We All Have a Role to Play

I was a 105-lb. third-string safety on our freshman football squad in high school — scrawny, slow, with a size-8 head that made me cast a shadow like a keyhole. I got to rotate in and out with two other skinny little guys at the end of lopsided games. I didn’t play much.

Last game of the season, we were playing our hated rivals, Reed City. They had a great freshman squad, and by the end of the first half, we were down 60-0. At half time, coach told the starters, “Well, guys, we’re gonna give the rest of the boys some playing time.” We went back out, and me and the other little guys started our three-man rotation at safety, switching out every few plays.

I was on the sidelines when a stocky third-stringer who was in at noseguard, came off the field looking shell-shocked. “Coach!” he panted. “You gotta get me out of there! I’m getting killed!”

I didn’t think about being 105 pounds of pencil lead. I said, “Coach, I’ll go in at noseguard!”

Coach shrugged. “Alright, Thorp! Stay low and plug a hole!”

I crouched at the line in front of a second-string linebacker half again bigger than me. “Thorp!” he yelled. “What are you doing?!”

Too late to answer. On the snap, I scrambled forward on all fours, looked up, and saw a black jersey and the ball. I jumped on it.

My first sack — heck, my first tackle of the year! They had to check the roster to announce my name. The backups gave up just 12 points in the second half. (Admittedly, Reed City sat its starters, too…) I played defensive line the rest of my high school career. Never started, but I never forgot, either…

Stay low and plug a hole. Words to live by.

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