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That's Dad in the photo -- some 33 years ago!
Eleven sweet words this “keeper of the grounds” would never forget
High school football was simpler in the old days. Teams could win 91-0 and not be accused of bullying.
Your alma mater could lose 71-7, the worst loss in school history, and the world kept spinning.
This brings us to the players who benefit most from a blowout game.
Some may call us benchwarmers. To me, that was a very misunderstood and derogatory term on our high school football team - at least to this member of the squad. The fifth and six string players were not benchwarmers, delegated to that piece of wood behind the coaches and other players.
That plank of wood was the designated spot where the superstars were treated for injuries from the field of battle that required medical attention.
I always preferred to think of players of my status as “keepers of the grounds.” Like the front liners on the field, we were taught to stand at attention with our chinstraps snapped. Be ready to charge the field at a moment’s notice.
We were the privates who marched in place on those cold fall nights, keeping the grass matted down so the captains, majors and generals had solid footing to rest their weary legs and ankles when they needed a break.
We took great pride when it came time to preventing that stray paper bag from entering the field of play. There could be an explosive device lurking inside.
There were other rules we followed. If one of your best friends was the quarterback and your locker partner, you didn’t talk to him if he stood beside you. “Listen Dan, your side of the locker is looking a little shabby. Can we talk about this on Monday?
No wait, that was my side of the locker.
Yours truly, #53. I would get legitimate grass stains on my uniform in the historic game.
When my sister brought my niece on the track during a game and told her to say “hi” to Uncle Bill, I knew it wouldn’t be in my best interest to turn around, give her a cute little wave and blow her a kiss. What if the coach happened to witness this demonstration of affection?
We keepers of the ground were also sideline lurkers roaming to stay out of the coach’s vision. Sometimes, we ended up in the wrong place. Looking for a receiver to deliver the next play in a crucial situation, the coach, on one occasion, grabbed the shoulder pads of the only player lurking behind him – and it happened to Milo’s Boy.
Realizing his awful mistake, the coach gave me a shove back to the dog pound while he searched for someone who knew what he was talking about. In today’s politically correct world, Milo and Wilma would’ve stormed the field and accused the coach of bullying their son. In reality, Milo should’ve thanked the coach for even considering using his boy Bud because it was only the first quarter.
The false alarm was the pre-cursor when I heard the 11 sweetest words a keeper of the grounds could ever hear. Strolling along the sideline as a rather lopsided game limped toward halftime with the local team firmly in control, the coach stopped in front of me, smiled and looked me squarely in the eye.
‘It looks like someone is gonna get some playing time, tonight.’ He added two even sweeter words: ‘Be ready.’
I emerged from the locker room after the halftime pep talk and charged the field toward the defining moment of my athletic career. I could hear the coach say, ‘Floyd, we’re starting you at running back. We’ve designed a playbook exclusively for your abilities.’
The third quarter ticked away. No call. All right, the fourth quarter is where I’d emerge as a superstar.
Six minutes to go. Five minutes. 4; 57 ‘Floyd, you’re in at outside linebacker. Now’ Two plays later. ‘Floyd, you’re outta there. Three minutes. ‘Floyd, in at inside linebacker. . .Go.’
One minute and counting. There’s a whole host of Husky tacklers in on that stop,’ said the radio announcer on mom’s kitchen radio as the final gun sounded. Her cassette recorder was running. She knew her son was somewhere in that pile.
I picked myself off the turf, took off my helmet, tucked it under my arm and examined the grass stain on my pants. I wondered if I should limp to the locker room.