I started playing football late. I was in the tenth grade when I first went out, and whenever I got into the game, I really didn't know what was going on about half the time. I played more my second year, but I still didn't fully grasp what was going on.
I did understand that if the guard took too wide a split, I could charge through the gap and nail the quarterback (I played defensive guard). I think we were playing Starke when I had probably the best series of downs of my entire football career. If I had understood what was going on, it would have been even better.
We punted to Starke, and a replacement guard came in. He took too wide a split, and I knew what to do. They snapped the ball, and I charged through and made the tackle. Second and 13. We lined up for another play, and danged if he didn't take his split too wide again. I charged through the gap and it was second and 16. On third down the guard took the same split, and I nailed the quarterback for another three yard loss.
It was fourth down, and I was pumped up. The guard took another wide split and I could scarce contain my glee. The center snapped the ball and I charged through again. I stopped dead in my tracks. Where was the quarterback? As I stood there frantically looking for the quarterback, I heard the thunk of a football being punted. "Oh, that's right, they punt on fourth down! I could have blocked the punt! What am I going to say when the coach asks me why I didn't even try to block the punt?"
Luckily, he didn't ask.
In that same game, I got to return a kickoff. The kicker shanked the ball and it came flying straight at me. As a lineman I had been repeatedly told that when I saw a loose ball, I was to yell "Ball!" And fall on the ball. So as the ball whizzed toward me, I hollered "Ball!" When it hit me in the chest, I wrapped my arms around it and fell flat on my face on top of the ball.
We got the ball near midfield and were able to score, but I was a little apprehensive about what the coach would say to me about falling down instead of trying to run. As I trotted off the field, the coach made for me and I prepared for a chewing out. "Great job, Dekle!" he said, "You did exactly what you should have!" He was certain I would have fumbled the ball if I had tried to run and gotten tackled. I think he was right.