You're an offensive lineman and it's late in the game.
You're mentally tired. Sweat, snot and spit drips off your face as you look down to see your hand still shaking from when you crushed it in the first quarter. There is probably some nerve damage. Your knees ache, your back hurts so bad it's hard to stand up straight. You wince and feel a burning sensation. Your vision is blurred due to a cut on your forehead from your last collision with some alcoholic 6'5" 320lb War-Daddy running a 4.8, benching 500, and cleaning 401 at 17% body fat who has an outstanding warrant for his arrest, beats his girlfriend regularly and just insulted your mom with words you couldn't understand. His only instructions were to "Get to the ball, and be in a bad mood when you get there!!"
Now that just happened two plays ago and when you lined up for the next play you were still dizzy from what could probably be diagnosed as a minor concussion. But this is football and anything with "minor" attached to it just doesn't count. Now in the outside world you would probably miss a week of work and file some insurance claim, but here in your world you've got to suck it up for the next play. You're dizzy, can't get your balance, you barely hear the play, can't see, can't really hear the quarterback because of the 80,000 screaming fans, and then before you know it your man sacks the quarterback, takes off his helmet calls you a bitch while doing a dance.
Now the coach calls a timeout and you run over to the sidelines as your teammates yell "Come on! Get it together man!" The fans boo you relentlessly because they didn't drive 3hrs on a Saturday to see you blow the game because of a little headache. You barely make it over to the sideline because you're still dizzy and here comes your "motivational" speech from some wide-eyed 5'8" 280 lb redneck with a wad of chew in his mouth. "What in the heeelllll was that?! Get your ass down, your hands up and punch his @#$!. Didn't you hear the `River call?! They were in a 50 package with a weak side blitz. You know you've got to slide right you big dumb @#$!*! You made a commitment to this team!! Where is your pride son?!! People are counting on you! On YOU!! How can you call yourself an athlete and take that abuse in front of all these people and millions at home? God-bless son, what do your parents think? Get your head in the game!! If you don't want to play, hell, I got three freshman over there that will play for your fat ass!! I'll suit up someone from the stands before I watch you do that crap again!! I'd rather have my little sister out there giving 100% than watch you half-ass it out there because you're tired and you don't want to give the effort. Now get out there and do your job boy!"
So now you get in the huddle and here comes the quarterback with the call: "Larry Left, 90 XY out on Two, on Two. Ready ....BREAK!!
So here's what goes through your head: "90...90....What is 90? That's a 7 step drop. He needs lots of time. Damn my hand hurts! Larry Left. OK, I've got the tight-end on my side so the 7 technique will be wide. The Mike is right and I'm uncovered, so I've got the Sam to the end to the Corner. Easy. Oh crap, they eagled down and War-Daddy is lined up with me, and I don't have help because the other guard has a two technique and the center is uncovered and he has to slide. Better go from a two point stance, this guy is quick."
"Ready set, Black 280.....Black 280....Hut!! Hut!!.
He engages. You get a good punch. He counters with an inside rip. You open your hip, lock out your right hand and smash his @#$!* into the ground and kick him for emphasis. You look up and the Mike came on a delayed blitz and the center got tangled up with the two technique so it's between you and the Mike, between you and the quarterback getting the ball to the open receiver, between you and victory. You lunge, get a piece of his knee with your already smashed hand. You probably just broke it. It's not pretty, but you get enough of him. The ball is released and . . . Touchdown!!
After the win you sit in a pool of blood, dirt, sweat, snot, and someone else's blood. You smell like you slept in a garbage can. You sit there with 2 ice packs on each shoulder and an ice pack on your neck and one on your hand which is still throbbing. You have to get a trainer to cut the inches of tape and equipment and special padding you use to get your body ready for the game because you are simply too tired to move. As he works the tape off you vaguely hear him talking about how great the game was and how you're the man. He asks what you're doing after the game. You mumble, "I'm not sure, thanks man", and hobble off the table. The shower feels good but it stings like hell because of all the open cuts. You use shampoo instead of soap because it's easier to lather up. After a game it is so hard to do even the most minute things. You've just given 100%. People usually never push their body that far.
You get dressed, hug your teammates, and push through all the girls, flashing cameras, parents and painted drunk students, hearing people whispering about how big you are and pointing you out in the media guide. You wish your family could be there but they're all the way back in Texas. You can't wait to call them. You don't want to be around anyone really but other linemen because linemen are the only people who know what you go through. A kid runs up and asks for an autograph. You take time out for the kid because you were once a kid and remember how much you looked up to other athletes. You smile after you see his excitement, wink at his parents who say "Thank you", and hope that you could have some positive influence on his young life.
Getting back to the dorm you call your brothers and sister. They tell you how awesome you are and how all their friends saw you and you're still the man. Your mom brags about you and sounds excited. Your dad tells you he loves you and you tell him the same and talk about how you miss him and how you wish everyone could be here like it was back in High School. He tells you how proud he is to have you as a son, you get teary eyed and you talk about seeing everyone in December and hang up.
Next thing you know you're out all night and now you're with your family away from home. The other linemen. Eating as only linemen can eat at some 24 hr hole in the wall, laughing about things only linemen could laugh about. As you sit there, everything seems like it's in slow motion and you think about how great these guys are and how you literally love them and how you'll never forget moments like these. You go back to the dorm and pass out from exhaustion. Satisfied with the day.
You're satisfied because you know that you play a sport that only a few can play. It takes a unique person to strap it up and go out and hit people. It's even more unique to have the mental and physical makeup of an offensive lineman, a gentle giant. To be bigger and stronger than anyone you know. To be humble enough not to need all the attention. To be crazy enough to go through practice, mean enough to physically dominate some one else, and smart enough to pick up on the playbook and never, ever be allowed to make a mistake. Linemen don't play for the attention, the money, or the women. They play for the love of the game. Every lineman hates practice because their practice is the hardest. But the game is a drug. It keeps you coming back no matter what. Linemen play with the knowledge that everyone else depends on them to win. They only want respect from teammates, opponents, and family. They play for the pure satisfaction of giving it everything they have and coming through when everyone is counting on them. They play to win. They play for the pure essence of the game.
Former Offensive Lineman and Football Purist.