“Blue-43! Blue-43!” I glance over to make sure all the guys are in the correct positions as I yell the play. Once I’m sure they are I yell the next word over the pounding rain as loud as I can without screaming. “Hike!”
Surely enough the ball is thrown into my hands and as the rest of my team distracts the rivals, I bolt down the field with the fate of this game left purely in my hands. My eyes drift up to see the clock. I have a little under 25 seconds to reach the end zone and claim a few points for my team.
As fast as I possibly can, I push myself to sprint harder and harder. My cleats pound one after the other into the green turf as I maneuver around players of the rival team.
Another look at the clock tells me I’m already down to 10 seconds. I run as if my life depends on it. Almost as if I’m in a long race and the finish line is getting closer and closer. I take longer and quicker strides as the timer winds down.
I stretch the one arm with the ball as far as I can and take one giant leap of faith. Well if we’re being technical it was more of a dive.
With the sound of cheers and boos I get back on my feet to see the referee signal saying a touchdown was made. My teammates bustle over and start jumping on me and sort of cause a standing pile of disgusting and smelly guys.
“Alright. Alright, guys.” I get their attention. “The game’s not over just yet. We can celebrate later.”
We make the decision to kick the ball since there’s an opportunity of more points. Plus it was a no brainer since we had an amazing punter.
With hardly any communication we set up a play where he’d have a clean shot of the goal post. We’d all been playing together for so long that we had it down to a science of how to do things on the field.
The ball sat up for the punter to kick it and he did. It never failed to surprise me of how swiftly and effortlessly he could kick the ball and still make it. It’s as if he didn’t even have to try anymore.
I watched the football glide through the air and straight through the goal post. Our guys all immediately crowded around the punter, Garret Eli, and lifted him off the ground and carried him around in a celebratory manner.
After all the glorious hoots and hollers of pure happiness, we all eventually made our way to the locker room. Most of us took our heavy equipment off and were left in nothing but our cleats, socks and pants.
We all took our seats on the benches as we waited for coach to come waltzing in. He was known as one of the greatest college football coaches of our time, and although he was a great guy he was also very critical.
With his clipboard in hand and his headphones and microphone around his neck, he walked in while looking around at each and every one of us. Almost as if he was preparing a speech for each and every on of his players.
“Nice game, boys. You had me worried towards the beginning, but you pulled through. We need to really work on defense so I bet you can all guess what we’ll be doing at our next practice,” he grinned ear to ear as we all groaned knowing what absolute horror was soon to come. “As for now, rest up, and don’t do anything stupid. I’ll see you bright and early for workouts tomorrow.”
I was surprised that the speech hadn’t been longer, but I guess he was just as ready to get out of here as we were and cut it short for today. Everyone got up immediately and made way for the showers and just as I was about to follow, coach signaled for me to follow him.
He headed for his office and I knew what was about to happen and it wasn’t going to be pretty.
After the long, muddy, and tiring game, the last thing I wanted was to get a long lecture from my coach about all the things I did wrong in this game, but there wasn’t much I could do now to get out of it.
“Close the door, Thompson.” He said as he reclined in his office chair.
I obeyed and closed the door softly before turning to face my coach. Overall he didn’t look like a scary dude, but once you got to know him you knew that he was scariest while silent.
That’s always the calm before the storm.
He turned around so the back of his chair was facing me and he was staring around the room at all the picture frames hanging on the walls. Each one held a different memory and picture. The chair swiveled around once again so we were facing each other once again.
The good part about this whole thing is that I’ve seen him angrier than this before, and that’s saying something considering his facial expression was absolutely vicious right now, but at least it wouldn’t be as bad.
“Sit.” He said and I immediately plopped into the chair closest to me in front of his desk.
I watched diligently as he rose from his plush and very comfortable looking piece of furniture and walked over to the wall full of memorabilia. He plucked one picture frame off the wall and brought it back to his desk.
For now, he set it aside, but I knew already that picture would have some significance in this conversation. He folded his hands and looked down at the picture before raising his head to look directly at me once again.
“Do you see this ring I have on my hand here, Thompson?”
I straightened up and looked at the ring more closely. “Yes, sir.”
“Do you know what this ring is, Thompson?” He pressed further.
“Yes, sir.” I repeated the two words again.
“What is it exactly?” He asked a lot sweeter...which was a good thing considering coach was anything but sweet when angry.
I stared at the ring and admired it before looking the coach in the eye. “It’s the ring for the National Championship. Your team won it in 2008. Score was 42-12. You went undefeated the whole season.”
“Do you see the problem I have here?”
Before I could even think of a response he picked up the frame and tossed it at me. I caught it in my hands and after taking my eyes off my coach I looked down at the picture.
I immediately knew what it was.
“My problem is that we haven’t won the championship since that year. In that picture you have there is the team from last year, which you were on, we are at the championship, but we didn’t win. Did we, Thompson?”
I glance at the picture noticing it all too well. We were all smiling since we’d just gotten to the game and it was about to start. We’d went undefeated until that game and thought we had it in the bag. Our team was one of the best in the country, but that just wasn’t enough to pull off a win.
“No, sir. We didn’t.” I said as I lightly placed the frame back on his desk.
“Yeah. I know we didn’t. Now do you think we’re ever going to win if you keep screwing around on the field, Thompson?!” His voice was now raised and I was prepared for the worst.
I know what I had done wrong today and I was ready to own up to my mistakes.
“No, sir.” I admitted.
“Then why did you do it?! We’ve done plenty of drills to get you to throw the damn ball properly!!” His voice boomed against the walls of his rather small office. I knew for certain that all my teammates would be hearing this conversation as well as myself.
“It was an honest mistake, sir. I’m sorry and I promise it won’t happen again.”
“Better not. You may be one of our best players on the team as well as in the whole NCAA, but don’t think I can’t move you to second string. Now if you’ll excuse me I have press to talk to.”
With that he quickly left the room. I sat in the chair for a moment longer absolutely embarrassed and more angry at myself than anybody.
I pushed myself out of the chair and made my way to the showers. Everyone was nearly gone except a few stragglers. They all probably got out as quickly as they could to go celebrate our victory.
“Hey, Thompson!” A cheery voice said from behind me.
“Hey, Mark! What’s up?” I asked as I opened my locker and began to grab a few things.
“So there’s a big party at our fraternity tonight. We were wondering if you’d make an appearance?” He asked sounding hopeful.
“As tempting as it sounds, Mark, I’m going to have to pass.” I told him with a sad smile.
“Oh, alright. You’ll be missed, man. We haven’t seen you at a party in ages. You’re always welcome to our parties though. No one has been able to break your record to this day.” He punched my upper arm in a playful way with a chuckle. “I guess I’ll catch ya later.”
He grabbed his baseball cap off one of the benches before giving a nod as a sign of good-bye and shoving it down over his curly hair. I watched as he hurried out the door, probably in a rush to get to the party.
Deep down I envied him. It wasn’t all that long ago where I attended parties at least weekly. They were always filled to the brim with girls, booze, music, and drugs.
Although I’d rather give up on my few months of good behavior and party hard, I knew better. There was no way I’d risk my scholarship that I worked my whole life for in exchange for a couple hours of rebellion.
With a shut of my locker I made my way to the shower.
After I washed all the grime and sweat off of my skin, I dressed in a simple outfit and made my way out of the locker room and to my car. The fact that I was going to get home and take a long and much needed rest was the only thing that kept my mood up at this point.
Once I pulled into the parking lot of the apartment building, I retrieved the keys out of the ignition and climbed out of my car.
I headed for the doors and was happy to be back. Sleep was calling my name and I didn’t know how much longer I could stay awake.
As I was about to open the door to my apartment, my phone have off a certain ringtone. One that signaled updates in the sports world...ESPN to be more exact.
All the scores of all football games were up and I skimmed through them all as I twisted the door knob and walked into the apartment.
“Hey. Didn’t miss me too much did ya?” I asked knowing it’d irritate Mya. The fact that she gets so upset when I say things like that to her makes me smirk in accomplishment.
“Not one single bit.” She replied rather sassily.
“We both know that’s a big lie.” I exited out of ESPN after checking up on other teams’ games and looked over to her with my smirk still glued onto my lips.
That smirk immediately left when I noticed a fluffy, wet dog sleeping beside her.
“Um, Amaya? Do you mind explaining why there’s a mutt in the apartment?” I laid my phone on the counter and crossed my arms, hoping to seem a bit more intimidating.
“Uh...what are you talking about?” She said the second part quicker and more squeaky than the first almost like she was nervous.
She moved in front of the dog almost like she thought if she could hide it temporarily I would forget about the whole thing.
“Don’t play dumb with me, princess.” I said and stepped closer.
The dog got up and sat right in front of my feet and looked like he wanted attention. It was hard for me to keep my angry face on with this dog, but I cleared my throat and kept up my act.
“This.” I pointed. “This is what I’m talking about.”
“Oh come on. You have to admit. She’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen and she was just outside in the rain by herself.”
“I’m sure he would’ve been fine on her own without you.” I said trying to convince myself more than her.
“No. She probably would’ve gotten hit by a car or sick from all the rain.” She said sounding irritated with me.
As much as I thought the dog was adorable, I still needed to stand my ground. “Listen, Amaya. We share this apartment. It’s not all yours or all mine, but I have half a say in what we do here. I don’t want a dog running around here 24/7.”
“Why not? She’s not bothering you. I’ll take care of her and all expenses.”
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t almost take up her offer. But in the end I was tired and angry after a long game and day. I just wanted to lock myself in my room and listen to music until I fell asleep.
“No. I’m not changing my mind, Amaya. Get rid of it by tomorrow.” I pushed past the dog and Mya and made my way to my room.
I shut the door behind me and immediately started listening to my music before lying in my bed. No matter how upset I was, my fatigue overpowered it.
It wasn’t long after I laid down when sleep eventually drowned out my anger. When I woke up again it was a little past 2:30am, and I was honestly just wanting to correct my faults.
I got out of bed and made my way quietly to the kitchen. With a cold glass of water and a bag of chips I made my way to the couch. I found the remote and found the highlights of the game that I recorded knowing if want to go over it to see where I went wrong precisely in the game.
Just as I was about to press play, I felt the couch dip beside me. I looked over and saw the dog sitting right next to me. He watched me closely with his tongue hanging out and almost pleading for my attention.
I couldn’t resist it any longer, I reached out and pet the dog’s head and scratched behind his ears, which he loved. He ended up curled up beside me and watching the highlights of the game with me.
“And you see this is where Thompson made his biggest mistake of the game. He throws the ball down the field beautifully and an amazing spiral to it, but unfortunately he threw it way too far. Wells couldn’t have caught that even if he wanted to.”
“You would think with him being in football for so long, he’d know that he threw it far too long.”
“He was the starting quarterback all through high school and still in college...-” I stopped listening to them babble on about how long I’ve been in the position as I hear footsteps drawing closer to the couch.
My finger hovers over the channel switch button just in case it’s Mya. No need in her knowing.
I would be lying if said I wasn’t 99.9% positive it really was Mya so I throw on one of those smirks that she despises most and turn in her direction.
“Wow. Could at least find a scarier weapon, princess.” I laugh noticing a giant stuffed teddy bear raised above her head as if she’s about to hit me with it.
“It was the first thing I could grab. You shouldn’t be creeping around like that and scaring me half to death, Theodore.” She glared at me, but in a kind of cute way. Mya never really scared me. She was like a little kitten. Cute, but never dangerous no matter how hard she tried.
She sat down on the couch and I immediately hit the channel switch button.
“Whatever.” I said before finally stopping on a movie marathon of Harry Potter.
Why did I have a really bad feeling that this was going to be a long night?