Authors: Matt Christopher
Copyright © 1998 by Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: December 2009
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and
not intended by the author.
Matt Christopher® is a registered trademark of Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc.
To Christopher, Richard, and Nicole
|Curt Robinson||left end||88|
|Bobby Kolen||left tackle||74|
|Jim Collins||left guard||69|
|Greg Moore||right guard||26|
|Paul Scott||right tackle||70|
|Rick Baron||left end||75|
|Steve Harvey||left tackle||71|
|Ed King||left guard||68|
|Charlie Nobles||right guard||66|
|Jack O’Leary||defensive back||40|
|PatDeWitt||defensive back; kicker||47|
ame time was drawing nearer and nearer. And Larry Shope was getting more nervous by the minute.
He paced the room like a caged animal, glancing now and then out of the big plate-glass window. The sun was out and a breeze
was blowing. You couldn’t ask for better football weather.
“Larry,” a voice said calmly, breaking into his thoughts.
He stopped pacing and looked at his mother, a tall, slim woman with black,
shoulder-length hair. She was standing on the threshold of the door leading to the kitchen.
“You’re going to wear a groove in that rug if you don’t stop pacing back and forth like that,” she said.
“What time is it?” he asked, fighting to control his nervousness.
She glanced at the clock in the kitchen. “Ten after four,” she said, looking at him with a sunflower smile. “Don’t you think
you should be getting into your uniform?”
“Yeah,” he said.
He went to his room and started to take off his clothes, his fingers trembling as he unlaced his shoes and unbuttoned his
shirt. He wondered if his father would come home from his office in the city and offer him a word of cheer.
Good luck, son. Play hard and you’ll come home a winner.
Forget it. Dad was too busy with his very busy, very important law practice to think about him and
old football game.
He pulled on his pants, drew up the front laces, put on his shoulder pads. He was tightening the laces on them when he glanced
at the picture in front of him. He paused and gazed straight at the eyes of the man in the picture.
They looked almost real. They were icy blue, set in a square-jawed face framed by sideburns that came about an inch below
the ears. The man looked like a giant in his white, black-trimmed football uniform. “Bet his shoulders are five feet wide,”
Across the lower right-hand corner of the picture was the inscription,
To Larry Shope, from Yancey Foote.
“I guess that if I were as big as you,
Yancey, I wouldn’t have a thing to worry about,” Larry said.
Six feet three, two hundred and forty-five pounds, thirty-one years old, Yancey had been a star player with the University
of Southern California and then a crushing guard with the Green Bay Packers. He liked to hunt and fish, and preferred being
by himself to crowds. Larry knew Yancey’s background like the back of his hand.
He finished dressing, sat on the bed, and looked at the picture again, then at the other pictures, all of Yancey Foote, which
he had clipped out of newspapers and football magazines. Two walls were literally plastered with Yancey Foote pictures.
“I’m scared, Yancey,” Larry whispered. “This is our first game and I’m scared to pieces.”
He got up, went to the antiquated desk in
the corner and pulled out the top drawer. A chill rippled through him as he looked at the letter at the top of the heap on
the right-hand side. Stamped across the face of it were the words
Left No Forwarding Address.
Larry picked it up. The one underneath it was stamped the same way. The third one was different. It was addressed to him in
Yancey Foote’s handwriting.
“I wonder where he’s gone to,” Larry thought. “He doesn’t seem to be with the Packers anymore, but why hasn’t he written to
me telling me what happened? I don’t understand it.”
He laid the first letter aside, then took the letter out of the envelope addressed to him and unfolded it. The writing was
in ink and neatly written, as if Yancey had taken a lot of pains over it.
Thanks for your recent letter. No, I don’t think you’re dumb for going out for football just because you’re overweight. As
a matter of fact, football should do you good. The important thing is to get in condition and learn the rules so you won’t
get hurt. Not that you will get real hurt, understand. Your kind of football isn’t like the kind we pros play!
We lost a close one on Sunday. Did you watch it on television? Well, we have a tough opponent in the Vikings next Sunday,
but we feel we can redeem ourselves.
That must have been the forty-ninth time he had read the letter. It gave him as big a lift now as it had done the first time
he read it.
But that was Yancey’s last letter to him. What had happened to him, anyway? Where had he gone to?
Larry put the letter away, pushed in the drawer and went to the kitchen, glancing at the door of his father’s den which he
sometimes used as an office. There was another door from the hall through which clients went to see his father, providing
him with the privacy he needed for his law business.
“You sure you don’t want a sandwich before you leave?” his mother asked him. “You’re going to be pretty hungry by the time
you get back home.”
“That’s okay. I’m not hungry,” he said. That’s because butterflies were flying around in his stomach.
He looked out the window. A kid in a black uniform with white stripes down the sides, just like the one Larry was wearing,
was coming down the street.
“Greg’s coming, Ma,” said Larry. “I’ll go now.”
“Good luck,” she said.
He went to the door, then turned and glanced back at her.
“Yes, Larry?” his mother asked.
Didn’t Dad say he’d like to come to the game?
he wanted to ask her. But he didn’t.
“Nothing, Ma,” he said, and went out.
i ya, Greg,” said Larry, looking directly at him so that Greg could read his lips. “How do you feel?”
Greg shrugged his wide shoulders. He played right guard with the Digits, doing well in spite of his handicap; he was almost
“Shaky,” he said.
“Why? You did all right in practice.”
“I know,” Greg replied in a low, awkward drawl. “But I’m still shaky!”
He laughed, and Larry laughed with him.
Greg had been deaf since birth, yet no one had ever doubted that he would make the team. He attended a special school where
he had learned to talk. Not being completely deaf, he was able to hear quarterback’s signals if they were shouted loudly enough,
and he was a fine player.
They arrived at the field, started to throw warm-up passes, then lined up for brief warm-up runs. Larry found that running
and throwing relieved the tension that had built up inside him. He was ready to go.
The captains of both teams, Doug Shaffer for the Digits and Morris Hanes for the Whips, met at the center of the field with
the referees. One of the refs flipped a coin.
“Heads!” said Doug, just loud enough to be heard from the bench.
He must have lost, because the ref put his hand on the other captain’s shoulder, and made a receiving motion. Then he touched
Doug’s shoulder and made a kicking motion toward the north goal.
“Okay defense,” said Coach Tom Ellis, a former college player. “Get out there and reverse the situation. Okay?”
A thunder of applause greeted both teams as they ran out on the field. A ref tossed a football to Pat DeWitt, who placed the
ball in position on the forty-yard line. Then both teams lined up for the kickoff.
Pat’s toe met the ball slightly off center, sending it spinning like a top toward the left side of the field. It hit the ground
in front of a Whips lineman, and bounced crazily until one of the running backs pounced on it.
The ref spotted it on the Whips’ thirty-eight.
“Great start,” grumbled Jack O’Leary, a defensive back.
“Maybe we’re all a little nervous,” said Larry.
“Why? What’s there to be nervous about?”
Jack was tall and thin as a fence post. Larry remembered that Coach Ellis had quite a time finding shoulder pads that would
fit him. Yet to hear him talk you’d think he didn’t have an ounce of fear in him.
“Guess you’re different,” Larry said.
The Whips went into a huddle, broke out of it, and lined up at the scrimmage line. Larry settled in his middle linebacker
position, his heart pounding.
One of the toughest positions on defense is the middle linebacker,
Yancey Foote had written in one of his letters.
You must be able to go in either direction, left or right.
Mick Bartlett, the Whips’ quarterback, barked signals. The ball was snapped. Mick backpedaled a few steps, then handed off
to J. J. Jackson. Jackson plowed through the line where a hole had opened up wide enough to drive a truck through.
Larry’s eyes met J. J.’s squarely as the fast-running back came toward him. Then, just as Larry reached out to grab him, J.
J. made a lightning dodge to the left. Larry’s fingers barely brushed against J. J.’s crimson shirt as J. J. burst by him,
plunging to the forty-five, where Jack O’Leary pulled him down.
“Come on, you guys! Plug up that hole!” Jack yelled, straightening up his helmet and backing up to his position. Larry admired
him. That was an excellent tackle.
Second and three.
J. J. carried again. This time he dashed through a hole on the right side of the line, picking up four yards and a first down
before Rick Baron and Steve Harvey brought him down.
Pete Monroe, the Whips’ burly fullback, tried to duplicate J. J.’s run up through the middle. The hole was there, but so was
Larry. His feet planted squarely under him,
Larry followed Pete’s every move, determined not to be outfoxed this time.
Pete tried to stiff-arm him, dodging to his left in an attempt to evade Larry’s reaching hands. He wasn’t as quick as J. J.,
though, and Larry tackled him, pulling him down on the Digits’ forty-eight. A three-yard gain.
Second and seven.
J. J. carried the ball again, sprinting around left end for a long gain and another first down. The Whips were moving, taking
huge bites of precious yardage, and they seemed unstoppable.