Thursday, July 28, 2011


Back to my high school days - I was playing offensive left tackle.  In a practice session Coach Van Kostegian explained my assignment on a particular play.  At the snap of the ball I was to take a step back from the line of scrimmage, run to my left around our left end, turn right across the line, turn right again and run back toward center.  And block the linebacker.

I've never been one for unnecessary physical exertion.  I favor efficiency over effort.  I suggested to coach that it would be more efficient if I just ran straight across the line and nailed the linebacker.  I may have quoted something about straight lines being the shortest distance between two points. 

Coach wasn't famous for patience but he dealt patiently with me and set up a demonstration.  He had us do a walk through with him playing the role of linebacker.  We lined up and the ball was snapped and I did as he had directed, run/walking to my left, crossing the line, run walking back to my right.  Meanwhile coach was acting out what the linebacker would be doing while I was running around.  The linebacker would be reading activity in our backfield.  And his read would have him sliding to his left, away from me, toward the center of the line.  Then his read would tell him that the play wasn't going right, it was really going left.  And the linebacker would hustle back.  Toward me.

It was a timing thing.  While I was running around to my left, over the line, back to my right, the linebacker was drifting to his left (my right) and then hustling back.  And about the time I got back to my original set position the linebacker would arrive there, too.  And there would be a collision. 

There wasn't supposed to be a collision in this practice walk-through.  Coach wasn't wearing a uniform, was not wearing  pads.  It was a "walk" through.  But I got and impatient and when I crossed the line I forgot to walk and I ran back toward center.  There was a collision when I collided with the coach.  He again exhibited saintly patience, just shaking his head and resuming normal pracitce activities.

I"ve commented about my lack of athleticism.  This was complicated by my being a slow learner.  Although I had been a sports fan from childhood, I didn't understand all that was going on in the game.  Years later I began to "see" all the cool stuff involved in football.  I started understanding pulling-guards and pulling-tackles.  I learned about linebackers reading the offense and quaterbacks reading the defense.  I learned about safety blitzes, trap blocks, bootlegs, empty backfields.  If I had known all of this when I was playing I would have been a pretty good football player.

This week we learned the NFL will be playing a 2011 season.  Watching the pros is a great way to learn about the game.  Especially with commentators like Jon Gruden and Chris Collinsworth with their stop action video replay. 

If you're an Outlaw or Outlaw wannabe, watch lots of NFL games and listen to the commentators.  Watch the pros who are playing the position you're going to play.  Consider recording the games and playing them over when you can stop the action and study what's going on.

It is practically impossible to teach you all you need or want to know in practices.  There just isn't enough time.  There just aren't enough coaches.  The best way to learn is on your own with the help of TV commentators.

As you begin to understand the game you'll find watching games much more enjoyable.  And  you'll be a much better player.

This was shot in my senior year.  Coach Kostegian isn't in the
photo.  I think he retired from injuries sustained in my
devastating block in practice last year.  I'm in the back row, third from the
right.  Just want you to know I really did play this crazy game.

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