Football was fun, but I knew when to give it up

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Sports Editor

The other day in Greenville I came across a set of old shoulder pads, the same ones I had worn when I played peewee football.

No. I didn’t try them on.

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They seemed so much larger back then. The same could be said about the helmet and I remember when I put it on as a 10-year-old, my head felt like it was caught in a set of vice grips.

It really took a conscious effort on my part to hold my head straight. If I ever relaxed it for one second, then my head would either bob forward or bob backwards. As it was, I spent a majority of my peewee career either looking up at the sky or looking down at my cleats.

We had maroon jerseys and I wore No. 10 my first two years, a rather unexciting two digits in the eyes of a football player.

Then I switched to No. 30. I was in the sixth grade and when I saw that big white three coupled with that equally white zero, I thought, ‘now here’s a running back’s number if there ever was one.’

It was a known fact that in the NFL, numbers 20 to 49 were reserved for the tailbacks and fullbacks.

I had received one of those electric football games for Christmas. No, not the hand-held Mattell computer game, but the kind where you line up little miniature players, click a switch, and watch them vibrate around an aluminum field with no clue as to how the play was going to end up.

When it came time to stick the little numerals on the players, the game instructions clearly stated what numbers were reserved for what players. Quarterbacks were 10 to 19. Wide receivers were 80 to 89. Linemen and linebackers got everything else.

So here I was with No. 30.

In my first practice, I lined up at fullback. This was fine by me. Carry the mail a little bit, do a little blocking.

But for the next few weeks I changed positions like Elizabeth Taylor changed husbands. Cornerback, receiver, linebacker, tight end. Heck, I was all over the place and still wearing No. 30.

That was when I realized that life doesn’t always confirm to the rules, especially those specified in an electronic football game. Just because you wear the jersey doesn’t mean you have the skills or the talent.

What did I learn from all of this?

Leave football to the guys that can make the plays.

And that’s why those were the only set of shoulder pads I ever owned.