All quarterbacks have different moves getting back to the pocket, some of them turning away from the line at the snap and scampering for the pocket, wasting as few of the allotted seconds as possible to get there, then turning again to look downfield, but most backpedal, moving back with near disdain, watching downfield. This has the advantage of letting the quarterback observe the play unfold from the start and the patterns develop. My own style was to get to the pocket as quickly as I could, turning and racing for it.
"Hut one, hut two, hut three."
The ball slapped into my palm at "three." I turned and started back. I could feel my balance going, and two yards behind the line of scrimmage I fell down—absolutely flat, as if my feet had been pinned under a trip wire stretched across the field—not a hand laid on me. I heard a great roar go up from the crowd. Suffused as I had been with confidence, I could scarcely believe what had happened. Cleats catching in the grass? Slipped in the dew? I felt my jaw go ajar in my helmet. "Wha'? Wha'?"—the mortification beginning to come fast. I rose hurriedly to my knees, the referee's whistle bleating, and I could see my teammates' big silver helmets with the blue Lion decals turn toward me, some of the players rising from blocks they'd thrown to protect me, their faces masked, automatons, prognathous with the helmet bars protruding toward me, characterless, yet the dismay was in the set of their bodies as they loped back for the huddle.
I joined them, there being no alternative. "Sorry, sorry," I said.
"Call the play, man," came a voice from one of the helmets.
The third play on my list was the 42, another running play, one of the simplest in football, in which the quarterback receives the snap, makes a full spin and shoves the ball into the 4 back's stomach. He has come straight forward from his fullback position as if off starting blocks, his knees high, and he disappears with the ball into the No. 2 hole just to the left of the center—a straight power play and one which seen from the stands seems to offer no difficulty.
I got into an awful jam with it. Once again the jackrabbit speed of the professional backfield was too much for mc. The fullback, Danny Lewis, was past me and into the line before I could complete my spin and set the ball in his belly. The fullback can't pause in his drive for the hole, which is what he must keep his eye on, and it is the quarterback's responsibility to get the ball to him. The procedure in the forlorn instance of missing the connection and holding the ball out to the seat of the fullback's pants as he tears by is for the quarterback to tuck the ball under his arm and try to follow the fullback into the line, hoping that he may have budged open a small hole.
I tried to follow Lewis, grimacing, and waiting for the impact, which came before I'd taken two steps. I was grabbed up by Roger Brown, a 300-pound tackle. For his girth he is called Rhinofoot by his teammates, or Haystack, and while an amiable citizen off the field, with idle pursuits—learning very slowly to play the saxophone, a sharp dresser, affecting a narrow-brimmed porkpie hat with an Alpine brush—on the field he is the anchor of the Lions' front line, an All-League player, and anybody is glad not to have to play against him.
He had tackled me high and straightened me up with his power, so that I churned against him like a comic bicyclist. Still upright, to my surprise, I began to be shaken around and flayed back and forth, and I realized that he was struggling for the ball. The bars of our helmets were nearly locked, and I could look through and see him inside—the first helmeted face I recognized that evening—the small, brown eyes surprisingly peaceful, but he was grunting hard, the sweat shining, and I had time to think, "It's Brown, it's
Brown!" before I lost the ball to him. Flung to one knee, I watched him lumber into the end zone behind us for a touchdown.
The referee wouldn't allow it. He said he'd blown the ball dead while we were struggling for it. Brown was furious. "You taking that away from me," he said, his voice high and squeaky. "Man, I took that ball in there good."