Memories of a high school;br; football career – and Chubba

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 3, 1999

The other day approaching the Blooming Prairie football field, I could smell it again.

Friday, September 03, 1999

The other day approaching the Blooming Prairie football field, I could smell it again.

Email newsletter signup

The foulest, fullest, most mind-altering perfume I’ve ever known: High school football.

As I approached the field, every step were as if the ground beneath me released a puff of a sweat so sweet it knocked me back a good 10 years.

My mind drifted. I found myself in single file chopping up and down a hillside like those found in boot camper’s nightmares.

Like most of us, I was what you’d call a worker ant in my school’s football lineage. But instead of carrying granules of dirt, I got the dirt kicked out of me routinely.

In the ninth grade, my dad overheard one father say, "Chubba and that Slater-kid were the best players on the field today."

Chubba once mined the snot out of my face with his fists during a disagreement in Little League. Of course, we were teammates at the time.

In the 10th grade, Coach may as well have written my football destiny in stone. He told me to play back-up to Chubba, our Riverdale-dufus fullback, who just so happened to be as breakable as a steel marble.

I scored one touchdown on B-squad that year. It was on a fullback middle screen, on which the line sticks, then releases and sets up a wall as the pass rushers charge to the quarterback. The QB dumps to me, who has escaped through the rushers. With the line before me, we charge and I score, running 63 yards. I played it classy in the end zone.

That was in 10th grade. The same year I was taped to a brick column in the senior hallway. I find it hard to understand outcasts shooting at athletes these days. When I grew up, the athletes picked on the other not-so-athletes.

I was in typing class, when a senior lynch mob led by an AC/DC-loving halfback, charged the door and chanted my last name as I watched the red second hand wind down to the bell and my teacher feigned he didn’t know I was about to be glued.

My football coach found me. In fact, it turned out to be a bonding experience in more ways than one. After he unwound me, we laughed about it in the bathroom. He was a guy, big, balding and mustached.

Needless to say, I didn’t leave a good impression of my football ability hanging there on that column.

The last two real good memories I have of football:

1) My coach watched a kickoff return once that fell to me. Only he didn’t know it was me. Soon after I nuked, puked and darted my way for a touchdown, I heard him holler excitedly, "Who ran that ball?!?"

2) Coach gave me one chance as a junior to catch a fullback middle screen. It went beautifully. The defensive line bit hard, I got free and the line was ready to rock in front of me.

The QB hit me, I turned and swept right, striking out on my own, jettisoning the wall. I promptly was stuck on my can by a coy Two Harbors linebacker. The same linebacker who used to edge me in the 200-yard individual medley.

I quit football three practices into my senior year. I wanted to play halfback, went the wrong way on a play, got demoted to fullback, went the wrong way again, and got buried on the offensive line. I quit on the spot.

It wasn’t worth the pain anymore. I was a baseball player to begin with.

But that’s another story.

I’ll tell you how it starts.

Chubba and I were both catchers from Little League on up. One of us didn’t last behind the plate for long. I can smell the dust in my nostrils just thinking about it.