Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part story.
Richard Arnold had a football team coached by a great guy, I believe it was his first coaching job out of college. He had, by today’s standards, a thick leather antique brace on his knee when we were at practice.
I always assumed that was the reason he was coaching and not playing professionally even though he could move like lightning. I had no idea there were people whose dream was to teach football and all that it encompassed to boys as they became young men. I think that was Jack Miller.
We did not have enough players to field both offensive and defensive squads. Some guys had to play on both sides of the ball. I could not catch, throw, run or demonstrate any of the necessary skills to play football.
I weighed about 110 pounds and was the smallest guy on the team. Coach made me the center! Well he had to do something, and I kept showing up for practice. Probably much to his chagrin.
I was a brawler. My years on the streets of Savannah made me that. Contact football with no pads or protection between neighborhoods was the order of the day. I absolutely loved to pile drive into an opposing body.
The position of center gave me that opportunity nearly every play. I all too often found myself at the bottom of a pile of helmets and knee pads. Barely enough stuff to outfit the team for battle. Close to your size was the best that could be done. Bring your own shoes. We were still a team.
We have some guys still in Savannah that played on that team. The quarterback, a great guy, Tom, passed away a few years ago. We had a kid, an attorney today in Savannah, who played both sides of the ball in the backfield. Long tall drink of water who did his best under impossible circumstances.
Unfortunately, we could not find a team that we could beat. We went up country to play some big corn-fed football team. They had enough players to field four guys in every position and their combined weight was probably more than a greyhound bus.
We had practiced a kickoff return to end all. The team would line up in a straight line along one side of the field, forming a wedge for the ball carrier to run behind. We had practiced it endlessly.
They kicked off to us and the game was on. We all dutifully formed the line along the right side of the field. Only one problem – our ball carrier was all by himself on the left side of the field. I think the entire opposing team hit him at about the 10-yard line. To add insult to injury, they took the ball and ran a touch down.
Well moving on. They dragged poor “Blank” off the field and deposited him on the bench. He had just been chewed up and spit out by the opposing team and he looked it.
A few plays later the coach called Blank’s number and told him to get in there. It was a growling command with a bit of desperation in it. All of us bench players were tuned in. Things were critical.
The response was a mumbled, “I ain’t going coach!” Well, we all leaned over and looked down the line in total disbelief. Now you know that it is an absolute no-no to tell Coach that you “ain’t” gonna do anything.
Coach Miller asked, “What did you say boy?”
“I ain’t going coach. I am going to save myself for basketball.”
Incredulous! We couldn’t believe our ears! Coach replied, “You ain’t going to play tiddley winks if you don’t get your butt in there right now!”
Now that is exactly as I remember it and the impression it made on me regarding the presence of and adherence to a “chain of command.”
Well, “Blank” went and redeemed himself with some valiant offensive/defensive plays regardless of the fact that the score went up in the fashion we were all accustomed to, ending in their double digits to our nothing.
We played hard every game. I actually can’t remember if we ever won a game but we were always up with high hopes for the next one. I think that was more Coach Miller than anything else.
Roy Hubbard is a retired Green Beret and environmentalist who lives in South Bryan. Email him your thoughts at Roy39hubbard@ gmail.com.