By Steve Blume
It’s been years since I wore the green of the mighty Hillwood Hilltoppers football team as a tight end and defensive end then went on to play in college. Well, actually decades, but all it takes is the smell of fresh cut grass on a hot August morning to bring back vivid memories of two-a-days, whistles and grass drills. Stadium lights in the distance bring back the sound of those drums, band music, crisp popping pads and smells of the spray that helped both footballs and tape stick. We spend so few years playing this game, but the rest of our lives reliving it.
We especially remember the great plays where we were somehow involved. As time goes by, we still recall the general framework of those memorable plays and times, but as the actual details fade, we fill in and sometimes improvise.
We don’t always admit that blind luck more than talent may have played a part in the best ones. We know the truth, and fewer and fewer witnesses remain over the ages to challenge them, so our accomplishments grow.
As an example, I can say I returned kickoffs at Hillwood. Well, once anyway. A short kick somehow landed the football in my arms, miles in front of our intended return guy. He had been told to run up the middle, and thinking I should probably do the same, headed that direction. The other team sensed a return play around the other side and everyone went that direction. My slower speed allowed them to get there, so as I turned upfield in the middle, there was nothing between me and the goal line except chalk and grass. I ambled untouched, the most unlikely kickoff returner ever, at least until the five yard line.
In another game, my desperation dive and barely a brush of my outstretched hand against his foot somehow tripped the speeding ball carrier in the backfield as he was about to turn the corner and head for glory on a reverse play. It was shown over and over, but I was actually so fooled, beaten and out of position I could not believe it could bring him down and save me. In that same game, I was credited with making a tackle in the backfield on fourth and one with the clock running out to preserve a win, only because the other team called a play that left me unblocked and my unexpected momentum caused me to run into the hand off as I was falling down. It wasn’t obvious, though.
Time makes us better. Just about every guy out there believes he would have been a great NFL player, but chose to go a different direction due to an early injury or situation in the tenth grade. We all have our glory days, and some just continue to grow. Personally, all I know is the older I get, the better I was.
Steve is an avid runner, St Jude Hero and local Allstate agent. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
There's Nothing Like Old Hillwood Glory Days