It was a hot Monday morning in July, a horrible day for any sort of athletic practice, however the football coaches thought it was perfect weather.
Andrew Knox grimaced as he stepped out of the locker room. The air was sticky and he felt almost like he
was trapped in a vacuum, it was hard to breath. The click clack of cleats on concrete signaled the exit of the rest of the team.
He was only a sophomore but he’d apparently made quite the impression on the head coach last year.
How was he going to survive varsity? He had no idea.
“Dude…is coach trying to kill us?” Andrew asked, a bead of sweat already forming on his brow.
“I wouldn’t doubt it, that mofo is crazy,” Mike Manning replied, the offensive guard was already dripping
perspiration. If anybody that saw him would’ve though practice was already over. “There’s no way in hell that I’m gonna practice in this.” Mike waved his arm towards the field.
“Oh really Manning?” Coach Adam Ross appeared behind him. “ If you want, you can just run for the entire
practice, I really don’t give a damn.”
Mike looked down at his cleats, not saying a word.
“That goes for anybody else who thinks they’re not going to give me a hundred percent today. I don’t care
how hot it is!” Coach Ross yelled. “ If you’re not going to give me that, get the hell off of my field. You can be replaced”
Coach Ross looked at his players, the reigning state champions, but that didn’t mean jack this year.
“You think that just because you won last year, gives you an excuse to slack off? You boys are in for a
helluva treat! Today is going to be the day that separates the men from the boys so suit up and get ready to hit someone.” He finished and began to walk towards the field.
Andrew sighed and grabbed his helmet from the ground. He looked at his ankles, the tape job was
sloppily done but he felt confident it would stick.
He was only a sophomore but he’d apparently made quite the impression on the head coach last year. How was he going to survive varsity? He had no idea.
Strapping up his helmet he jogged towards the sidelines.
He could feel the heat emanating from the turf.
This is going to be a very long day.
The jitters weren’t something Andrew felt often, but right now he was about ready to hurl all over the
field. The varsity defense was huge. The defensive line alone averaged at least 250 lbs across. He was sure he was going to get destroyed.
“Knox, c’mere!” shouted Coach Ross.
Andrew began to jog again and stopped in front of his coach. The man was more then a little intimidating.
Coach Ross resembled an army general, complete with a camouflage hat and a gray handlebar mustache, he also had the same mentality.
“Alright Knox, here’s the deal. Last year was, in my honest opinion, the best season we’ve ever seen a
running back have here,” Ross started, “but this is a whole new level. With the offense we run, you’re going to be the key cog in this system. The reason I’m pulling you aside is because you’re
freshman coach told me you’re scared of contact.”
Andrew shifted his weight from foot to foot uneasily.
Why are you surprised? I mean I doubt anyone likes getting hit.
“The problem with that is, at this level you’re not the fastest kid anymore. You’re jukes and spins and
cuts aren’t going to save you all the time. When we need a yard, when we need a foot, when we need an inch, I want to be confident that you lower your shoulder and get them. Can you do that?”
“Yessir.” Andrew nodded.
“Good.” Ross slapped Andrew’s helmet and waved him away.
The first hour or so of practice was simply going through plays, stretching, and position drills. Around
4:30, Ross stopped practice.
The team surrounded their coach and took a knee.
Coach Ross was smiling…that wasn’t a good sign. Ross was standing between two parallel ropes, each
one was about four feet long, a foot wide. They were spaced about three feet apart.
“Two weeks ago, I was talking to a friend from Chicago, he coaches there, he gave me an idea for a new
drill. Some of you may have heard of it, its called the Oklahoma drill.” His smile widened. “The concept is simple enough. On each side of these ropes we are going to have an offense and
defense. Offense at the top of the ropes, defense at the bottom. Running backs are going to line up behind and offensive lineman, and a defensive lineman is going to get in his stance in front of
the oline with a linebacker behind him. Offense, your goal is to run into the defense side, defense your job is to stop them. If you step outside the ropes, you get three laps. Are there any
Nobody raised their hand.
Oh crap…this is not gonna be good.
“Okay first up…Knox.”
Andrew got to his feet and looked at the ropes as Coach picked the other three members of the exercise.
“Here” Ross tossed Knox a football.
He quickly tucked it into the nook in his elbow and brought it into his body. His eyes looked up to see
the two defensive players his coach had picked. They were both seniors, one was actually Adam King, the defensive captain and all conference linebacker.
Crap, crap, crap! His mind screamed. Maybe he could trip and pretend he sprained something, or
maybe he could pretend to pass out. The thoughts of how to get out of this drill ran through his mind one by one but none of them seemed applicable to the situation.
“When I blow the whistle, go.” Ross said.
Knox took a deep breath and got into his stance.
The Whistle blew.
There was a loud CLACK as the linemen’s pads connected with each other. Andrew immediately began to
run forward, trying to cut around the linemen. The defensive tackle’s hand grabbed onto his jersey, Andrew drove one foot into the turf and spun from the right rope to the left tearing the
hand away from the cloth. Andrew looked down and saw his left foot inches from rope. He quickly regained his balance. Andrew smiled inside his helmet, that wasn’t too bad.
However, Andrew forgot about King, who was making charging right for him. This was it, this was the
moment. Knox glanced at the ropes, he was a foot away, he could make it. For the first time all practice, the fear of facing the varsity was gone. The nausea he felt in his stomach dissipated,
all he knew was that he had to cross that line.
Lowering his shoulder Andrew plowed right into the center of Adam King, who promptly wrapped his arms
around him and tried to push him back to where Andrew came from. Chopping his feet rapidly Andrew pushed forward, looking for just a little leverage, enough to juke or spin or something. Just like
that Andrew saw his chance, lifting his free hand he pressed it against the side of King’s helmet and shoved off. Knox ripped free and sprinted across the line.
Breathing heavily Andrew removed his helmet and dropped it to the ground along with the football, steam
radiated off his head. A hand clapped him on the shoulder.
“You’re ready for the big games,” it was Coach Ross, “good work.”
Andrew smiled and picked his helmet off the ground.
“Knox, lets go again.” Came the voice of Adam King who looked pretty pissed off.
Andrew picked up the ball and grinned. “Bring it.”
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