The Last String Quarterback

Maryville College senior Kevin Wheatley is writing his thesis on the average college student trying to make his school’s football team.

Maryville College senior Kevin Wheatley is writing his thesis on the average college student trying to make his school’s football team.

Editor’s note: Maryville College senior Kevin Wheatley is writing his thesis on the average college student going out for the school’s football team. During the season, Blount Today will publish excerpts from Wheatley’s journal.

This weekend proved to be a roller coaster for those on the Fighting Scots football team.

While I was toiling over my thesis work, the Scots were in Greensboro, N.C., battling against the Pride of Greensboro College in less than ideal conditions. Rain throughout the first quarter made the field resemble more of a mud pit than a playing surface.

“It was tough,” offensive coordinator Ryan Hansen told me at Monday’s practice. “There was one spot that was nothing but mud it seemed, and when we got to a place where it looked okay, it was still soggy. It made the game tough.”

Calvin Rutgerson, a defensive tackle, told me about life in the trenches throughout the game.

“Seriously, we were in mud that was about this thick,” he said, holding his thumb and index finger out to about two or three inches. “When I’d get down in my stance, my hand would pretty much sink down to where it was almost covered.”

The one person who probably had the worst experience on the field was our punter, Doug Carter. The conditions were horrible for kicking, and his average of 30.8 yards show it. On his last punt of the game, with the ball resting on the 50-yard line and only a minute left in the game, Carter was crushed by Greensboro players trying to block his punt. In the process, he sprained his ankle, but he will be ready for the game against North Carolina Wesleyan.

It was a funny thing because the roughing the kicker penalty on that play ensured our offense could keep the ball and run out the clock for a 17-16 victory.

Despite getting his season nearly ended short after earning the starting job, every time I see him he has a huge grin on his face. This, from a person who got limited playing time in his first three years, was amazing to me. He came so close to losing his lone starting season, but, thankfully, it looks like he will be alright.

“It (stinks),” Carter said to me Monday as he limped his way around campus. “My season almost ended before it really got started.”

He laughed, and we talked about his transition from a player to a coach (for a few days) now that his foot is the size of a gorilla’s.

“You know, I think I’m going to go into coaching while I sit out these next few days,” he told me in the training room with a bag of ice over his swollen foot. “(Kicking coach) T.J. (Emory) told me I was going to be ‘Coach Carter’ while he misses practice this week due to work.”

During Monday’s practice and while the varsity players were running their lap around the soccer and softball fields, I got my opportunity to step in with my junior varsity teammates and play in a live scrimmage against the J.V. defense.

I waited my turn, last as usual, and started to think about running our offense after learning the offenses of Huntingdon, Centre, LaGrange, and Greensboro with the scout team. The terminology seemed foreign at times, and it felt like I hadn’t held a football in months.

“How do I throw this thing again,” I thought to myself.

The balls were caked with dirt after the Greensboro game, which made gripping the ball difficult. I didn’t have much more time to doubt myself, as my turn in the rotation came up. I successfully ran three run plays, and then coach Hansen put me into a shotgun formation.

“Here comes the pass,” I thought to myself, praying to at least force the ball into a near-spiral. Sure enough, a pass play was called and I relayed the information to my teammates, stumbling over a few of the words before finally blurting out the entire play.

I received the snap and looked up. Everything still comes as a blur on the field, with black jerseys everywhere I turn my head.

I saw Josh Tanner, a freshman receiver, dragging about 10 or 15 yards downfield, and I threw it before I noticed he was double covered. To my surprise, the ball came out almost resembling a spiral, and made it to the receiver in time, even if it was knocked away with ease.

“Close, very close,” (Maryville) coach (Tony) Ierulli said as I walked off the field. I went over to coach Hansen to get a lesson.

“It looked good, but the only problem was he was covered,” he said. “You didn’t look at the shortest route on the sideline, which was a hitch.”

I tried to tell him that I thought the drag route was closer to me than the hitch, but he cut me off.

“False,” he said. “Wrong answer.”

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