We were playing against my dear friend and former coach, Ernest Givins, who was coaching our opponents the Dunedin Pirates. I had talked to him and Coach Thad before the game and it was great seeing them. Late in the game Coach Perry told me to take the field after we had pounded the ball down to their four yard line. I knew that this would be the last time I would ever be in an offensive huddle. Paul Lively, our quarterback, called the play and he told me I was his first read. I lined up on the left of the formation at the tight end position for only the second time in my life. The Pirate linebacker moved inside their formation and pointed at me. The safety moved over to my right to help cover the wide receiver that was split left of me. I had nothing but space in front of me.
Forty years earlier I would have exploded out of my position like a startled deer… flying into open space, cutting left and right trying to get space between me and the man defending me-that private dance wide receivers and defenders engage in fifty times a game. Now, on the hut signal, I just did the best I could and left it all to muscle memory, moving as fast as I could at my age. At first no one shifted over to cover me as I glided toward the open space in their zone, and when they did it was to late. I looked back over my right shoulder as the football spiraled toward me, framed by the black sky. I looked it right into my hands and I caught it at eye level, gently pulling it into my chest just before I stepped out of the back of the end zone.
There was a calmness that swept over me and nothing could have been more glorious or sublime in that instant. I remember the cornerback just getting to me after I caught the touchdown. I patted him gently on his helmet to honor him with a gesture of respect as he tapped me on my shoulder pads. It was an ethereal moment. It was almost as if I was floating above it all. I had caught a touchdown pass at the age of sixty-eight.
In the more than forty years that I had marked time for this moment, I had dreamed thousands of times, while playing in thousands of dreamy football games, of gliding through the opposition’s defenses in slow motion as a football slowly spun out of the sky and into my outstretched hands for a touchdown. This time that moment wasn’t a dream, but it will dreamlike in my mind’s eye… forevermore.
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