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.
Saturday. Not just any Saturday. This was our first home game against our oldest rival, Centre College. I was prepared both mentally and physically to give support to my friends and teammates as they gave their all against the Colonels.
The day started off with a hiccup when I went to Mike, our equipment manager, to pick up my jersey.
“What’s your name bud?” he asked, looking at his copy of the player roster.
“Wheatley,” I said. I’m listed as number eight in the program, but I shared that with freshman quarterback Jake Crawford. Mike went over to a table and picked up a pair of game pants and a garnet jersey.
“Here you go, No. 59,” he said, handing over my equipment. ‘Great,’ I thought. I was going to look like an idiot out there warming up with the quarterbacks. Heaven forbid if we go ahead by 40 points and (Maryville) coach (Tony) Ierulli called for me to go in.
‘Now coming in at quarterback, number…59? That has to be some kind of mistake,’ I imagined George DeBaby saying to the listening audience of WBCR radio, AM 1470. I smiled at the thought, and realized I probably was not going into the game, even if we were up by triple digits.
Needless to say, my teammates got a kick out of my unusual quarterback number.
“Ladies and gentleman, YOUR starting quarterback, number 59, Keeevin Wheeeeatley!” Randy Swafford bellowed in the locker room. I even took a shot at myself, as I told offensive lineman Dustin Lyles to call for me on the sideline if he needed a breather.
“Yeah, I’ll probably take you up on that,” he said. “You look more like a guard than a quarterback anyway.” We both laughed because it was a pretty fair assessment of my physical appearance.
After our pregame meal in the cafeteria, I got into my gear and noticed that even an extra large jersey still fit pretty snug. I walked outside to get an idea of what the day would feel like standing on the sideline. The sun was out and beating down, and wearing a skin-tight, dark-colored jersey was not going to make the heat any easier to bear. On cue, the sweat began to slowly crawl down my brow. I looked down my arms and dots of perspiration were starting to sprout up.
Getting to warm up on the field was an experience. There were a few fans peppered in the stands, but the majority of them were still tailgating in the parking lot. I imagined myself actually going into the game with the stands packed. I doubt I would be able to handle the noise. I would probably get so caught up in the moment that I would forget everything: the formation, the play, how to take a snap, and, most importantly, how to make a throw. I haven’t been on a field playing in front of fans since my sophomore year of high school. I regret not playing football after I transferred schools.
The game itself (Saturday) was like a whirlwind in my memory. Everything just moved fast. The only things I can remember are being told to back up roughly 700 times by coach (T.J.) Emory (the kicking coach), players getting yelled at and players getting an I.V. on the sideline.
Before I knew it, there was less than 10 seconds left in the game and we were lining up for a field goal. The score was tied at 17 apiece. Our kicker (and my roommate) Brad Daniel was lining up for a 25-yard field goal. I started to think how funny it was that he was playing now as a senior. When he came in, he was dead last on the kicking depth chart behind other freshmen. Then, over the summer between his freshman and sophomore year, he worked his butt off, working on getting accustomed to kicking on the ground in college rather than off of a block in high school. Now, here he is, lined up to kick a game-winning field goal.
He nailed the kick and won the game for us. After a postgame talk from coach Ierulli, the team went onto Victory Hill outside of the stadium.
“Where’s that kicker?” a fan asked. That was the last I saw of Brad until I saw him walking up to our punter, Doug Carter, and myself on the field. He was soaked, and it wasn’t a Gatorade bath.