My father told me to make sure my health insurance was in order. My brother thought the prospect of playing an NCAA football video game as me would be the greatest thing. My friends just laughed at me. Who knew that saying, “I’m trying out for the football team” could produce such a diverse field of reactions?
I still can’t say what made me try out for the football team. Maybe it was the announcement new coach Al Golden made at some of the regular season basketball games, seeking walk-on talent. Whatever it was, I had never played a single down of competitive football in my 19 years.
And the last time I checked, Temple was a Division I program. But somehow all 5-9, 159 pounds of me figured the journey, like Cervantes so aptly put it, would be much greater than the end. Here’s a timeline of all that occurred during my stint with the football team:
Monday, Feb. 27: Sign-ups. I walked to Edberg-Olson Hall to sign up for walk-on tryouts. After waiting in the lobby for five minutes, I met graduate assistant coach Jonas Jackson.
While I was wondering how good my chances were had I not told Coach I was a journalist, I’m sure he was contemplating how good my chances were if I wasn’t so skinny. I told him I was the journalist, and he shot me a look of half laughter/half revelation.
He explained everything I would need to do to ready myself for the tryout, including completing a physical and a mound of paperwork.
Thursday, March 2: Paperwork time. After filling out what seemed like 3 million pages of health information, I arrived at Temple’s recruit questionnaire. I hadn’t left so many blanks on a page since I was in calculus.
Do you have any football experience? That’s a big fat no. Football honors? Nope. Football experience? Same. Junior college experience? You’ve got to be kidding.
Finally I got to a question I could answer: ‘Sports played in high school.’ This was exciting. I penciled in soccer, swimming and track, leaving out my two years of golf experience. “I don’t need them to think I’m a total wuss,” I told myself.
Friday, March 3: Physical Day. Why on Earth did I wake up for a 6 a.m. physical? I dragged myself to Edberg-Olson Hall for my physical. While having my blood pressure checked, one of the trainers put a wrap on my arm. Based on the size of my arm, he said, “Sorry, this one is for the big guys.” I hadn’t been cut yet, so I put that one in the win column.
Wednesday, March 15: Judgment Day. I knew I was going to get cut. And yet, I wanted to make this team more than anything. I wanted to prove to someone, probably just myself, that I can do this, so I headed to tryouts.
In which will probably be the toughest part of the afternoon, all of the walk-ons waited inside while the real team worked out. Yeah, I definitely look like a football player compared to those guys. The tension was almost too much. Some people paced back and forth. Others stretched excessively. Others just sat.
The walk onto the field was agonizing, since we had to walk past the real team. I kept waiting for one of the linemen to call me ‘Fresh fish,’ or something. After we warmed up and stretched, we were divided into two groups – one group did the 40-yard dash, and the other did the pro-shuttle. Even after the tryout, I still have no idea what a pro-shuttle is.
The 40 was eventful because I learned what a three-point stance was. Apparently I missed the ‘Get into a three-point stance’ drill in Madden 2006.
The tryout produced one memorable moment. After the 40-yard dash and the shuttle, we were split into three groups for stations, one of which was catching. And none other then former Penn State quarterback-turned Temple coach Zack Mills was throwing passes.
“Dude, that’s Zack Mills,” I said to one of the guys in my group. He seemed unimpressed. I only dropped one ball, which I counted as a huge victory. I was tempted to ask Zack for his autograph. Somehow, pride got the best of me.
Thursday, March 16: The Call. I got the call from Jonas Jackson – as he had promised – to inform me of my status with the team. During the call, which was placed at 6:50 a.m., he casually dropped in that I didn’t make the team.
Not only did I get cut, but they woke me up, too. Even though I knew the odds were against me, I was annoyed that I didn’t make the team.
After hanging up the phone, I was tempted to call coach Jackson and ask him what my odds were had I been a regular student and not a journalist writing a story. I withheld because, if I weren’t a journalist, I most likely wouldn’t have tried out.
The timeline of my tryout was short and almost uneventful. Yet I’ll always remember looking over my shoulder to see a perfectly thrown pass from Zack Mills, knowing that for one hour of my life, I wasn’t a journalist doing a story. I wanted one more Saturday in the sun.
No matter how brief, glory lasts forever. So much for happy endings.
Sean Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.