The Last-String Quarterback

“The Hunt is Over for the Scots.”

“Do you like it?” offensive lineman Dustin Lyles asked me. Truth is, I did. His idea for a headline was much better than anything I’ve thought up. It was catchy and had a nice ring to it. If Sunday’s showing proved anything, it’s that Derek Hunt has close to the entire Scots playbook down. Probably close to 90 percent.

I’m pretty sure tight end Randy Swafford would agree.

As for me, my grasp of the playbook is at roughly 40 percent, but at least our coaches are aware of my limitations.

I had my moment of glory during our scrimmage against Birmingham-Southern College a few weeks ago. With about 30 seconds left to go in regulation, I heard my named being called. After handing off my notepad to offensive coordinator Ryan Hansen before running onto the field, I was ready. It was time to shine, baby.

I walked up to the line and listened for the play. Hansen called in a zone run to the left. I relayed the play to my waiting teammates and assumed my position under center.

‘Okay,’ I thought to myself. ‘Step one; get the snap from the center. Step two, if I get that far; open up to the play side and hand the ball off to the back. Step three; finalize the play with a beautiful rollout to draw an eager defensive end away from the play.’

While I executed the first two steps without a hitch, my rollout was less than perfect. I stumbled after my first few steps and almost ran smack into defensive line coach Mark Chait, who was moonlighting as a referee after the regulars decided to beat the traffic out of Lloyd L. Thornton Stadium.

Well, at least I didn’t turn the ball over.

I went to the sideline as time expired and retrieved my notepad, only to find offensive line coach Jim Elliott had taken the liberty to write, “I sucked,” with an emphasis on the word “sucked,” which I think was a fair assessment. I’m no Michael Vick when it comes to rolling out. Heck, I think Drew Bledsoe has more mobility than I do.

Once camp was over, it was time to prepare for Huntingdon College. I, not surprisingly, was elected to the scout team. During a passing drill against our defense, I threw a pass that sailed over the head of the receiver. (Maryville) coach (Tony) Ierulli blew the whistle and had some words of advice.

“If you can’t throw with some zip, just get out of there.”

Dejected, I took my place in the end zone with the rest of the players not in the drill. I wasn’t able to redeem myself until a few days later, during the same drill.

“How’s the arm?” Ierulli said with a grin.

“Golden,” I said, rotating my arm to get it loose.

“Okay, jump in here,” he told me as he chose one of Huntingdon’s pass plays from his black scouting binder. I ran in the huddle and looked over his shoulder at the sheet. He pointed to the running back’s route, which was an 8-yard hitch.

“Hit this check down route right here.” I told him I could, positive I could throw the ball 8 yards down the field.

We lined up in the formation, which was a four-wide set with two receivers on both sides of me. The running back lined up beside me on my left side. I felt ready.

“HUT!” I said, putting the play into motion. I looked over to my left side at the receivers running their routes, and then set up to my left side to hit the running back breaking into a hitch.

Only he started dragging across the formation.

One of my problems, according to coach Hansen, was that I think too much when I’m about to throw, instead of slowing down and focusing on mechanics.

This was a prime example of that problem. Instead of resetting my feet to the right and hitting my running back, I tried to compensate my throwing motion by pitching to him option-style. That definitely wasn’t what coach Ierulli was expecting.

“Holy smokes,” he said. “I thought you said that arm was golden!” He shook his head and smiled, flipping through his binder to the next play. I jogged back and assumed my position in the end zone, dejected again.

Needless to say, I have something to prove this coming week in practice.

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