Countdown to Football

52 Days

“Run it!  Run it!  Hurry!  Run it!  Run it!  Now!  Run it!”

The alarm clock chirps its first call.  It’s 5:30 in the early morning, and the sun has yet to show its face.

He would usually want to stay in bed.  That’s how he felt years ago when he still living in his parents’ house attending grade school.  He was the superstar then.  Every morning was the start of another humdrum day of being the big man on campus.  The most athletic kid on the teams of multiple sports.  Another normal day of success in the classroom and praise from his elders.

But that was then.  That was all usual.

Now, things are peculiar.  At 5:30, he feels the incessant need to hurry.

To sprint out of bed and dominate everything in his way.  He opens doors much more fervently.  He brushes his teeth in half the time it took as a kid, yet he is twice as efficient.  He prepares a nutritious breakfast faster than it once took to pour a bowl of Lucky Charms.

He is dressed and ready to go within 15 minutes.

And he feels like he could improve his morning routine to be ready in 10 minutes.

He knows he has to hurry.  The dream had told him so.

As he turns to lock his apartment door, he faintly hears in the distance the same voice scream, “Run it!”

He winces, but he hurries.

His ride is already waiting for him.

“Come on, man.  We’ve got to get there soon, or Coach is going to hammer us!” his ride says.

He tosses his small bag in the back, and the car is moving before he’s closed the door.

It’s a three minute drive to the complex.  Five minutes if you’re a freshman.  Seven minutes for normal students.

The two in the car are both silent, but they know what each other is thinking.

“It’s possible to get there in two minutes.  Our plan is flawed.  Our efficiency is pathetic.”

But they don’t speak it.  They know complaints are reserved for the laymen.

He looks out at the campus.  It’s still.  The leaves are still lost in some reverie of youth.  The squirrels have yet to emerge from their nests.  The ground is covered in peaceful tranquility.  A distant professor is seen sipping coffee, meandering towards his office in the large building.

He doesn’t envy them.  If they had come out into the world before he did, they would be more efficient.  They would be faster.  They would have first access to the world, and the spoils would be theirs.

“Step on it,” he says faintly.

They’ve timed the red lights at this hour.  They know they don’t have to stop before the second red light because it always changes.

He could have gone anywhere in the country for his education.  He chose this place.  This quaint town tucked into the corner of Alabama.  This village of youth eager to learn.  Eager to participate.  Eager to socialize.

Is eagerness efficient?  He decides that it’s not.  He cannot be eager to learn if it is already learned.  He cannot participate if he is the game.  He doesn’t have time to socialize.

He could have gone anywhere.  Would it have been different?

Would it have been different if he had appreciated the bayou more?  He wonders what he would be doing at 5:48am if he had gone there.  He knows that he wouldn’t know much about his playbook.  They have a brand new offensive coordinator.  Not knowing and eager to learn.  Inefficiency at its best.

Would it have been different if he had respect for the old time classics?  What would he be doing right now if he were passing Chimes in place of Hall?  He knows he wouldn’t be in much of a hurry.  He could take his time.  He could wait for the opposition to tire.  But he isn’t eager to participate.  He isn’t wanting to end the wait for the play to begin.  He is the play.  It starts with him.  And it starts immediately.

What would life be like in the rolling hills of The Natural State?  Would he be wondering who he is fighting for?  Would he really know his coach?  Do they even trust him to be around tomorrow?

There’s no time here to wonder.  He’s committed a penalty just pondering the possibilities.

There’s no time to ponder because he already knows.

And since he already knows exactly what’s expected of him, he knows to do it quickly.  Efficiently.  Perfectly.

If he doesn’t, he knows there are numerous guys around him that will.  He’s no longer a big man on campus.  No longer the star of the team.  He’s simply another gift to be appreciated by the general.

The car stops.

Without thinking and what seems to be one swift movement, he grabs his bag, exits the car, walks 19.5 steps, swings the door open, veers left at a 47 degree angle, walks down the steps skipping every other one, turns at a 90 degree angle to his left, enters the locker room, walks by two locker rows before approaching his own, precisely spins the lock to the exact numbers, opens the door and tosses in his bag, closes the locker as he is walking away from it, walks 16 steps into the weight room, glances at the workout board without breaking stride, and hits the bench as soon as the whistle blows.

As he pushes the bar away from his chest, he thinks about how he could possibly be more efficient.  How he would do it differently.

But the thoughts are stifled as he realizes there’s no time for thinking.  He just has to run it.

52 Days.

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