Playing Like The Big Boys For A Day (Well...Kind Of)
By Sean M. Deegan
Publisher, Jets Insider.com
June 5th, 2003
The game pits local celebrities (although I didn't see any) and journalists against each other in a two-hand touch football game. Played on the brand new FieldTurf practice field at the Jets' Hofstra University facility and coached by several members of the Jets staff, the game was the brainchild of coach Herman Edwards as an opportunity for the Jets staff and the local media to get better acquainted
Although my last official playing days in organized football were as a defensive end for the Huntington High School Blue Devils 20 years ago, I was confident I would represent myself respectably. Jets Insider.com writer Mark Hove joined the fun as well, but is also years away from his last playing day.
We came into the day not expecting much. Before arriving, I pictured in my head a bunch of older guys writing plays in the palm of their hand and going long. Boy, were we wrong! This game was as organized as a Sunday NFL matchup.
On a crisp, dry, sun-drenched morning the day started with breakfast and gameday tee shirts being distributed to each team. To our surprise, Hove and myself were placed on opposing teams. From colleagues to bitter rivals within seconds! Waivers had to be signed in case of possible health issues such as a coronary (a big concern of mine) or blown knee. Mark's team, the Green, was to be coached by Jets' Offensive Coordinator Paul Hackett. Defensive Coordinator, Ted Cottrell, coached my team, the Grey.
We were then shuffled to the team auditorium where rules of the game were reviewed. The game would consist of two 20-minute running halves and each team would get two timeouts. TD's were 6 points, INT's were 3 points and an INT run back for a TD was worth 9 points. Coach Edwards announced that he would serve as the head official, ref and timekeeper.
He also mentioned the important fact that he could be bought for the right price!
Next, to get everyone really pumped up, they showed the yet-to-be released Jets 2002 highlight tape produced by NFL Films. Damn! After seeing that excellent video that showed the Jets improbable road to a division title, I was ready to slam my shoulder into someone!! LETS PLAY SOME FOOTBALL, BABY!!!
Not so fast.
Our Grey team was moved to another lecture room where Coach Cottrell and Jets assistant coach Jimmy Raye turned on the overhead projector and went over offensive and defensive schemes for about 20 minutes. No drawing plays in the dirt here, folks. After a thorough defensive and offensive lecture, we were assigned positions and hustled out to the field.
No specialization this day. I had to play both ways at defensive end and center. Chuck Bednarik would be proud. Besides, anyone who is close to me, knows this choice was obvious.
While giving practice snaps to my QB (Jets Media Director, Doug Miller), I had visions of Kevin Mawae mauling people on an outside sweep for Curtis Martin. The adrenaline was pumping and I was ready for a gridiron battle. The much quicker and more svelte Hove was assigned by the Green to work as a fullback and flanker.
The guy opposing me for most of the day on both sides of the ball was ESPN Radio's Peter Schwartz and to describe him in one word would be MASSIVE! Peter is around 6-foot-5 and at least 275 pounds. Upon my first trot to the line on offense, I was a little surprised by the size of this guy. Was I intimidated? Hell no!
The contact on the line was real. There were genuine battles in the trenches and after playing both offense and defense for four consecutive series my legs began to get a little wobbly.
CAN I HAVE A SUBSTITIUTE PLEASE??!! PLEASE DIRECT ME TO THE WATER AND OXYGEN!
I am proud to say though, after playing about 3/4 of the game, I did not surrender any sacks. Also, on defense, with the help of Fox 5's John Decepolo and Sportsline.com's Jay Glazer, we put constant pressure on the QB. Glazer, who doesn't have the size of the typical lineman, was a quick little sparkplug out there that constantly harassed the QB.
The score seesawed but after couple of late TD's and a few clutch catches by Hove, the Green went up 24-12 and suddenly victory seemed out of reach. However, the Grey battled back with a Dave Hutchinson (Star-Ledger) INT that led to a TD. With the two-point conversion good, we were just a point behind with 2 minutes left.
After a quick defensive stand we were just 38 seconds away from glory. Unfortunately for our team, the win was not to be. With 17 seconds left the Green intercepted an errant Jared Winley (Jets PR Assistant) pass. Like Bill Simpson picking off Richard Todd in the 1980 playoffs, our comeback dreams were shattered.
The loss was disappointing. However, the solace was that for a brief moment we experienced the NFL as about as close as any average Joe could.
Although I likely will not be able to get out of bed tomorrow, we all traded war stories at the post-game barbecue like we were seasoned NFL veterans that just played in the Super Bowl.
And by the way, although Coach Edwards didn't offer me an undrafted free agent contract, I'm still waiting by the phone. Show me some love, Herm!
Oh well, there's always next year.