It was a normal Sunday afternoon on the outskirts of my hometown Washington, DC. On this day, I went to Long Bridge Park for yet another pickup touch football session with the co-ed group I found on meetup.com. The number of players decreased from the following week. However, we were still able to put together a solid 5 on 5 matchup. From the start, the matchup looked unfair. My team had a sight edge when it came to athleticism. With that being said, there was only one good quarterback on the field. This guy just happened to be on the other team. He was not only a good QB but arguably the best QB in the entire meet up group. Previous experience told me that the team he is usually on, wins, that’s usually how football works anyway. In addition to him, the other team had the creator of the group, our leader, the only woman who came out to play that day, Rachel. Her football IQ is impressive and sometimes overlooked. She is very passionate about the game. This makes her very tough to play against because of her strategy and always finding a way to get open on offense.
When the game started, we were missing a player because he needed extra time to get ready. This caused our team to play some weird four square type of defense. A corner and a safety stacked on top with the middle wide open. This made no sense, but somehow, it worked. We quickly went up 2-0 after two touchdowns off of turnovers. We added a 5th person which we used for pass rushing. The other teamed scored to make it 2-1 (that’s how we keep score in that group). After that, our team shocked the opponent with a 5-1 run. We built this big lead through key interceptions, 4th down stops, an athletic, playmaking, scrambling QB with chaotic offensive plays that led to touchdowns. I mostly stayed on the line to block on offense, on defense, I was useless as a pass rusher but made nice plays as a defensive back. Initially, I did not have as much of an impact on this game compared to my teammates.
When the score became 7-2, we all agreed to mix up the teams, make trades. This is standard protocol in almost any pickup group when the matchup is uneven. Blowouts are boring to most, lets be honest. This was surprising because it looked like our opponent had the much better team. Our best receiver/pass rusher was taken away, along with our QB/safety. It return we gained two decent players but they were not as impactful as the ones we had lost. Rachel suggested this trade and no one thought to challenge her on it. Now the matchup really seemed unfair. We had to decide among us who was going to play QB. I hesitantly volunteered because of my previous success at the position. I also had a strong arm. Before I could take the ball, one of my teammates stepped up. A guy who played with ripped red sweatpants and sunglasses on. He was also a few inches shorter in height than I was (I’m 6’0). I had never met this man before that day. Once again, I assumed my normal roles of offensive lineman and pass rusher/defensive back.
Our offense was a disaster. I was inconsistent at blocking which limited the amount of time that my QB had to throw. Whenever he did have time, he would run around a lot and miss receivers with his throws. In this group, you have to pass midfield to get a first down. We struggled to do that. On defense, I was once again useless as a pass rusher and overwhelmed as a DB or linebacker. Our 7-2 lead quickly became 7-6. A few stops and decent offensive drives kept it at 7-6 for a while. Rachel suggested that we switch teams again. I also sheepishly asked to play QB. The guy with the glasses wanted to keep going at QB. I also had to calm the guy down as he was getting frustrated, arguing with Rachel over things we needed a referee for. This guy slowly became our leader. Progress was being made as we became tougher on defense and moved the ball on offense but we were still stuck on 7.
Our opponent tied the game then Rachel strongly urged us to switch teams. I started moving my index fingers in a circular motion, suggesting that we either switch QB’s or switch up teams. Our QB demanded to that he stay at the position, saying, “I just want to score on these guys once”. I was getting ready to snap the ball and block as usual until the guy said, “why don’t you go catch some passes”. With no hesitation, I went out wide to receiver. I did not make an impact initially but we had a few missed connections. I was getting open but missed throws or dropped passes from me kept us from scoring. This helped slowly increase my confidence. Our QB’s scrambling and improvisation helped us move the ball the field. 2-3 drives came up empty through missed end zone connections but our clutch defensive stops kept the score tied at 7.
Another takeaway got us the ball back. I stayed at receiver for yet another offensive drive. After 2 unsuccessful plays, we lined up for 3rd down, I was out wide to the left at receiver. I was looking to run a route towards the sideline between the corner and the safety. The quarterback snapped the ball, I run diagonal towards the middle of endzone, planted my feet, turned, then ran towards the sideline. Right as I turned towards the sideline, I saw the QB scrambling towards my direction. I knew the ball was coming my way. The ball fell right into my chest, I cover it with my arms and fall to the ground for the touchdown, I was ecstatic. My confidence was through the roof now. We made another stop then drove down the field. Our QB mostly ran the ball himself, he did not throw it as much. After getting stopped on 3 consecutive plays close to the end zone, I line up to the right as a receiver. I lined up over there to match up with Rachel, someone who struggled to cover me in the past. My goal was to do a similar route as the last TD. The ball snapped, I ran straight this time then did a sharp turn to the right towards the sidelines. Once again, the QB scrambled my way then threw the ball right after I turned. In a masterful display of skill, I catch the ball and tap my toes in bounds for the touchdown.
It was now 9-7, we had the momentum, we were energized and motivated to keep this lead. Our opponent turns the ball over again. We respond by having another good drive to the end zone. This time I was given more attention with double teams and bigger defenders. On 4th down, a few yards away from the endzone, our QB drew up a play. He gave everyone direction but me. I line up to the right by myself. The other three guys bunch up in the middle of the field. I was going to drag across the middle of end zone then do a sharp turn in the opposite direction in hopes of separating from the two defenders covering me. As I was running towards the middle, the ball is quickly released to Ted, one of our other receivers. He drops it, I jumped up and down, then looked up in the sky in frustration. We were so close to scoring again. Our opponent quickly goes down the field and scores, 9-8, they take back momentum. They stopped our offense from scoring on the next drive, putting them in prime position to tie the game. For the first time all game, I line up at safety on defense. After barely crossing midfield for a first down, they started attacking the endzone. The first play was unsuccessful. On the next play I swoop in to make a diving deflection of an intended pass in my zone. I yelled “gimme that shit!”, nearly catching the ball for a turnover. That was easily the best defensive play I had made all game. Another stop or short gain was made, then it was 4th down. They had to get in the endzone. I made sure that I covered as much ground as possible. The QB dropped back, scrambled a bit but overthrew his receiver with both me and the other safety, the guy with the glasses, converging on the ball. I was once again ecstatic. The guy said, “good job” as we once again lined up on offense.
By this time, we were approaching 3:30 pm ET, I had only planned to be there until 3, I was ready to go. Some wanted to keep playing, some wanted to stop. After a brief disagreement, we all decided to just end the game. My team held on. Our QB/safety gave me props once again, along with other people for a great performance. However, I quickly deflected the praise to guy that led us to victory. I gave him props for leading us, I gave him props for inspiring me. Before the game was tied 7-7, I was not playing well but his determination, his will to win, his belief in our team’s abilities, made an impact on me. This was the best game I had ever been a part of in this group.
Ok, I’m sure some of you did not read that whole story. I know some of you may not have even understood this story. The reason I shared this story is because it is very on brand. The guy who took over at QB and safety, had the GOAT Level mindset. The odds were against our team. It was a mismatch, we lost our massive lead, no one on the team was good at playing QB. This man stepped up, despite all our limitations and refused to quit. He challenged himself, embraced himself, took the minor L’s and chose to be great. This approach rubbed off on me and the team. As a result, we held on and won the game. The situation was not ideal at all but he made it happen anyway. This is how you should approach your goals in life. This is how you should approach challenges in your life. Do not let fear and doubt consume you!