As some of you may know, I tend to post old TSN shtuff on here. Kinda a backup file of sorts. This piece was supposed to be in SYTCB : Week 2, an assignment created by The Electric Quill. I figuered it was worthy of a second home.
Looking through a tunnel of hardened plastic, Brent could see it was over. The distant whistle rang is his ears gently, but the pop of the starters pistol slammed him like a knife to the gut. He could feel hands on him. On his back, head, and derriere. There was a crowd of fans screaming, but not at him. He had long been forgotten by them.
Limping in a clean uniform towards his locker room, the teams trainer was the first to impede his path.
"I am going to miss the times we had together."
Was that it? Brent just nodded in acknowledgment and went forward. In his plastic tunnel, all he could see was his soon to be former team mates filing slowly into the locker room. He wanted that last drop of camaraderie before he drifted into oblivion.
His position coach jogged up beside Brent and offered," You were one of my favorite Running Backs to coach. Even after you lost your ACL."
It didn't mean the world to Brent, but it was a small consolation to take with him to the inevitable.
Seven years in the NFL is what most would read about him if they ever tripped upon his bio on wikipedia. Maybe there would be a mention of his collegiate prowess, though not in great detail. Brent had played at a small college that had never had a game televised nationally. He had never played in a bowl game, nor a college All Star game. He did rush for over 100 yards in 17 games
Brent was drafted in the 8th round by an expansion team that was desperately trying to fill roster spots. Brent didn't even bother to hire an agent. None had contacted him. His family told him to give the NFL a chance, but to remember he should interview for other jobs before training camp in case he was cut. Brent only listened to his mothers advice. She had raised him by herself after his father had left 4 days before Brents 3rd birthday. She never married again, nor dated much. Her energies were spent trying to ensure Brent had everything he desired. She worked long hours at a garment factory for little pay. Brent was a latch-key kid throughout his teenage years. He stayed to himself and read books. He wasn't interested in sports, and hardly ever watched any television. He had no siblings, and would spend his days waiting for his mother to pull herself into the front door after a long shift at work. He saw her determination and told himself that he wanted to be like her in that regard.
Brents life changed in the 11th grade. He had become smitten with a cheerleader. Like many boys his age, he wanted to be near her, but unnoticed. He would sit in the bleachers after school just to watch her do her program. One day he decided he had the courage to approach her. She was a goddess to him. Skin darker than a Hershey's chocolate bar without a blemish. Lips soft and full, and brown eyes that were pools he longed to dive into. What he didn't know was that the quarterback on his high schools football team also wanted to be near her.
Brent trudged across the field towards her as the cheerleaders were gathered on the sideline watching the football team practice. The quarterback saw him and hatched a plan to deter him. He yelled Brents name loud. As Brent turned to look, the ball was inches away from smashing his face. Instinctively he caught the ball with one hand effortlessly. As he cupped the ball, he noticed the team was charging at him while screaming a blood curdling wail. They intended to pile up on him. Brent was wearing his best pair of slacks and knew his mother would be upset if he got grass stains on the cream colored fabric. Brent proceeded to dodge the first group of would be tacklers. He darted through a maze of players as if they were statues, then took off with speed he himself had never known he had. He easily outran the team, and didn't stop running until he was off the school grounds. Trying to catch his breath, Brent realized he was so mad at the stunt that was pulled, he had inadvertently left with the ball still tucked in his arms. The next day, Brent got off the school bus and found the football coach standing there waiting for him.
"Can I please have the football back son?"
Brent handed him the ball and muttered an apology.
"That's OK. I saw what occurred and can't blame you. All I really want to know is why you haven't tried out for my team? I would start you day one if you decided to suit up."
"I have to ask my mom first", Brent told the coach. He figured that playing would be his path to the girl.
After his mother agreed, Brent joined the team and was an instant star. He rushed for 1,684 yards that year, then 1,986 yards the next year. His teams lost more than they won, and few college scouts came to watch him play. One of the few that did was a local school that was small, but they played Division II football. Brent accepted their scholarship offer so his mom wouldn't have to work extra hours to pay for his tuition. Plus, he could live at home and help his mother still. He never did date that girl.
Brent arrived at his first NFL training camp with only 3 days of clothes packed into a backpack. He didn't think he would last long on the team. He had an interview for a job as a computer programmer in a week, so he thought he would have just enough time to make that appointment. The team had spent their first pick on a guy who played Brents position, and had signed 3 veterans as well. He was the smallest of the group, standing 5'8" and weighing 187 pounds. He knew the team wouldn't carry 5 halfbacks on the roster for long either. What he didn't foresee was 3 of his competitors going down with injuries in the first 2 days of camp, one of them being the first round pick. Suddenly Brent was competing against a guy who had played on four NFL teams in two seasons. He figured he could provide depth at the least until one of his injured team mates had healed. He sat on the bench for the first half of his first preseason game. Brent was unsurprised, having been outperformed in camp thus far. He was more nervous than ready when the head coach told him he would carry the ball in the second half. When he jogged onto the field, he could smell the grass only. No sounds were heard other than his pounding heart.
" 21 Blue shift left, heavy set on 3", yelped the rookie quarterback about to take his first NFL snap as well.
Brent knew it was a simple hand off between the Center and Left Guard. He was prepared to fire out of his stance to take advantage of his 4.32 speed. The play unfolded in slow motion. Brent could see that the hole that was supposed to be there wasn't. He let his instinct take over, then bounced outside and took off 80 yards for a touchdown. It was then Brent knew he belonged in the NFL, even if he had just achieved versus a bunch of 4th stringers and free agents.
He went on through preseason ripping off huge chunks of yardage whenever he touched the ball. He was informed that he won the starting job at the conclusion of the final preseason game. He played on a lousy team that year. They won only 2 games. Brent was a big reason for those wins. He had rushed for 225 yards and 3 touchdowns in one win, and 187 yards and 2 touchdowns in the other. Brent ended up with 1,357 yards rushing that season and was named NFL Rookie Of The Year. It would turn out to be the best season of his career, because Brent would blow out his left knee during a team agility drill during his second training camp. He ended up missing the entire season. During that year, the first round draft pick was fully recovered and went on to make the All Pro team after rushing for 1,732 yards.
Brent did come back to the team for his third season, but as a backup. He would only get 112 carries over the next 2 seasons, gaining 397 yards. He had lost his burst and never had gained it back. He was determined to try and find it again for his sixth year. He didn't. He ended up carrying the ball only 33 times that year and gained only 87 yards. Brent could see his career was ending in front of his eyes. His team had made the playoffs, so he guessed he was playing out his final game riding the bench.
Fate intervened again for Brent during that playoff game. His team was losing 24-0 as the first half was winding down. Then, the first round pick was injured on a simple sweep run as the clock expired. He was ruled out for the rest of the game. Suddenly, Brent was back on the field. Brent felt weird in the pit of his stomach during halftime. He felt that he was ineffective the last few years, but his team needed him now. He ran onto the field, passing most of his solemn team mates.
Brent exploded in that second half. It seemed like old times for him. He could see 3 steps ahead of the defenders as always, but suddenly his long lost burst had decided to rear its head again. He ran wild during the 3rd quarter,. Brent gained 142 yards and scored 3 touchdowns. One was a 93 yard jaunt down the sidelines off of a screen pass. His team was down by 3 points going into the 4th quarter. It also turned out to be the best quarter Brent had ever played in his life. After watching his opponents score a touchdown on a kick return, then another on a fumble return on the ensuing kickoff, his teams hopes to continue their season looked grim to all except Brent. He would run for 201 yards that quarter, shattering NFL records for most yards rushing in a playoff quarter and game. But it was the last yard that would do him in.
With his team now down 7 points, and with the ball back, Brent saw there was only 23 seconds left on the game clock. The ball was placed on his own 37 yard line. The play called was a basic draw play, in hopes it would get them a solid 10 yards or more. More it did. Brent took the ball and bounced outside. Following his tight end, he ran 15 yards untouched before the tight end collided with a defender. Brent cut inside and blazed across the field. He could hear the roar of the crowd dull. He zig-zagged between more defenders and saw the goal line just 20 yards away from him. As he ran towards the end zone, Brent felt a defender coming up on him. He looked over to his right and saw the defender about 3 steps away from tackling him. Brent decided if he pulled up for a split second, the defender would over run his angle, thus making it an easy score. As Brent pulled up, he heard a pop but felt nothing. As he planted his left foot to the ground, he crumbled in a heap. His surgically ACL had torn again. He knew it. Brent was carted off the field, but refused to go to the locker room to see if his team would score. They didn't. Brent spent the next 3 weeks running that play in his head over and over. When he finally went to see Dr. James Andrews, a renowned orthopedic surgeon, he was told his left knee was beyond repair. His ACL was then taken out of his knee, and he was told he would need knee replacement surgery later on in his life. Basically, he would never be the same, and walk with a permanent limp. Brent was kept on the practice squad in his last year the following season. It was mostly a "Thank You" from the team for his efforts during his career. They allowed him to suit up for the season finale, but there was never any intention on playing him.
As he was about to leave the gridiron for the final time, Brent turned around and looked at the field. He wanted to sprint to the other end of the field. He wanted to keep running until he left the stadium. He wanted to touch the ball again, but never give it back this time. He wanted.....he wanted. Yet all he could do was sigh and try to summon a slight smile. It was over. That kind of want now belonged to someone else.