Notes, quotes and a thought or two...
Last week, I ventured down memory lane and recalled my first-ever football practice in seventh grade.
That was the day that I fell in love with the game of football and learned that I liked to hit people.
Not long after that first practice, it was time for our first-ever game of seventh grade football. The opponent was the Starkville seventh grade team.
As we were doing our pregame stretches, I couldn’t help but notice how big the seventh graders were from Starkville.
The Yellowjackets got the football to begin the game so I trotted out to my position, which was a defensive end/outside linebacker as memory serves me. I couldn’t help but notice a hulking kid in the opposing huddle as the coaches gave them the play.
The Yellowjackets broke the huddle and I was lining up outside of their left tackle, who was the hulking kid I had been spying. When he came to the line, it was even worse than I had feared. The kid had a full-grown beard and was easily 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds.
Now that may not sound like much, but considering I might have weighed 125 pounds soaking wet, I was at a huge weight disadvantage. Then there was the kid’s facial hair. When I say he had a full-grown beard, I mean it seemed like the ones those NFL linemen play with now and look like something out of Grizzly Adams. This was no ordinary seventh grader. This was a full-grown man in my opinion.
Then the Yellowjackets snapped the ball and Grizzly Adams fired off on me. He took me by the shoulder pads and drove me five yards down the field and drove me into the ground, something like a scene from “The Blind Side” when Michael Oher mauls some private-school kids.
This happened for five or six more plays as the Yellowjackets drove the ball down the field, all right at me. They eventually reached the end zone, and misery was over for a few minutes.
Old Coach Howard was on my butt all the way to the sidelines, telling me how I needed to get off the block. I’ll never forget my response.
“Coach, have you really looked at the kid. He’s got facial hair. He has more of a beard than you do coach.”
Coach Howard responded in true coach’s fashion. “I don’t want to hear any excuses, just play ball and hit somebody.”
Coach Howard patted on the back and told me to get a drink of water as he wandered by the Starkville huddle. He walked pretty close to old Grizzly Adams and then came to me on the sidelines and gave me some more words of wisdom.
“Dang Robertson, that boy’s a monster. You better not let him get his hands on you or he might kill you. Best thing you can do is shoot the gap or run away from that dude.”
That’s exactly what I did the rest of the night. I either shot the inside gap with a stunt or tried some of those Lawrence Taylor pass rush moves I had been watching.
Eventually old Grizzly Adams got tired and I was able to run around him, but I learned a couple of valuable lessons that night.
First off, don’t ever give up, no matter how overwhelming the odds.
And secondly, size does matter in football. There’s a reason the guys in the NFL are either huge or fast and some are both.
Thirdly, no matter how good or smart you think you are, there’s always somebody better, stronger or smarter. After my first couple of weeks of practice, I needed bringing down a notch or two. The experience brought me down to earth a good bit.
And then there’s the most important thing. Coach Chuck Friend told me this one day after a particularly rough high school practice where I had gotten knocked around pretty good. Walking off the practice field, Coach Friend came up to me and told me, “Son, everybody gets knocked down. It’s what you do after you get knocked down that matters. You’re going to get knocked down a lot in life. It’s what you do after you get knocked down that will define you as a man. You can either lay there or get up and fight back.”
Those words have served me well over the years and Coach Friend was right. Life is going to knock you down. Life isn’t fair and has knocked me down more times than I can count.
That’s why sports is an important part of our society. It teaches us some life lessons that stick with us for a lifetime.
Robbie Robertson is sports editor for The Newton County Appeal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org