surroundings, looking for any crack within the coverage. I yelled hike but the center messed up the snap and it rolled on the ground. I desperately dived on it but we lost 2 yards. The center stood up to glare at me, man was he big. The other gigantic offensive-linemen turned around and joined him.

“How’d a sophomore even get into this thing? This is supposed to be for the best of the best.” the center growled menacingly, staring me down.

Wait, how did he know I was a sophomore?

“Keith should’ve been the one instead of you. Jameson doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Just my luck. He was Nick Koma, the Thunderbirds center and also Keith Jacob’s best friend. I could tell the next 3 months were gonna stink. The trainers, thinking something was going on, came over and split us up. The next play Nick let the defensive-tackle through without even trying and I was hit hard as I was sacked. I immediately grabbed my side since it still hurt me. I mumbled silent curse but went back to the huddle, ignoring the pain in my ribs. I saw out of the corner of my eye that Jameson was talking to the Seahawk’s center and pointing at me and Nick. The center came over, pulled Nick aside, and had a little one-way exchange of words with him. Nick came back and didn’t say anything, but the hate was emanating off of him. From then on he blocked like an All-American.

Life in those 3 months were pure hell. W had to wake up at 5 in the morning and had to get to practice at 6 in the morning, then go until 3 or 4 in the afternoon and only stopped at 12 for a lunch break. My mom never complained and still dragged herself up to drive Rusty and I to practice. When I got home my bones would ache all over and the only thing on my mind was sleep. I usually had the house to myself because Jameson would take my mom out on a date (she insisted it wasn’t a date but I knew better) and oh yeah, did I mention my life was pure hell? Despite all the bad things that happened to me I couldn’t help but feel like Nick and I had bonded. I was making superb plays on offense whenever I had my hands on the ball and the defense had no idea what to do when I threw it. Nick even stood next to me now and would sometimes pat me on the helmet.

Rusty, oh man, he was getting better and better each day. The defense would try to make 3 guys cover him and he would still get away and haul in a rocketed pass from me. I assumed Nick, Rusty, and I would be shoo-ins for the NFL game.

It was the last practice before they would officially announce who would be in the NFL game and I was taking things easy. Everything had gone smoothly injury-wise since the defense took it easy. That was all about to change today because the defense now had nothing left to lose and were getting tired of being burned mercilessly by Rusty every day. I was under center and hiked the ball, dropping back a little before zipping one towards Rusty. There was an earsplitting crack as the defender’s helmet connected with Rusty’s shoulder as he leaped high in the air to try and catch the football. Screaming, Rusty flipped and fell to the ground like a limp rag doll. He had still made the caught somehow but it was all for nothing. The offense rushed over to Rusty’s side and called hopelessly for the trainers. Rusty squirmed and screamed as they came over to try and ease the pain, but it was too late. The defender that had made the hit stood up and looked as his handiwork. He turned around and calmly loosened his chin strap and began to walk away. Not a word spoken, or a glance back, not even a second thought. He just left.

I slowly stood up and began marching towards him to grab his helmet and punch him in the face but Jameson grabbed my collar and pulled me back, repeating Rusty’s words,

“Choose your battles, Shane.” My shoulders slumped once more, and the quarterback released me as I fell to the ground next to my best friend. The defender has still not looked back.

“The doctors are telling me that I broke my clavicle or whatever. Some type of muscle or tendon thing.” Rusty explained to me, trying to move his shoulder but grimacing in pain when he couldn’t. “I should be up and about in like 9 months or so.”

We were chilling outside the locker room after practice as Rusty was trying to use his arm cast to hold some of his candy. I was still trying to figure out what happened during practice.

“We should go back inside now. They’re probably going to announce the NFL game in a few minutes.” I bounced up and offered Rusty my hand to help him up, but he ignored it and got up in his own.

“Let’s roll, brutha.” He said with a joking grin.

I could tell that Rusty was disappointed to not even get a chance to play in the game anymore but he was just too proud to show it. We opened the door and took a slow step in the locker room where everyone was crowded around in a circle with their respective proteges. I found Jameson and he waved us over. On the way a lot of people clapped Rusty on the back and A.D. gave him a sad look, telling him that he knew how tough he knew it must be. Rusty falsely smiled at everyone, telling them it was cool but I knew better. Willie ran over up in spirits about the whole NFL ordeal. He went on and on again about how cool it was and eventually Jesse told him to shut up, as Mike Greene was inching his way towards the front of the room. He cleared his throat and fixed his glasses, getting ready to tell us the news.

“It’s been a fun and eventful 3 months, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see all the talent we have here. But as you all know, we can only select a few individuals to represent the Seattle Seahawks organization in the upcoming game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. We selected the few individuals who we thought were the best leaders, friends, and most importantly, players. We have chosen them to play for us. Firstly, we have picked Shane Gabole, quarterback.”

My ears perked up at the sound of my name and there were a few claps around the room. Jameson squeezed my shoulder approvingly.

“Secondly, we have picked Nick Koma, center.”

There were a few more claps but lots of sweating as the next thing he said could be the last player.

“We also did pick Rusty Cash but as you can see how wouldn’t be able to play, so unfortunately we are going to only stick with the two players we have selected for now.”

Everyone in the room spun their heads about and checked to see Rusty’s reaction. His pride wasn’t going to hold him anymore, his shoulders sagged, and his eyes fell to the ground holding back tears. I bit my lip to do my best not to say sorry because I knew pity would hurt the most.

“Congratulations to our winners and we hope that you won’t die in the NFL game.”

Mike quietly sidled out of the room as the other began to file out as well. They all looked disappointed and dragged the feet with them. Nick came over to Rusty waved at us on his way out. That’s also when I noticed I hadn’t seen very many reporters in the last few months talking to us high schoolers. I asked Jameson about this and he shook his head.

“It’s supposed to be some sort of secretive thing. We tell them that you’re our kids even though most of you are 18 and most of us are in our mid-twenties.” He chuckled at the media’s foolishness.

A.D. gave Rusty a little shake before saying, “Hey Rusty, don’t look so down man, your best friend made the cut.”

Rusty looked up, “Oh hey, I’m sorry man. I didn’t mean to bring you down too, congrats man, I mean it.” He shook my hand with his good hand and brought back his Oscar-winning smile.

I grinned at Rusty before looking at Jameson. “What do I do now?”

“Now.” Jameson grabbed my gym bag. “Go home, tell your mom, and come back here tomorrow at 8 for practice with us.” He spread his arms out to mean that Seahawks. “I knew you had it in you Shane. I picked you because I knew you had the talent.

I smiled stupidly as I hopped, almost skipped out of the locker room to my mom’s car. I told her about everything that happened that day. She frowned and almost cried when I told her about Rusty but smiled again when I told her I’d be playing.

“My little boy’s becoming a man...” She squeaked out, choking back tears.

I laughed as Jameson poked his head through the window to tell me some other details.

“Shane, you start with the third-stringers at first but then you move up as you get the hang of it and eventually (if you’re good enough) you can take my position and pretend to be as good as me.” He turned and talked to my mom. “I’ll see you tonight.”

It felt almost normal that Jameson talked to my mom like my dad probably would have. I tried not to think too hard about it. Jameson winked at me, poking his head back out.

“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them -- a desire, a dream, a vision...”

-- Muhammad Ali, American Boxer

I’d slowly crawled my way up in the last few weeks and now I was ready for the non-pressure, nationally televised game against the toughest defense in the league. No I lied; I was scared for my life. It was a lot tougher playing against professional players but I had gotten a lot better and learned lots of quarterbacking skills from Jameson. Now it was my time to shine. I had signed a contract stating that I would wear a helmet and dark visor at all time during the game. The Seahawks wanted to keep my identity a secret until after the game. The Seahawks center lumbered over, uniform and all to talk to Jameson and I.

“Nick can’t come; he failed the alcohol test, so you’re on your own now.” He said, lumbering back towards his dented locker.

I’d noticed before that Nick seemed like he was drunk at times but I didn’t think he had a problem or anything. There was a knot in my stomach as I realized Nick wasn’t going to be there for me. A.D. and Rusty came over to hand me my uniform. It was pacific blue, newly bought Seahawks jersey. On the back it had big, bold, white letter’s that read,

“Protege, huh?” I announced, turning it around amusingly before putting it on. “I thought I was going to get my last name on this.”

“It’s just some crazy thing that management wanted to do. They thought it’d be cool.” Jameson explained, shaking his head.

I glanced at Rusty to see him gawking at my jersey. I knew it was killing him on the inside to know that he could’ve had one too and it made me feel bad. I looked away.

“It’s alright.” I replied, grabbing a glove for my left hand.

“C’mon, we’ve gotta go warm up now.” A.D. said, grabbing my shoulder and dragging me away.

I got free from him and began to walk by myself. As we got closer and closer to the entrance I could feel the thundering boom of a sold-out Qwest Field stadium and its 67,000 fans raining down on me. I ran out onto the field amidst screams from the crowd. It felt like game day.

“Well John, it looks like Seahawk’s management has decided to spring something new to our viewers and the Steeler’s. This is totally legal, and they got clearance from the league. They claim to have a mystery player that Jameson Kool has been training for the last few months. They plan on keeping his identity a secret until the game is over. We’ll be referring to him as Protege.” Al Michaels, a legendary sportscaster spoke into his mike, his voice booming over the stadium.

This’ll be very interesting.” John Madden, famous coach, player, and game-caster replied.

We did a simple passing drill where I threw to one of the coach’s, who for today would be Jameson. It was meant to warm up my throwing arm. I had butterflies in my stomach, a lump in my throat, and I could tell Jameson knew I was nervous.

“Hey Shane, when you get out onto the field,” He said, lobbing another pass back to me, “Just try to breathe, and remember to quiet the crowd down the offensive line can actually hear what you’re saying.”

I thought it best to keep that advice in mind as I chucked another ball back to Jameson. Curious, I stole a glance at the Steeler side-lines and immediately regretted it. They’re linebackers were doing push-ups and they were huge; about 6 feet each and over 230 lbs. I gulped and mumbled a silent prayer as I realized that these would be the guys falling on top of me. I jostled around for a little longer until it was time for the game to start. A.D., Jesse, and I were sent out to do the coin toss. The Steeler’s called for heads and it was tails. Like I always say, tails never fails. Wait, is that what I say? Oh well, it doesn’t matter anyway since we received the ball first and the special teams took it out to the 30 yard line. Jameson jogged over to take a seat on the bench -he wouldn’t be playing today unless I got hurt or really tired. I readjusted my visor and tightened my chin strap before running towards the huddle.

We came out in the I-formation and ran my favorite play, the slant. I tried to force a pass to A.D. but it was broken up by a defender as I was knocked senseless by a different linebacker, his face-mask on top of mine.

“Welcome to the league, rookie.” He hissed before getting up and laughing.

Dazed, I slowly picked myself up, trying to regain my composure. I quickly grabbed my side since it still hurt me from that Thunderbird game. I should probably get it check out or something. Back in the huddle A.D. told me to chill out and just check my reads. The other players nodded in agreement. This time I handed off to Jesse on a counter play that went for five yards. Then I went into the shotgun and quickly got it to the tightend for a first down. The crowd went wild and so did my teammates. They congratulated me on my first completion as an NFL quarterback. The next 3 plays weren’t as good since Jesse was stuffed for no gain, and I was sacked twice. Disappointed, I came over and flopped down on the bench as the ball was punted away.

Jameson along with the offensive coordinator and Mike came over to speak to me. Mike obviously was not happy but didn’t say that out loud.

“Keep your head up, and throw the ball away if nothing’s there!” He didn’t yell but was obviously angry, as he walked away grumbling.

“Use the shoulder move.” Jameson added, pointing at my right shoulder.

The shoulder move was something that quarterbacks used to get away from a sack. They would make their shoulder go underneath a pass-rushes hands and out the other side so they could throw again. I nodded because the first time I was sacked I had been grabbed by the shoulder and brought down hard. I tried to stretch out my side but jolted when a flash of pain hit me. Jameson looked at me funny but didn’t say anything.

“Use your other hand to get some separation.” The offensive coordinator advised, demonstrating a fake a stiff-arm.

The coordinator then sat down next to me and began to explain what plays he thinks we should do on the next drive. I nodded on dumbly. Pretty soon the defense forced a punt and I was headed back out onto the field. I started out in shotgun this time and threw a quick pass to A.D. this time for 5 yards. The next play, I threw a curl to the tightend Zach Christian, or just Z, for a 10 yard gain. I was getting into a groove and in a few more quick plays we had marched down to the 15 yard line.

I handed off to Jesse who (after a great block from Z) dragged himself all the way down to the 3 yard line. We lined in goal-line formation and I faked the ball to Jesse, bootlegging to my right side. I saw A.D. peeling off his defenders and rocketed the pass in his direction. He grabbed it, and fell down clutching it for a touchdown. Grinning, I threw my hands in the air and yelled crazily. The stadium erupted in ground-shaking screams and cheers.

“Let’s go Seahawks, let’s go! Let’s go Protege, let’s go!”

Startled, my head snapped up as I heard my fake name being called out. My dark visor made everything look dark but I managed to grab and shake one of the fans hands. I smiled, walking back to the bench as the point-after was good. Rusty came over and sat down next to me, offering a cup of Gatorade. I gladly drained it all as he talked. It was a little bit difficult because I wasn’t allowed to take off my helmet but I’m betting that anyone that knew Rusty could tell it was me.

“Dude, I can’t believe that just happened! My best friend just scored a touchdown in the NFL! Oh my gosh, it’s gonna be one heck of a story to tell my grand kids when I’m an old dude.” Rusty said, his face lighting up with each word.

I chuckled with him but then my attention was brought back to the game. The defense came off the field a few moments alter after giving up a touchdown and I slowly sprang up. I got a lot of pats on the helmet as I made my way towards the field. A.D. thought that I should take a chance deep. I lined up in shotgun for 5 receivers. I took the snap and immediately looked hard to my left and pump-faked it that way. The defenders all bit the fake and tried to hopelessly get back in position as I brought the ball back. It was too late. I lobbed one with all my strength in the direction of A.D. but this one wasn’t as pretty as the one to Rusty in the Thunderbird game. It hung in the air for a long moment and A.D. had to chase it down before diving at it for a 50 yard gain. Qwest Field exploded in cheers so that I couldn’t even hear myself think. We got to the 20 yard line but had to settle for a field-goal. Going into the locker room at half-time we were trailing 21-17.

“Well, Shane has been surviving for a lot longer than I thought he would.” Mike said jokingly, as everyone chuckled. “But we still need to buckle down, we’re only losing by 4 points but they get the ball at the half and might think of some ways to disrupt Shane now that they actually have some footage of him playing. Now, here’s what we need to fix...”

Mike trailed off, writing all over his chalkboard with X’s and O’s that represented different plays and players. I smiled to myself as I reminisced about my recent success. Rusty kept whispering to me. I thought it was kind of weird that they let rusty hang out here because he technically didn’t make the cut but I wasn’t going to say that out loud.

When Mike was done, the team went back out to hear the fans cheer again and watch the rest of the half-time show. Fort Minor’s “Remember The Name” popped up frequently when they showed highlights from the first half. I saw myself getting sacked then throwing a touchdown. When it was time for the second half to start the stands were only half filled with most of the fans still getting refreshments. I sat back relaxing until the defense forced a punt.

I was under center and took the snap, dropping back 5 steps and getting rid of the ball as I was knocked down by the same Steeler linebacker who gave me the “warm” welcome. It was probably the worst throw I had ever thrown in my life. It was a lob that was more like a punt as the Steeler’s cornerback caught and began to make his way to the Promised Land. I quickly sprang back up and along with the rest of the Seahawk endzone patrol we managed to drag him down at our 40 yard line. I stomped off the field, angrily tearing off my chin strap.

The offensive coordinator sat down next to me and tried to talk about what happened but I tried to throw him off. I didn’t want to talk about it, I wanted to try and figure our how I messed up on my own. Eventually it was time for me to take the field again, on first down I was under center and handed the ball off to Jesse who was stuffed. Then I threw 2 incompletions as I was hit hard each time. I came off the field murmuring a curse word as we had to punt the ball. I sat on the bench twiddling my thumbs until the defense forced yet another punt and I could redeem myself again.

The ball was snapped and I quickly dumped it off on a curl route to A.D. for an 8 yard gain. The next play the defense rushed 3 guys and dropped 8 into coverage, so I decided to book it. I ran past my guard and center and two other defenders, hoping to god that I didn’t get the snot knocked out of me. A few yards later I saw the same linebacker angrily chasing after me. I swore as I tried to speed up. I was quick but I wasn’t quicker than an angry NFL linebacker so I tried to slide to avoid injury but was too late and he landed on top of me. There was a sharp, bone-jarring pain in my left hand and I quickly grabbed it.

There was a timeout called on the field as the trainers ran over to my side. I got up and shook off my wrist, pretending that it didn’t hurt. It’d be a good idea not to scramble again since my side was still killing me. I was in for a couple more plays and we kicked a field goal to cut the Steeler’s lead to 1. I was now forced to hold the ball with only one hand and I couldn’t get a real good grip on it so if I got hit hard again I was probably going to fumble the ball.

I made my way to the sidelines, gritting my teeth to try and mask the pain. Jameson grabbed my shoulder and turned me around, offering a cup of Gatorade.

“Look, if your hand hurts really badly just take a seat. I’ll finish the game.” Jameson told me as I quickly chugged the Gatorade.

“No, I’m OK, I’m playing.” I replied, shaking my head vigorously. “It’s not even my good arm.”

I worked way too hard for this just to give it all up now. I didn’t care if I was being stubborn, I was playing again. Jameson gave me a “whatever” look and left to talk with the other players. Rusty came over to sit next to me but didn’t say anything, and I didn’t try to start a conversation either. The Steeler’s managed to eek out another field-goal (much to everyone’s dismay) and we were down by 4 again. Both offenses traded punts until the final two minutes where we got the ball at our 20 yard line, down by 4.

My hand along with my side were starting to feel a lot better as I got back under center. I snapped the ball, throwing a tightend post route to Z for a 20 yard gain and calling a timeout immediately. We only had one more timeout left since we had to use one when I got hurt earlier. Coach Greene got us all gathered up and gave us a pep talk.

“Firstly, I want to thank the defense for keeping this game close and not letting the other team blow this out of proportion. I also want to thank the special teams for getting us good field position. Now, I need the 11 guys on offense to thank them too. You need to finish this game and get the win! Hands in the middle! One for it all, or else it’s all for nothing!”

I gladly put my hand in the center, happy to be a part of this team. Three cheers, with the fans joining in on the last one, and I was back on the field to finish what I started.

I was in the shotgun with 5 receivers; motioning for the crowd to quit down. It’s amazing how sounds as loud as rockets blasting off could get muffled down to whispers in just a split second. I looked around at the anxious faces of the fans wanting me, needing me to do well.

Oh, it was on.

I snapped the ball and took a few steps back, throwing over the middle to A.D. for 15 yards. A.D. sprang back up and rushed towards the huddle. I stood up to call an audible and sneaked a look at the clock. 53 seconds left. I took the snap and took a 5 step drop, zipping a pass to Z who got to the 30 yard line. I ran to the line once more, dark visor and sweat clouding my vision. I threw a quick pass to my receiver on the left but he was stopped for only a 5 yard gain. We ran in a hurry up mode again.

I took another snap with 20 seconds left and threw a hard bullet to A.D. who the officials ruled in bounds at the 9 yard line. I was forced to burn our 3rd and final timeout. As I dragged myself to the sidelines, Rusty walked next to me, giving me words of encouragement. Coach Greene spoke to me about what play we could do and this time I actually listened. I guess he knows what he’s going, I thought.

“This kid is pretty good.” I overheard one fan say but couldn’t make out exactly which one it was.

There were 14 second left on the clock. About enough time to run some plays and get us into the endzone. I kept that positive thought in my head as the Seahawk players cheered me on my way to the huddle. I stared at the defensive coverage and moved a guy in motion. I hiked the ball and tried throwing to A.D. over the middle but he was sandwiched by 2 Steelers as another one almost intercepted the ball. A.D. glared at me as he was trotting back to the huddle.

“Try not to force anything.” He growled, but calmed down a little.

I nodded nervously as I called the play, breaking the huddle. Panting I hiked the ball with 10 seconds left on the clock, dumping off a pass to Jesse who got out of bounds at the two yard line. The offense looked at the clock and swore. There were only 4 seconds left, not even enough time to go got it on 4th down it we had to. It was third down, the final play, and we were just 2 yards away from victory.

I lined up in the shotgun with 3 receivers, a runningback and a tightend. I moved Z in motion and saw that the safety’s were covering my tightend, which means that the linebackers were blitzing me. I smirked as I took the snap. Them blitzing the play we’re using = touchdown for us.

I launched the ball into the slant route that A.D. was “darting” (Ha-ha, I made a joke) and he hauled it in for the touchdown.

The very same one that beat the darn Pittsburgh Steeler’s.

Qwest Field exploded in cheers as every single fan stood up in the stands to cheer. I pumped my arm victoriously, as my teammates ran about celebrating contagiously. A.D. tackled me with a big grin on his face and the rest of the team dog piled us. I laughed out loud as Rusty jumped on as well, arm cast and all. There was confetti thrown everywhere, but soon the craziness was gone. It was time for the two teams to talk to each other (with class) and for the opposing coach’s and quarterbacks to share a laugh or two.

Joe Thomas (Steelers QB, who was gigantic) found me and picked me off the ground, telling me how impressed he was. I asked him for an autograph (which he laughed at because he thought I was kidding) and he went to talk to Jameson about me. The Steeler linebacker who had almost made me go in my pants on a few occasions was (weirdly) actually a pretty nice guy. He grinned and introduced me to a lot of the other defensive players. I shook his hand as I caught sight of Nick walking around and asked him what happened.

“I messed up; it was probably the worst decision I’ve ever made in my life.” He replied coldly. “But I can see you whupped some butt.”

I thanked him and continued on my journey around the field to talk to other players. I think they all figured out I was pretty young because their voices were a lot deeper than mine. It was actually pretty funny. Usually, this is the time that the fans start to leave the stadium but today Qwest Field was still packed. I think I knew what they wanted. I glanced at Coach Greene and he nodded, telling me to proceed.

I strolled to the center of the field, on top of the Seahawk logo, and checked to make sure that I was on the big screen. I cracked my neck and took the glove off my left hand. The stadium grew silent as I unbuckled my chin strap, the clicks of the straps echoing around the stadium. I slowly lifted my helmet off of my head, craning my neck up to the reactions. I grinned stupidly.

And the world gasped.

“He’s just a kid...” The words boomed in the stadium, as Al Michaels said what everyone thought.

“No older than my grandson.” John Madden piped in.

It was an awkward silence. I chuckled nervously, murmured a quick “hi”, and then waved to the camera. Little kids tugged at their mother’s skirts, pointing at me and asking if they could get an autograph. The fathers were discussing the possible futures I could have. The Steeler defense gawked; shocked they had been outsmarted by someone as young as the offense watched in awe. I winked at the linebacker who I got to know so well. Reporters flooded onto the field, all heading for one person. They jotted down the possible titles to their articles. I snuck a look at on guy’s notepad which read ”Sweet 16” I answered a ton of questions which were all the same and said hi to anyone I knew before meeting up with Rusty.

More and more reporters got up in my face, angering me to the point where I was ready to take a guys camera and beat him in the head with it. He was really lucky that Rusty was next to me. I found myself shaking hands with John Madden and Al Michaels. I stared at the two of them, dumbly moving my arm up and down. They both told me that I could go far and that I had everything a quarterback needs, and then they left. I saw Coach O showing Coach Greene some plays that he had made up and Coach Greene looked very interested. It looked like Coach O could be leaving the Pirates for a better coaching job. Two little kids asked me to sign their footballs. I tried my best to make my signature look at least tolerable but ultimately failed. I apologized as they sulked away, frowning. I laughed to myself as I thought about all the crazy things that happened to me. From the Thunderbird game to meeting Jameson, and now to this. Yeah, life is weird.

I caught sight of Keith walking around with a Steeler’s jersey (go figure) and tapped him on the back. He was not happy. I gave him a sarcastic hello, and sneered at him. He glowered before walking away. I saw my mom and Jameson talking, Jameson looked at me and gave me a thumb up before leaving with my mom.

A group of girls the same age as Rusty and I came over to us giggling, asking if we were busy after the game. Rusty quickly told them no, and I laughed. We walked off into the sunset (locker room) dodging as many reporters as we could. Rusty growled at one guy who kept insisting on taking pictures. With the game football tucked under my arm, and a girl in the other one, I strolled towards the locker room like a true hero.

Oh yeah, did I mention I had some random girl in my arms?

Ha-ha, yep. Today was definitely a good day.

The author's comments:
What inspired me to write this peice was an idea about how certain people get trained at things when they're young. But what if it's in football?

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