SI Vault
 
A CLASS IN BEGINNING FOOTBALL WAS NO PLACE FOR A 125-POUND NEOPHYTE
Dan Peterson
November 17, 1980
Evanston Township High School wasn't looking for 5'5", 125-pound football players in the 1950s, or so I told myself. The truth was, I wanted no part of contact, especially the college-level blocking and tackling that made the Wildkits the terrors of the Suburban League and the state of Illinois. To put it plainly, I was as short on courage as I was on inches. I knew my place all right: in the flag football league at the Evanston YMCA.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 17, 1980

A Class In Beginning Football Was No Place For A 125-pound Neophyte

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

As I braced myself for the worst, the rest of the class—as it had done on every preceding "duel"—started cheering. Some, including Dugger, were yelling for Bull, which convinced me that both guys were indeed sadists. Others, however, were pulling for me. When I looked around to see who was supporting me, Wayne Bock nodded and said, "Stay in there, kid, and take him low."

I got down in a four-point defensive stance, keeping my eyes glued on Bull's down hand. As I saw it come up, I tried to submarine him, to "strip the play," as Coach Ingwersen said. But Bull was no stranger to such tricks. He got down even lower and faster than I. He peeled me off the ground with his huge forearms, and then lifted me up just enough so that he could use his stocky legs to drive through me. A perfect block.

Whatever ploy I tried on offense or defense, Bull demolished. When we finished, the cheering turned to clapping. There had been real contact all right, and Bull had hit me with some shots I'd never forget. But I was satisfied. I would always know what it feels like to be hit all-out by a major-college lineman.

The Thursday scrimmage was by far the most exciting event of the eight weeks. Coach Ingwersen divided us into two even teams and, for a change, put us into logical positions. I lined up at right halfback.

I was happy to see the D-Boys on our team, Durham at right guard, Dugger at right tackle. We also had Dick Walker, probably the best all-round player in the class, at right end. Spike Harvey was on the other team, as was Wayne Bock, who played left defensive tackle, opposite Durham, Dugger...and me.

Our plays weren't very sophisticated, mostly dives and sweeps. Coach couldn't have cared less. Plays, he said over and over, didn't win for you. No sir, execution, i.e., blocking and tackling—that wins football games.

As might be expected, our execution left much to be desired. I had not gained one yard in eight weeks, but on that final Thursday, on one magic play, I found out what it's like to cross the line of scrimmage without getting shellacked.

It was a straight dive, a play Bock had stopped all morning, burying me and my blockers under his massive frame every time. Just before the snap our left half went in motion. As he passed in front of me, I thought about Coach's disdain for men-in-motion and wondered what the halfback might contribute to this play.

The ball was snapped and the quarterback came down the line as I stepped forward. After taking the handoff, I closed my eyes, put my head down and lunged in anticipation of the usual rib-shattering impact. But there was none this time. In fact, when I opened my eyes, I didn't even see Bock.

Because I knew every player's assignment, a benefit of Coach Ingwersen's policy of teaching us few plays and making us learn them from all 11 positions, I didn't have to look around to see what had happened to Bock. The D-Boys, tired of being shown up, had executed a "post and lead" block on him, Durham breaking his charge while Dugger drove him off somewhere in the direction of our left end. I looked past all that.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4