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.
I finally got the opportunity to unveil a new skill set during scout team drills last week: receiving. While we were preparing for LaGrange and giving the defense a solid look at their passing formations and patterns, I saw (Maryville) coach (Tony) Ierulli looking my way.
“Wheatley,” he said.
Now, recently, the only time he called for me was to get him some water from the trainers.
“Yes sir,” I said, grabbing my helmet out of instinct and jogging toward him.
“I want you to get in on the tight end rotation today,” he said as if I were just another tight end, not a guy who has not seriously played football in a number of years. I was a little shocked, but I went in on the next play, which was a streak down the hashes.
“Here comes the 5.5 speed,” I said to myself as I lined into position. I looked across from me and saw the linebacker who was going to be covering me. It was Dakota Crews, a freshman. Dylan Morgan was the quarterback and put the play into motion.
I tried my best, but honestly I couldn’t get him off of me. I looked back towards Morgan and the ball was heading in my direction.
“Really?” I thought. “This guy is all over me, there’s no way I can be open.”
The pass fell innocently to the ground, and I ran back to the huddle, only to be relieved by a freshman tight end. A few plays later I rotated back in, this time against the first-team defense and Corey Click covering me. My play was, again, a streak down the hashes. This time, my quarterback was Jake Crawford. On the hike of the ball, I was again jammed at the line, but somehow I got loose. I guess Click just felt sorry for me or something and wanted to give me a shot.
Crawford heaved the ball downfield, again in my direction, and I couldn’t run underneath of it.
“Come on Wheatley,” I heard coach Ierulli saying as I jogged back into the huddle. “You need to hit that extra gear and catch that ball.” He laughed, signaling the end of my receiving duties.
Now comes the hard part. LaGrange. We gave them their second win, not only of the season, but of their school history.
I guess my play during warm-ups was a good indicator of how the day was going to go for the team.
One of my jobs during our pregame routine is working handoffs with both the offensive line and the running backs. We run our zone plays, and then our counter plays before rotating. I got the first handoff to Nick Moore down easily. Then, the wheels came off.
I took the next snap from Brian Wendell fine, I thought. I guess there was a little bit of sweat on my hands because the ball came sailing out during my turn to hand-off to Rommel Hightower. It looked more like a toss sweep than a downhill zone play.
“Come on Wheatley, focus,” I heard a few of my teammates saying.
I went back up to the line and called for the next play, a counter to the left side, but I forgot to relay the information to Hightower. I turned and opened up to the right, but he was running hard downhill to the left. Needless to say, I ended up pulling myself out of the drill after that display.
“That has to go in your next column,” Brandon Brewer said. “It’s too good not to make it in.”
Following the embarrassing loss to LaGrange, coach Ierulli called for a Sunday practice — in full pads and with a team film session following. Not my ideal way of spending my Sunday afternoon, especially since I had to edit the school newspaper.
While it was not as bad as I thought it would be. Coach Ierulli had pretty strong words for the team as a whole.
“A lot of you guys better take a good look in the mirror and decide what your role on this team is,” he said. “Because we can’t play like we did on Saturday and expect to win.”