We're introducing a new weekly feature today, the List of the Week. It's a play on the classic sports picks line, Lock of the Week. Each week we'll bring you a list of top moments, players, teams, tips and other (hopefully) useful and entertaining content, organized in a nice, easy to read list.
To kick things off, let's take a look at the greatest moments from my personal storied (amateur) sports career. Five years of high school football at the Boston Latin School, one year of collegiate club lacrosse at the University of Southern California and one year of collegiate club tackle football at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have led to a six great moments I'll always remember.
- My First Time Getting Knocked OUT
- Undefeated Champions
- What a save! Wait...he's not the goalie!
- The Fumberception
- The One Man Tackling Army
- 46 -6
As an eight grader at BLS, I was part of handful of classmates trying out for the freshman football team. I had no skill, no technique, and no speed or power, but plenty of determination. The first week, I kept sticking it out as other kids dropped off and made it into the second week, when we finally got to put on some pads. It was an awkward experience, no doubt enhanced by the fact we were a rag tag group who rarely wore pads with a proper fit.
A few drills go by and I did just enough to not be the worst kid on the field. Then, we had our first intra-team scrimmage.
Brick Wall Blocking
I remember standing back as part of the kick return team. My task was to block one of the other players streaking down the field. But, I literally had no clue what I was really supposed to be doing. So I relied on my days of schoolyard football, where you stand back and wait for the other team to run down the field, get tired, then block them.
The ball gets kicked. The kickoff team starts jetting down the field. I see my blocking assignment. I take a few steps forward to hit him and...
got absolutely leveled.
Literally, fell backwards, stayed on the ground for a few seconds, got back up and immediately fell back down. It was then I realized that if someone has 40 yards of steam built up, trying to be a human brick wall is not a good idea.
When I arrived at UNC, I soon realized they had a club tackle football team. Super pumped to get another chance to play football, I signed up.
We were good. Damn good. So good we didn't lose a game. Even when we played a D-3 squad in Georgia. A game to which about 20% of our team actually made the trip. I don't have many personal highlights from this time.
There were a few decent runs at running back and a few good plays here and there, but by this time previous football injuries took their tool and left me a timid shell of my former self. But, after my first two seasons of organized football started off without a win, it felt nice to wrap up my career on a team that didn't lose.
My freshman year at USC, I decided to try something new and I signed up for the school's lacrosse team. Since lacrosse is much less prevalent west of the Mississippi, the school's top-level team was a club team. That doesn't mean we weren't good and didn't have good players. We did. And we played a lot of other good lacrosse teams, including the University of Michigan and the University of Texas. Being a club team, we did try to ensure that everyone got a chance to play.
It being my first time picking up a lacrosse stick, well, needless to say I wasn't a starter. But I got some decent playing time in. Lacrosse, much like hockey, is a game of attrition. You cannot play a full game, you will get tired. Substitutions happen frequently. But, the one memory that sticks out did not occur during a game. It happened during practice.
I Carry a Big Stick
Being a big fellow who wasn't very fast, I naturally became a defenseman. The best part about playing defense in lacrosse is you get a bigger stick. Much bigger. It's actually tougher to learn how to use a defensive stick than a regular stick, but once you get the basic it's handy to swat at players and the ball with your longer reach. But, the basics are extremely difficult to pick up. Even simply catching and tossing the ball is tough. It took me weeks to simply catch and throw the ball without losing possession.
During a intra-team scrimmage, I was playing defenseman. The other squad was rolling down the field and I was covering an attacker in the left corner of the field. One of the attackers broke through our mid-level defense and was rushing at the goal. Our goalie was very apt to run out and meet the attacker and level him before he had a chance to get off a shot. This was one of those times as he run up the field.
But, the attacker did get the shot off. I rushed out of the corner of the field at the net, hoping to get a rebound or block the shot.
As the ball approached the plane of the goal, I was level with the goal but off to the side still. I reached out with my big stick and...caught the ball. For a second, it shocked me that I caught the ball. Then I took off up the field and cleared the ball forward into the other squad's side of the field.
It might not seem impressive, but catching a lacrosse ball that is passed to you is tough enough. Catching a shot on goal when you're not the goalie is near un-heard of. I wasn't very good at lacrosse, but I had fun and this one play gives me something to hang my hat on.
At the end of sophomore year, our JV Football squad got a nice surprise. We were going to play our arch rival Boston English. It was the first time in recent history where the JV squads of each school would play each other. It became our Super Bowl. The one game we had to win.
The game was close the whole way. The final score was 7-2 (we took a strategy safety late in the game). Early on, English was driving down the field. We knew we had to prevent them from scoring. During a running play, one of my teammates popped the ball carrier and the ball went flying into the air. In the right place at the right time, I caught the fumble and took off upfield. Only gained a few yards, but it was a critical play that led to our JV squad notching our fourth victory in the final game of the season.
Senior year. Acton-Boxboro, the beasts of the Dual County League came into our "home" at White Stadium. If there was ever a team we would trade all our wins to beat, it was Acton-Boxboro. It would have been the upset of the millennium, and dare I say it, even worth losing to our arch rivals Boston English. During our senior year, I got into the habit of downing Red Bulls before a game. Something about this day, this game got me particularly amped.
I remember the cool Fall weather, the orange leaves peppering the landscape at Franklin Park as the best team in the league played against perpetual bottom dwellers Boston Latin. But none of that mattered this time.
BLS Wins! BLS Wins!
We win the coin toss and elect to receive. The crowd is pumped. BLS players are motivated dreaming of beating a team we had no right to even compete with. The ball is kicked. It's a poor kick headed right for me in the second line of the kick return formation. The ball bounces around, it lands between me and the first line of the formation. AB players are hustling down the field and there's no time to pick up the ball and run, I must simply recover it.
I run up the field and dive for the ball at the same time as two Acton Boxboro beasts do the same.
I recover. And get rewarded with a concussion.
I head back to the sideline in a daze but pumped up about recovering the pigskin and giving us great field position.
The game continues and we hold our own for a little while. At some point, we're kicking off. I can't remember if it's because we scored, or more likely it was the start of the second half. As the ball is booted, I take off running down the field eager for a tackle. I reach the first line of AB blockers and
I deliver a hit with my shoulder that sends the blocker and I flying down field. I snap back up onto my feet and keep chugging down the field. A second blocker comes to meet me and
He gets knocked down and I keep chugging, past other AB blockers and hone in on the ball carrier and
One of our assistant coaches, a young guy with plenty of energy runs over to me as I hit the sidelines and immediately starts pounding me on the helmet yelling
That is how it's done, that is how it's done, THAT IS HOW IT'S DONE!!!
At the time I didn't quite realize why he was so amped, in my mind I just made a tackle, no big deal. It wasn't even a particularly ferocious tackle. Later when we watched the game tape, I realized why that tackle was so huge. I basically hit one guy so hard it made both of us fall down field, got up, knocked down a quarter of their team, and still made the tackle. For that one play, on that day, there was no stopping me. It was one of those rare plays where your technique is rock solid, your determination is un-deterred and your energy is at maximum velocity.
If I played that way on every play that day, we might have won the game. It was that much of a devastating individual performance. Unfortunately, I and we did not.
In a high school football career filled with losing seasons, even a few win-less seasons, there are moments to be proud of. For my class, our JV year we went 4-6 and if we had a home field could've made it to .500, and maybe even a winning record. Then our senior year we put up the most points ever in a Boston Latin School - Boston English game. The record still stands today.
There are two moments from my Latin football playing days I'll always remember, one is heading back to the sidelines after my one man tackling army play and hearing the assistant coach, my teammates and the crowd truly appreciate the effort and determination on that play.
The other moment is huddling up after the BLS-English game and awaiting our coach's post-game talk. As we stood or kneeled in a circle, I still remember the words rolling off his tongue that we just set a record in the oldest continuously played high school football game. From 1887 to 2001, no other team had ever scored 46 points in the annual BLS-English game. Even if the record is ever broken (the 2004 squad came within a field goal of breaking it), this will stand forever as one of the top sports moments.
And that dear readers, is what we play the game for. The feeling that on any given day we can push ourselves individually and as a team past any assumed limits. That on any given day, we can be historic.