Clint and I have decided to take our Tuesday articles a slightly different direction. We're not going to force an article where each of us have a different opinion anymore. Its too tough to find things that we disagree on, and then when we do its not always a given that its anything relevant or anything we want to write about. So, from now on, we're just going to pick a topic and write about it. And if we differ, then we differ. If we don't, then we don't. I'm sure we'll usually come in at different angles anyway.
Secondly, we're not crazy about the name. So we're changing it. And the new name will be WHERE'S MY 2 X 4? That one will take a little explaining.
Clint and I played high school football together. Clint was a center, and I was a wide receiver, until my senior season when I switched to tight end. Our coaches were named Coach Slaughter (head coach) and Coach Hodges (assistant coach). I remember the day Coach Slaughter asked me to switch over to tight end. I wasn't real excited about it. I mean, I had played wide receiver all my life. And I was the leading returning receiver, having caught close to 40 passes my junior year. And I really wasn't big enough to play tight end. But Coach Slaughter was new to our school. And he was scrapping the one-back, four-receiver offense that we had played the past two years. He was moving to a more traditional veer offense. And as he explained, the tight end was the primary receiver in his offense. Plus, we had some other kids that hadn't played yet, but looked like they could play receiver pretty well, like Roland Hernandez and Mario Hidalgo. We had no one to play tight end. And, I thought, even if I said no, he could just switch me there anyway. And he did have the respect to ask me what I thought about it. So, I might as well just make the best of it. Well, anyways, the tight end practiced part of the time with the offensive line, which was a fairly new experience for me. And Coach Hodges coached the offensive line. Talk about a fiery character. Fiery doesn't do him justice.
Coach Hodges introduced himself to us at the first practice, and immediately tried to impress the whole team by having every player's name memorized before the end of practice. Which he did for the most part. I wasn't really impressed with that, to be honest. I mean, he was eventually going to get all of our names, right? Who cares if he did it in the first practice. He even threw in nicknames for many of the players. It was one of those nicknames that I was most impressed with. He called one of our players "Orlando Mercado". Orlando Mercado was a baseball player for the Texas Rangers at the time. The backup catcher. A spare part player, that would only get about 100 at bats a season. I was a die hard Texas Rangers fan. Still am, and always will be. If Coach Hodges knew who Orlando Mercado was, there was no question he was a Rangers fan. Years later, Clint and I would go to some Rangers games with Randy Hodges, who became a very good friend of ours.
Randy Hodges was a great football player in his day. He was a standout running back in high school and he started at safety at UTEP, where he was Honorable Mention All-America. He also had a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys, and showed us (Clint and I, later) the letter asking him to tryout, to prove it. He also showed us films of his high school and college games. Oh yeah, and he tackled Eric Dickerson 17 times in one game. I can't even count the times he told the football team that he "tackled Eric Dickerson 17 times in one game." Which says a lot for what Dickerson did to UTEP that day, if Hodges was a safety and he was forced to tackle Dickerson 17 times. I looked it up on the internet years ago, and I don't remember the exact stats, but it was well over 200 yards rushing (maybe closer to 300), and I'm not sure, but I'm thinking 5 of those tackles Hodges bragged about, Dickerson might have already been in the end zone. But really, like I said, Randy Hodges was a great football player in his day. If it weren't for multiple knee surgeries, he might have had an NFL career. Even with the knee surgeries, and even being older, he was still faster than anyone on our team back then. And he had to weigh about 240 by then.
Back to football. Blocking, especially in close spaces, wasn't anything I was real good at going into my senior year. Playing tight end, I had to learn. And Hodges rode me hard. Not just me, all of the offensive lineman. But especially me. I remember one our games early in the year. Against Brackettville. We had the ball with about a minute left in the half. Ahead 7-0. 4th and about 20. On about their 35 yard line. It was too far for a field goal. And too close to really punt. So we went for it. Ricky Sifuentes, our quarterback, who is another story for another day, threw me a laser in the back of the end zone, and we were up by two TD's at halftime and never looked back. What did Hodges tell me at halftime? "If you don't start blocking, you're never going to see the ball again!" Okay. I knew better than that. I was the best receiver on the team, and anytime we had a third down and a pass play was called, Ricky would grab my facemask, shake it a little bit, and say "Get Open!" and I knew the ball was coming my way. And there wasn't a thing Hodges could do about it. What we was he going to do, bench me? The backup tight end was a freshman, who probably didn't even know all of the plays. I had the quarterback's confidence, from years of throwing it to me, and there wasn't a thing Hodges could do about that. But that was Coach Hodges. The next Monday, after watching film, Coach Slaughter would tell everyone that two players, myself and B.J. Falcon, were the closest to being where he wanted, and Coach Hodges would tell me "I love the way you play tight end, baby!" It was a different story during the game.
Coach Hodges had this drill he would do in practice, where the offensive lineman had to fire out low, almost a low crawl, and he would threaten us: "One of these days, I'm gonna to bring my 2 X 4 to practice, baby (he always said baby), and I'm gonna to swing it like this, and anybody not firing out low is gonna get knocked out!" I remember he did walk around with that thing for at least a few practices. Like he was the character from the movie Walking Tall. I think someone convinced him, Coach Slaughter, or maybe a school board member, that hitting high school students with a 2 X 4 probably wasn't a good idea. So the 2 X 4 only made a few appearances. But he talked about it all season. And every time he said 2 X 4, we knew what he meant.
"Get me my 2 X 4!"
"Where's my 2 X 4!"
"If I had my 2 X 4, we wouldn't have an offensive line!"
"You think you can catch passes, baby, with a 2 X 4 stuck in your facemask?"
Probably not, Coach Hodges. Seriously, I think the 2 X 4 would impair my ability to see the ball. Plus it would just be awkward running down the field with a board sticking out of my head...
So when Clint suggested a name with 2 X 4 in it, it brought back a lot of funny memories and I thought it was a good idea.That's the end of my off topic story for today. I'm sure Clint will add his own perspective on the 2 X 4 when he gets back in about a week. Back to Dallas Cowboys talk.