When I played football for the first time, I was an undersized, overweight teen who was obsessed with Madden and the NFL, but was not a very physically active person. I watched Osi Umenyiora tear around offensive tackles and thought, “I want to sack the quarterback.” Here is the thing though. When you are too short, too fat, and too slow, there are not that many positions for you. As a slow guy, they put me with the linemen, but I was so small that I was getting thrown to the side with ease. We settled on tight end because I was probably more similar to the wide receivers, but also could not catch a football to save my life.
The start was rough. I never worked with private football tutors, so my technique was as flawed as my body type. Defensively, they put me at nose tackle because I did not understand that the pass rushers were linebackers in our defensive scheme and I kept saying I wanted to be a defensive end. Looking back, it is obvious that my football knowledge from watching every Sunday and playing Madden did not translate well to the actual field.
We did a drill called an Oklahoma that showed me how out of my depth I was. Two players line up on offense and defense. On offense, one gets the ball and the other blocks. On defense, one tries to rush the blocker and the other gets a free hit on the running back. The goal of the ball-carrier is to choose the correct side of the blocker to run around and hope that the linebacker does not meet you there first. I got the ball and lined up opposite my childhood best friend at linebacker. He was far more athletic than me and played football long before I started. I can still feel the hit as he wrapped me up and dropped me before I even knew which hole I was running into.
I thought about quitting a few times during the season, but there was one person that helped motivate me to keep going. Every practice, there was a ton of running, but especially so at the end of practice when we ran sprints at zero energy. I learned that I had exercise-induced asthma as the result of coaches asking me why I was always breathing so hard. The answer was, “so I can live.” I wanted to quit every time we ran, but one player never quit. He was one of our linemen, so he was on the heavy side anyway, but this dude was large even for a large guy. Not to disparage him, but his weight was significantly more than anyone on the team. He was not always able to sprint, but he never did not run. Even when we had our hands on our knees sucking in air, this guy chugged around the track at a consistent jog, something that stunned me because I have never run a full mile without switching to walking before the finish. His determination pushed me to never give up because he never game up on himself.
I look back at my football times with great pride. My family never expected me to make it past two-a-days, let alone finish a full season with the team. By the end of the season, I was in the best shape of my life. Even though I quit because I got sick of conditioning drills during the rest of the winter, I had put in the work when it mattered. I ended up growing ten inches and gaining 60 pounds the next year, finally growing into the body that I wish I had while playing, but I do not regret the experience. Football taught me what hard work truly means and I would never trade that for anything. You might worry about the safety risks, but football is a great way to learn to be an adult and I encourage everyone to seek football tutors near me to give you the motivation to stay in it.