September 3, 2011
They said it was supposed to be hot today but it didn't seem that way to me. Back home they'd call this cool. That's okay, guess they'll be laughing at me come November.
I feel like I should be nervous, but I'm not. Look at those guys over there, looking all serious. I smile and crack a joke and everybody lightens up for a bit, almost forgetting that we had a game to play. Devin was sitting next to me; he's a good guy. I thought about what it was like to be second-string.
It was alright. I like this much better, though. Devin's a good guy and he's gonna be good some day...sometimes I wish I could just put these teams to bed by halftime so he can get some reps. That'd be the nice thing to do, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. I wouldn't have been what I was last season if it wasn't for the year before. I mean, when I made that run I thought is that it? I don't mean to be rude, but man. It was weird how I'd run like that so many times before, and sometimes I'd gone even further, but nobody yelled for me like that before. Heck, sometimes I think that Miami-Northwestern team was better than that team. Man those fans got loud for me. Even funnier is how quiet they got every time I went down last year. I guess it wasn't so funny, you know, because they all cared about me. I just wish I could've somehow told them, right there, I'm fine y'all. I looked at Devin and said "Be ready." Devin (or Good Times as Big Will calls him) had some big headphones on his ears; he nodded but I don't think he heard what I said. He bent down to tie his shoes. I laughed.
Things were different now. Not different as in bad, you know, just different. It's hard to get to know someone and see them go away so quickly. Coach Rod was a good guy' he gave me a chance. That's all I really wanted. I tried not to pay attention to all that other stuff, but I heard all the things people were saying about him. I felt bad for him. I never thought he'd be gone two years into my college career, but that's how it was. All those people saying those things about him reminded me of all those linebackers trying to tear my cleats off in the pile. You can't help but feel sad for them too.
Like I said, things are different now. Coach Hoke is a good guy too. He's all about Michigan, which is good because so am I. The only strange thing is I thought Coach Rod was too. I love this place, but sometimes it's better to just run and not worry about everything else. Things have changed but I know I'm still fast and that's all that matters, right? Well, I mean, don't get the wrong idea. It's all about the team, and I'm just a part of it. Coach Hoke played Bo's "The Team" speech in the hotel yesterday. Everybody was quiet, and it was like Bo was talking to us right then and there, from the dead. You could tell Coach was excited. He was easy and he didn't have to say too much because there isn't much to say the night before. Coach Rod wasn't like that near the end; he tried to look cool, but on that last bus to Columbus he was as serious as a heart attack. I wish I could have done more.
The trainers were doing their last rounds, taping guys up and pumping up helmets. The guys were quiet and the position coaches went around to their guys, giving them advice and going over reads. I don't know, maybe it's the losing and the injuries and, worst of all, feeling slow, but I think that right here isn't the time for that. What we have is what we have, with all due respect. This isn't the time for words. Al came over and told me a few things. I listened and said yes sir, but all I could think about was out there.
We were getting up, getting ready to head out there. We walked through the tunnel; the noise was getting louder and louder. My heart started beating faster like it was running away from a linebacker. We were playing Western again, almost two years after the last time, when I found out all over again how fun it was to be fast, to be faster than everybody else. I wasn't sure how it would go today. Coach Borges said to run
when it's there; it's always there when you're fast. I was behind Will and Van Bergen in the tunnel. It was crowded and I couldn't get out from behind them until we got out into the open air. We ran out and I went behind them for a little bit. It felt something unnatural, like a fast car going 30 down the highway. I wouldn't ever say that to anybody, though. I shook Will and jumped ahead and touched the banner. When I touched it, I felt like I was in the middle of everything.
Everything calmed down and Coach Hoke pulled me aside. We won the toss and Coach took the ball. He put his arm around me and said real low and quiet, as if he didn't want any of the 110,000 people in the stands to hear: Be a leader. I nodded because there was nothing to say now. I knew I was a leader, and it was time to lead.
I turned and ran onto the field with the offense. The sky was blue and there wasn't a cloud to be seen. I looked at the guys in the huddle. Omameh was sweating; I guess it doesn't get hot down there in Ohio. Cox was waving his hands up and down at the crowd. Molk looked at me directly in the eyes. We broke the huddle and I went up under center. I'm not gonna lie, I was worried. How would things go? I wasn't sure. I wondered if that kid took my advice. I wondered how he was doing, if he was any closer to his dreams. The MIKE was seven, eight yards away; I could see the sweat rolling down his face, getting in his eyes. He looked worried too.
I decided to follow my own advice. I thought about that kid, and how he thought to ask me something he could have asked so many other people. I wasn't worried anymore. I was the kid; I took the snap and believed in myself.