I don't know what
it is that wakes me at this time every morning, but I have been doing it since
I was a rookie. That's nine years of Southern California summers, waking just
before the trainer makes his rounds.
The first thing I
see is the white plaster ceiling. I always sleep on my back with my legs
elevated. It gives me low-back pain but keeps my knee from swelling. Down the
dormitory hall I hear the squeak of Dobie's crepe-soled Riddell trainer's
shoes. I always wake before the squeaks. I don't know why.
I wake up
completely, instantly, my mind alert and functioning at full speed. I begin to
concentrate on the day's challenge. It's a good feeling, a slight rush. It's
concentration that keeps me intact, and in this business staying intact is what
it's all about. I believe in the psychology of the victim. Alert is not only a
good feeling, it's necessary. You have to make your breaks and never let
Dobie Rank, the
trainer, rattled the door open.
get up. Breakfast at seven, the taping schedule is posted." He moved down
I stretched and
listened to him continue his wake-up circuit. He would finish waking all the
veterans on the first floor and then climb to the second floor and start
rousing the rookies.
Today is the last
of two-a-day practices. Two-a-days are tough, with the humiliation and the heat
of 85� Southern California days. We train in California because Texas summers
are brutal. Today is also a cut day. Some guys can't stand the anxiety of
waiting out the cuts, waiting for the Turk. But anxiety is the price of living
in the future, and I'll pay it.
L.D. Groover, my roommate, stirred on the other bed. He's a defensive tackle;
I'm a cornerback. An ice pack slid from L.D.'s knee to the floor with a muted
splash. "Damn. My bones have gone soft."
slamming up and down the hall. L.D. switched on his radio. "... and the
pollution index is a big 105...that's unacceptable...and now the CB song of the
day, God's Got His Ears On."
A phone rang down
the hall. L.D. leaned over and took our phone off the hook. On cut days Coach
Buck Binder phones players and has them bring their playbooks to the coaches'
wing. We disconnect the phone on cut days. It won't keep us from getting cut,
but it will make it more difficult for Buck.