Ashley left for home the following Friday morning, Alexis dropped her off at the airport. The previous night’s encounter was not repeated, in fact the days following up to Ashley’s departure were very low key, to say the least. Alexis had not brought the subject back up, so for now, I let it lie.
We opened training camp on Monday morning, to a standing room crowd of perhaps five thousand people. We had eighty eight players assembled for the first day, the previous year’s veterans, five new draft choices, the rest comprised of undrafted free agents hoping to land a roster spot. Two prospects immediately stood out, one being our first round draft choice, Sam Watkins, the linebacker. The second was a six foot four, wide receiver from a small division two school in Carolina that few people had even heard of. Nate Collins, as I learned had been spotted by one of our scouts while working out with a quarterback earlier in the year. He had only been brought in as a body for the prospect to throw to, but our scout was so impressed with his raw talent, that he convinced the organization to give him a tryout.
By the end of the first week, we were already beginning to shake off the rust, you could see both the offensive and defensive units getting better. Nate Collins was struggling to learn the system, it was apparent he was used to a much simpler offensive scheme. But when he was in the right place, he always managed to put himself in the right position for a catch. He had great hands and he wasn’t scared to get hit, something that is not possible to teach. After practice on Friday, Josh came over and pulled me on the side.
“Hey man, I like this kid Nate. He needs a lot of help but he catches everything I throw him. He’s got decent speed, but mostly he just goes out there every down and kills himself. We have to do what we can to help him, I think he can help us.”, Josh said quietly.
“Im in buddy, when and where ?”, I asked.
Since I did line up as a wideout in different offensive packages, I knew most of the routes as well as the nomenclature. It was decided that I was to work him with in the evenings on the playbook trying to familiarize him with the offense. Later after hopefully grasping the concepts, Josh would get with us later to work on timing and route running.
Since Nate was living in a hotel room during training camp, we would go to my place after practice, where we would spend hours working on the play book and watching discs from the previous year. Nate was a very quiet, polite young kid who had beaten every obstacle put in front of him during his youth. He had grown up in a blighted inner city housing project, had two brothers and countless friends killed within a mile of his home. Despite all of that, he was able to keep his grades decent and land a small college scholarship.
After the end of the second week of camp, you could see Nate catching on, he was right more times than wrong. He was beginning to understand the terminology, the audibles, in fact he even made his own adjustments once or twice. Coach Cullen knew Josh and I were spending time with him, but I think he may have been the only one.
We were less than a week away from our first preseason game, both the offense and defense were getting a bit edgy. We were tired of hitting on each other, in fact several fights had already broken out between players. We knew that in our first game, the starters would play possibly one series of downs, maybe two at best. This was a chance for the newest players to try and make their mark on the coaching staff.
After practice every day that week, both Josh and I stayed behind working extra hours with Nate, on route running and adjusting to balls thrown at him. Nate was definitely starting to catch on to the system but he was still having trouble making adjustments. Our first preseason game was on the road, we would be in Cincinnati. We left on Thursday evening, the game would be Saturday night. After the customary warmups before the game, we went back to our locker room to get dressed. As we were waiting to exit the locker room, I could see Nate was a nervous wreck. I smiled thinking back several years, when I stood in the very shoes he was wearing.
As was predicted the starters played two series, then we were pulled out. We managed to score once, which for this early in the season was not bad. By halftime we had jumped out to a 20-7 lead, thanks mostly to a much improved defense.
Nate finally got a chance to play in the third quarter and fourth quarters, he definitely made the most of it. He caught all four balls thrown at him, one for a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone. What was most impressive about the catch was his vertical leap. Although only being six foot four, it appeared he played much bigger, at least to me. We won the game 34-28, although our defense had fell apart late in the game allowing them two easy scores. We arrived back home in the early morning hours on Sunday, I headed straight home. It was almost three in the morning when I got home, Alexis was already in bed. I laid on the sofa for a while, I simply was too keyed up to sleep.
Alexis and I spent Sunday together quietly, just enjoying our time off with each other. During the team meeting on Monday, several of the rookies were acknowledged by name for their play against Cincinnati, one of them being Nate Collins. The one problem was he wasn’t getting playing time with the starters, so the comparsion made was skewed to say the least. We needed him to play with Josh and the first unit, go up against the opponents first unit defense to see if he could truly play at that level.
We would play the next two games at home, a welcome relief , the days were beginning to catch up with us. Nate continued to improve, in fact it appeared he might be the fifth or sixth receiver on the depth chart after the second game, one we lost by the score of 14-10.
As we prepared for the third game of the preseason, the list of injuries began to mount up. We already lost two offensive lineman, although the injuries were minor, a running back and one wide receiver for possibly the year. Our third game would be against Washington, it would also be the game in which most of the starters would play well into the third quarter. Our offensive production had still not matched the numbers we had put up last year, our timing just seemed to be a few steps off.
On our first possession against Washington, we quickly drove down the field, we were inside their twenty yard line in just five total plays. After a short run of four yards, Josh called my number on second down.
“X Slant Right, Double Pick, Power Option, Waggle Cross, Delay.”, he
barked in the huddle.
This was a relatively simple play that had two wideouts line up on my outside shoulder, between my position and the sideline. They would both run inside slants at various depths, I would use those slants as a screen and run a corner fade to the pylon. Hopefully my man would get caught up in the traffic and be screened out. The play came off perfectly, the ball was right on target, over my shoulder where only I could catch it.
Early in the second quarter, we were leading 20 -3, everything had been to perfection thus far. Finally on our next offensive possession Nate Collins was inserted in the line up, something both Josh and I had been waiting for. After a couple of first downs, we were at about midfield, when Washington called a time out. As we waited in the huddle, Josh mentioned that the next time we lined up in our Power Option package, he wanted to run our skinny post option to Nate.
Basically I would line up a few yards from the tackle, Nate would be two yards outside of me. On the snap, I would drive off ten yards down the field, then break outside to the sidelines. Nate would go straight up the field as well, but on my break out, he would slip inside of me and run a post down the center of the field. My job was to pick his man, making sure Nate got open. If the two defensive backs switched off, Nate would break off the route and run a come back.
When I got to the line of scrimmage, I looked down the field to see a basic over and under coverage, a version of the Tampa Two. Josh sensed it immediately as well, calling an audible at the line.
“Kill, Kill, Kill, Blue…Blue, twenty nine, Red thirty six.”, he yelled.
In this package I was the twenty receiver, Nate was the thirty. The second number would be the direction we were to take. I had nine, so odd meant outside, Nate had even, which meant inside. I looked over my shoulder at Nate, his eyes were locked on me. I slightly nodded to him, making sure he understood. I could see him flexing his fingers back and forth, he knew this was coming to him.
The ball was snapped and I got a great jump on my man, beating him to the convergence point. As I broke hard outside, Nate came right off my inside shoulder, in fact we actually brushed pads in the exchange. The two defensive backs switched off in an attempt to avoid the pick. But Nate’s cross had been so tight, there was no way the safety, could get inside of him, he had him beat. Josh read the play beautifully, throwing a perfect ball that hit Nate in stride. Sixty two yards later, he had scored his first touchdown as a pro. He was smiling ear to ear when I caught up to him on the sideline, the ball clutched tight in his hands.
“Way to go Nate, great route. I felt you on the cross.”, I said, slapping his shoulder pads.
“Thanks man, I wasn’t absolutely positive that the ball was going to me until you turned and looked at me. Thanks for the heads up.”, he replied.
We went on to win the game easily, 42-10, Nate had six more catches, another for a touchdown. I knew at this point, he was on the edge of making this team, it would just be a matter of numbers.
We lost our last preseason game on the road, very few of the starters even hit the field. When the final cuts were announced, I was elated not to see Nate’s name among them. He had worked really hard, he deserved at least a shot to be a part of this team. We were off both Sunday and Monday, then begin to prepare for our first regular season game. From that point on, we would play on Sunday, watch film and have meetings on Monday, be off on Tuesday. The rest of the week would be spent practicing for the upcoming game.
Alexis and I were spending little time together, this was always the worst time of the year for the both of us. She had gotten all four of her players signed with their respective teams, so things would be easing up a bit for her, but she still had to finalize all the paperwork. I on the other hand, only had one day a week off, so my time was limited. One thing about this game, you either had too much time on your hands, or not enough. There never seemed to be a happy medium.
We started off the season with four straight wins, our offense picked right up from the year before. Josh was putting up huge numbers as usual, everything was clicking. The biggest surprise was our defense and how much it had improved. Sam Watkins had become a beast at linebacker, he was absolutely fearless. His attitude had spilled over to the rest of the unit, they were playing extremely well.
Our fifth game of the year would be a home game, our opponent would be Dallas. They were a good team having only lost once this this season, that being in overtime. As we dressed for the game, the morale in our locker room was high, we were playing as well as we ever had.
As we exited the field for the start of the game, the crowd was loud, very loud, it was always good to be home. I glanced up at the thirty yard line to see Alexis in her usual seat, she very seldom missed a home game. The game started off as a defensive battle, both teams having to punt on both of their first two possessions. On our third possession we finally began to get our tempo where we wanted it. We didn’t waste a lot of time in the huddle, we came at you relentlessly. We ran a very quick, methodical offense, we wanted the opponents to always be on their heels.
We had a first down on the Dallas eighteen yard line, we were in scoring position for the first time. Josh called a running play in the huddle, we broke and approached the line of scrimmage. As he began to call cadence, Dallas brought three additional defensive players to the line, showing an inside blitz.
“Kill, Kill, Kill, Center………..Seventeen, Yellow Stop, Yellow Stop.”, he called.
I looked up the field and saw that indeed it appeared the linebacker had isolated on me, one on one. I was going to run a quick slant looking for the ball around the goal line. The ball was snapped, I came off and collided with the linebacker, pushing him off to my right. I started inside however the strong safety backed off the blitz and was occupying the middle of the field. I continued on my route, but he had gotten inside position, there was no way, I was going to be open. I turned back to the line, Josh was under pressure. He stepped up in the pocket, saw no one, then began to roll out to his right. I began to move towards the back of the end zone, hoping to find a crease where I could break up and look for a low pass. One of their linebackers was closing in on Josh, I had to break before I was ready. I moved hard from the back of the end zone towards the goal line, one hand up signaling to Josh where I was. There was a tight window open, he threw it up high and to my left hand. About two yards deep in the end zone I planted both feet and timed the jump as well as I could. I was able to get both hands on the ball, snatching it from the air. Just a split second after I secured it, I was hit hard in the lower leg area, my body flipping in mid air, my feet now straight up, my head down. I landed on the back of my helmet and my shoulder pad area, an immediate searing pain running through my back. The next few moments were a blur, first extreme sharp pain, then nothing, no pain at all. By the time I realized what had happened, the trainers and team physician were kneeling over me.
“Brian, don’t move. Don’t move.”, they shouted.
I laid there for several minutes while the medical team worked on my extremeties trying to assess the injury. I was asked to try and move my feet and my hands, apparently which I did, but I couldn’t feel anything below my neck. There were a number of people surrounding me, all moving very quickly. Finally the team physician leaned over me, talking above the crowd.
“Brian, we’re bringing out the cart. Just lie still, please don’t move.”, he insisted.
There’s several words in our profession, you never want to hear. Cart, is one of those words. It means you’re not capable of leaving the field under your own power, or with an assist from team personel. I felt the trainers roll me to one side, then slide the hard board under my body. They then rolled me back on top of the board. I knew they were taping me down to the board, although the only tape I felt being applied was to my helmet. After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally lifted up from the floor and placed on the medical transport.
As I was taken off the field and into the underground structure below the stadium, I could hear the physicians and trainers talking.
“We gonna take pictures here ?”, one of them asked.
“No, lets go straight to the ER, I don’t want to take any chances.”, another said.
Right before I was loaded into the ambulance, one of the trainers told me he would let my wife know I was going to the hospital. I was quickly placed in the ambulance, the doors closed, and we pulled out, sirens blaring.
We all knew injuries were part of the game, you just hoped none of them would be serious enough to side line you for any length of time. But as I laid in the back of the ambulance, I began to feel perhaps, this was worst, much worst. I still didn’t feel anything, it was as if my entire body had fallen asleep. It was numb, only a slight tingling sensation, every now and then.
We arrived at the ER quickly, I was wheeled immediately into a room full of doctors and nurses. People were shouting back and forth, it was confusing as I tried to grasp any bit of information about what was happening. After several moments of quick evaluation, I heard one of the doctors shout instructions.
“I want X-Rays and an MRI stat.”, he ordered.
I’m not sure how much time passed, it seemed like an eternity, before I was wheeled back into the emergency room. I was still immobilized for the most part, I couldn’t turn my head at all. Finally, the doctor leaned over me, very little expression on his face.
“Brian, you have had a spinal injury. It doesn’t appear at this time anything is broken or ruptured, all the X Ray’s are negative. I waiting the MRI to come back. Please be patient.”, he urged.
As I laid there waiting, something inside of me told me, this was it. My career was over, gone in the blink of an eye, or perhaps worst. Finally I felt the tape being cut off my helmet, my body being pushed and pulled on. Although everything below my neck was still very numb, I did feel something or at least I thought I did. The doctor leaned in once again, his voice steady and calm.
“Brian, we’re going to start taking your equipment off slowly. First the helmet, then everything above the waist. Finally the pants and shoes. If you feel any pain, yell out, let me know right way.”, he instructed.
Slowly they began to remove my helmet, as several hands held my head and neck as still as possible. During the next few minutes, little by little they removed most of the equipment I was wearing, or at least it felt that way. I then saw a face I recognized, our team physician, Dr. Moreau.
“Brian, so far everything is negative, which is great. We think at this point, you have a stinger. It’s a spinal injury, but not a spinal cord injury, which is what’s important. While your mobility and range are still limited, it shouldn’t be a permant thing. Hang it there for a while longer, we will know more shortly.”, he informed me.
“Hey Doc, is my wife outside ?”, I asked.
“Yes, she is.”, he answered.
“Let her know what’s going on please.”, I urged.
“No problem, I will go talk to her now.”, he replied.
Over the next hour, I was given analgesics and anti-inflammatory medication, as well as an IV and several injections. Little by little I began to have feeling in both arms either in the form of tingling or slight pain. After several hours in the emergency room, I was finally moved to a private room on the upper floors. Once I was transferred to the bed and all the monitors and medication hooked up, the nurse came over to my side.
“I’m going to get your wife. She has been waiting a very long time to see you.”, she softly told me.
A few moments later, the door opened slowly and Alexis stepped into the room. Tears were running down her face as she slowly walked towards the bed, her face pale in fear.
“How do you feel baby ?”, she asked, her hand softly touching my cheek.
“I am getting feeling back, a little at a time.”, I answered.
“Oh God Brian, I was so scared watching you lay on that field. You never moved the entire time you were down there. I didn’t know what to think.”, she sobbed.
“I’m going to be ok, Alexis, relax baby.”, I urged.
Several minutes later, two doctors along with our own team physician came into the room. Dr. Moreau walked around to the far side of my bed, next to the window.
“Brian, all the tests are negative. From what we can tell, as of now, you should be good as new in a few weeks. We’re going to monitor you for any pain or weakness in your limbs, any neck pain or back pain. But barring something unusual, you should be fine in two to three weeks.”, he finished.
“Thanks Doc.”, I answered.
He handed Alexis his card, telling her if I needed anything at all, day or night, to call him. He told me he would come back the following day to see how I was doing. If all went well, I might be able to go home the following day, or day after. As they left the room, a very pretty nurse, who had beautiful long red hair, came in the room.
“Mr. Stevens, I’m Vanessa, I’ll be your night nurse. If you need me for anything, please push the button. I will be in on you from time to time to check on you.”, she informed me.
“Ok, thank you.”, I answered.
She had only been out of the room for maybe fifteen minutes when it sounded like there was a disturbance going on just outside of my door. She pushed the door open, stepping back in, still arguing with someone out in the hall.
“Mr. Stevens, you have some vistors…….but you’re going to have to settle them down, or I’ll be forced to make them leave.”, she warned.
“Ok, let them in.”, I answered.
She opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. Before the door could close completely it was pushed back open and several members of the team walked in, led by Josh and Coach Reed. Before the door could close, there had to be close to twenty people in the room. Coach Reed was the first to step forward.
“How you feeling Brian ?”, he asked.
“I’m doing a bit better Coach, thanks.”, I answered.
“You gave us all quite a scare son. We kept trying to get information on you during the game but no one would tell us anything.”, he added.
“They were probably still running tests.”, I replied.
He smiled and nodded to me, just as Josh stepped up to the bed. He had that same confident look that he always had in the huddle. No matter what the situation was, he had a way of making you feel like it would work itself out.
“Look Brian, I talked to Coach for you, I got you the day off from practice tomorrow, but you have to be there first thing on Wednesday.”, he said.
Everyone in the room erupted in laughter, including Coach Reed, I felt Alexis squeeze my hand gently. Although still a bit numb, I could definitely feel her hand in mine.
“Look Brian, you know I love you man. But damn, why did you drop the ball ? That was a beautiful pass I threw.”, he kidded.
Once again the room was filled with laughter, everyone enjoying a light moment at my expense. I had no recollection of what had happened after the impact, everything was still quite vague. I was then informed we had been able to get another win, although by the narrowest of margins, the final score being 21-20. A few minutes had passed when the door opened again, my nurse Vanessa forced her way into the room.
“Ok, that’s enough. Time for everyone to get out. I have other patients on this floor.”, she commanded.
One by one, the guys came over and took my hand, wishing me well. Josh was the last one in the room, he leaned over and kissed Alexis on the cheek, then bent over and kissed my cheek as well. This caused Alexis to laugh for the first time , her face turning red.
“Is there something I should know about you two ?” she laughed.
“Yes, we’re madly in love, he didn’t tell you ?”, he replied.
“I said, out. Now get going.”, Vanessa once again told Josh.
“Ok, ok. But um Brian…….before you check out, can you get her phone number for me ?”, he asked, pointing to Vanessa.
“Out.”, she demanded, pointing to the door.
Josh waved and exited the room, the door closing behind him softly. Vanessa walked around the bed and began to check my vital signs. As she was taking my blood pressure she looked up at me and smiled.
“Everything seems fine, if you need anything just call me.”, she insisted.
She then began to leave the room, but stopped and turned around towards Alexis.
“You can stay tonight if you would like. I can get you a pillow and a blanket. That chair you’re sitting in folds out and makes a small bed.”, she offered.
“Yes, please.”, Alexis replied, without hesitation.
Vanessa nodded and left the room quickly, leaving Alexis and I alone for the first time in a while.
“Baby, you don’t have to sleep here, I’ll be fine.”, I told her.
“No way. You wouldn’t leave me alone here, I know better.”, she answered.
By the next morning, although I had developed serious soreness in my shoulders, neck and upper back, most of the feeling had returned to the rest of my body. I was taken for another complete MRI workout, shortly after Alexis had left to go home and clean up. By two o’clock I was back in my room, watching TV. Shortly before six that evening, one of the doctors came in and informed me everything looked fine on the test, I would be discharged in the morning.
Alexis was back at around six thirty, she was sitting next to the bed holding my hand as the door opened. The nurses were changing shifts, my day nurse told me Vanessa would be in to see me shortly, but that in the meantime I had a visitor outside who wanted to see me. I nodded to her it was fine, she stepped back out of the door.
A few moments later the door opened, both Alexis and I were shocked to say the least, at who entered. In walked the small boy who had changed my life after just one meeting. Bryan Butler, the small boy who had been the inspiration for my foundation, walked across the room, followed by both of his parents. He was wearing one of the shirts I had given him, although he had grown quite a bit since last I had seen him.
“Hey buddy, how are you ?”, I asked.
“Are you still hurt ?”, he asked, the most sincere look on his face.
“I’m going to be good as new.”, I answered.
He walked over to me and pointed at a spot on the bed next to me with his finger.
“Can I sit here ?”, he asked.
“Sure you can.”, I responded, motioning for his father to let him up.
After he got situated on the bed, he reached over and took his hand, wrapped it around my thumb.
“Why did that man hurt you like that ?’, he asked.
“He didn’t do it on purpose buddy, that’s just how the game is played.”, I answered.
He looked down as if he were trying to process what I had told him, but I’m not sure he really understood. His dad stepped forward, placing his hand on his son’s shoulder.
“I’m really sorry for barging in on you this way. We were watching the game and when you went down, well Bryan was very upset. He cried when they took you off the field on the cart. He wanted us to bring him up here last night, he begged us for hours.”, he admitted.
“You were worried buddy ?”, I asked my little friend, squeezing his hand.
He just nodded his head, the tears rolling down his face. Without any warning he leaned forward, falling on my chest, his arms around me. His mother began to move in our direction, but I shook my head telling her it was fine. I put one arm around him as he softly cried, his small body occasionally shuddering.
“I’m going to be fine, before you know it, I will be catching touchdowns again.”, I said, patting his head.
I could feel the emotion welling up in me as well, I really never knew just how much this little guy cared about me. It was obvious, I meant as much to him, as he did to me. He finally calmed down enough to sit back up.
“You know Bryan, Alexis here, well she is my best girl friend in all of the world. But you, you are my best man friend that I have.”, I told him .
“Really.”, he said, wiping the remnants of his tears from his eyes.
“Really, you are. You were my first fan when I got here, now you have become my first true friend.”, I responded.
He seemed to cheer up considerably after my last comment, then he made an unusual look, one that suggested he was perhaps confused.
“What’s wrong Bryan ?”, his mother asked.
“Well, that’s what I tell everyone at school, that he’s my good friend. But they all call me a liar….they um, they laugh at me.”, he confessed.
“They do ? Well, I tell you what buddy, we will fix that as soon as I get out of here. I promise you.”, I answered.
“What….. What are you gonna do ?”, he asked.
“Just don’t worry buddy, I will handle it.”, I assured him.
That seemed to make him feel a bit better, he began smiling and laughing. They stayed for close to an hour before his mom told him it was time to go. I thanked them for bringing him by, it really meant a lot to me.
I was discharged early the following morning, Alexis drove me home. After making sure I was comfortable, she had to go into the office to catch up on some work. Starting the following morning, I would have to report to the practice facility where the training staff and team physicians would start therapy on my injury. I had been told I could possibly be out for three to four games, I was hoping for a much quicker recovery. Although most of the feeling had returned in my extremities, I did still have some occasional numbness and tingling that would come and go.
The rest of the week I reported daily, spending hours with the trainers, alternating behind ice and heat, analgesic and anti-inflammatory mediciation and restriction of movement. Since our next game was on the road, I was excused from the trip, instead staying behind to work with the trainers. Alexis and I watched the game on Sunday, unfortunately we played horribly, losing the game 31-21, to Miami. It was our first loss of the year, we were still first in our division and tied for first in our conference.
Alexis had been wonderful at home, she waited on me hand and foot, her energy seemeed endless. By the following week, I had very little effects left, I was ready to start practicing again, but the trainers would not release me. Apparently with this type of injury, another trauma to the same area too quickly, could result in chronic pain and muscle weakness permanently. I was once again excused from the game in Denver, staying home to work with the trainers. For the second week in a row, even though we played much better, we lost.
At the team meetings on Monday, I was cleared to begin practicing again, I was looking forward to Wednesday. It seemed as if it were ages since I had last caught a ball, I was eager to get back at it. On the ride home from the practice facility I called Bryan’s mother, we spoke briefly about an idea I had. She told me she would call his school and talk to the prinicpal about it, she promised to call me back.
Later that night, she called me and told me she had cleared the event with the administrators of the school, everything was set for eleven o’clock next Tuesday morning, although no one would be told, it would be a surprise to everyone, including Bryan.
I started practicing the following day, but it became immediately apparent to me, I wasn’t a hundred percent. On several passes that I caught, I could feel tingling and stinging sensations move through my hands, arms, shoulder and neck. I didn’t say anything to anyone, I decided to try and work through it. We would be at home this week against Philadelphia, so I was able to work out up to game day. I was listed as probable, it felt good to be back in the lineup. Although I did play a dozen or so downs, caught two passes, I was rested for the majority of the game, which we lost by a field goal. We were now one a three game skid, the problem was no one knew why. We were simply just not getting the job done across the board, the simple things were killing us. We had dropped out of first place in our division, we were desperately searching for the answers to stop this downward spiral.
That Tuesday, I stopped by the foundation on the way to Bryan’s school to pick up the items I needed, then made my way to the small elementary school across town. I arrived at ten thirty, I made my way to the main office to meet with the prinicipal. As I stepped into the office, I was greeted by the school secretary.
“Yes sir, may I help you ?”, she asked.
“Yes, I’m here to see Ms. McDougal.”, I replied.
“Oh yes, you’re Mr. Stevens, wait right here, I’ll get her for you.”, she instructed and rushed down the hall.
A few minutes later, Ms. McDougal arrived, greeting me warmly, telling me everything had been arranged as necessary. She had one of the custodians remove the two large boxes from my car, then take them to the library, where the children would be assembled. She instructed me that the event was being limited to only third, fourth and fifth graders, she felt the younger children would tend to slow things down. I was kept in the office area adjacent to the library as the students were escorted in, grade by grade. From what I was told, there were two classes in each grade, a total of close to one hundred fifty children. I have to admit, they were quite orderly and quiet as I heard them being led into the room, then instructed on where to sit. Finally after all classes were seated, the teachers took there seats, the principal addressed the room.
“Boys and Girls, I know you’re wondering what is going on, as I sure your teachers are as well. I have a surprise for you today, we have a very special guest with us. He has invited all of you to join him for lunch, which will be pizza for everyone.”, she started.
The room erupted in a chorus of cheers, the principal quickly taking charge once more.
“What I need from you is as always, be on your best behavior and show our guest the respect and gratitude he deserves for making this possible for you. Do you all understand me ?”, she continued.
“Yes Miss McDougal.”, they all answered in unison.
“Good, then I would like to introduce to our guest today, I’m sure many of you have watched him on TV many, many times. He is a member of our own San Diego football team, their tight end,
Mr. Brian Stevens.”, she ended.
There was a nice applause as I walked into the library, the kids all looking at each other like something special was happening. I walked over to Ms. McDougal and shook her hand, then turned to the crowd of youngsters.
“I want to thank Ms. McDougal and all of your teachers here for allowing me to interrupt your busy day here.”, I started.
I scanned the room quickly looking for Bryan, I finally noticed him in the back next to one of the teachers, his mouth was open in surprise.
“I called Ms. McDougal and asked her permission to come here and have lunch with my best friend, who comes to this school. But
Ms. McDougal informed me that perhaps instead of just having lunch with my friend, I should have lunch with everyone. So I talked to my friend and he agreed, so here I am.”, I continued.
Before I could start up again, one rather large young boy in the front row raised his hand quickly. I pointed to him, he stood up and spoke in a clear, loud voice.
“Your best friend goes to this school ? Who is it ?”, he asked, looking around.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you guys that. My best friend is seated over there, Bryan, will you please come up here.”, I waved.
You could see everyone in the room just about drop the teeth out of their mouth, as I waved the young boy forward. Bryan jumped up and made his way through the maze of kids, quickly making his way to my side. I put my arm around him, then turned back to the assembly.
“Bryan here, was my first fan ever. I met him just after I arrived here in San Diego. He was with us last year when we won the Super Bowl, in fact the team has nicknamed him HD2.”, I admitted.
You could see all the kids just looking at each other in utter surprise, the fact that one of their classmates actually knew me in person was not believable. Just about that time, one of the doors in the back of the room opened, the pizza’s were being brought in.
Everyone was served pizza and soft drinks, the group was really having a great time. I set up the two large boxes I had brought with me behing a table, then sat down in a chair pushing up to the table.
I motioned for Bryan to come over and sit next to me which he did. I instructed him to pass me the items one at a time.
“Ok children, listen up. Quiet now.”, she instructed.
The room became quiet, the children all settled back down, their eyes on her.
“Before you go back to class, one at a time, you come to this table and see Mr. Stevens. He will autograph a tee shirt especially for you. Once you get your shirt, meet your teacher in the back of the room. Teachers, once your entire class has a shirt, please return to your room.”, she instructed.
One by one the children came up to the table and stated their name. I then personally inscribed a Hyper Dunk Tee Shirt to them thanking them for being so well behaved. Bryan was all smiles as he passed me shirt after shirt, on this day, he was definitely the big man on campus.
Bryan’s teacher came up and asked me to walk him back to class, when we were done, I nodded to her that I would. Soon the room was empty, he and I were walking back down the hall towards his class.
“Well buddy, I guess everyone believes you now huh ?”, I said, my arm on his shoulder.
We stopped at the door to his class, I knocked on the door, the teacher opened it quickly. She instructed Bryan to go to his seat, then stepped out in the hall.
“I want to personally thank you for what you just did. Bryan adores you, he has taken a lot of ribbing from the other kids. He did a paragraph once about you giving him a football you caught in a game, several kids really gave him a bad time. Bryan has been through quite an ordeal the past few years, I’m so glad to see him this happy.”, she stated.
“He’s a good kid, his parents are wonderful. It was my pleasure to be here.”, I answered.
We struggled through the rest of the year, ending the season with a record of 10-6, many experts stating that the magic we had produced one season ago, had vanished. We made the playoff’s as a wild card, but would have to win on the road this year, home field advantage was not ours. Our first game would be against Baltimore, although not the best team in the division, a team with a very good defense. We practiced all week, then left on Thursday, arriving late that night.
As I was being taped up before the game, I thought back about the season, trying to put a handle on what had went wrong. Looking at myself, I had not come close to the production I managed last year. I had missed a few games due to injury, but overall, I had not played as well as I knew I could have. Perhaps success had come too easily. As I looked around the locker room, this definitely did not look like a team that was ready to make a run at another Super Bowl. We needed something, I was just not sure what.
We opened on offense and went three and out quickly, having to punt the ball to Baltimore. They went on a long drive, but had to settle for a field goal when our defense held on a third and ten. On our second possession, one of our wide receivers dropped a deep ball that would have probably been a touchdown. As he came back to the huddle, he had a smile on his face, something Josh took exception to.
“You just dropped six, you find that fucking funny ?”, he asked Jaxon.
“Fuck you, like you never heave a dud.”, he shot back.
Josh started to go after him, I extended my arm pushing him back to his familiar spot in the huddle. He knelt down, listening to the call from the sidelines, coming through his helmet.
“Fuck it, I’m taking this game over, you don’t want to play, get the fuck out of my huddle now.”, he screamed, looking at each and every one of us.
“Power right, twenty cross, waggle, delay fade, ten hook, on two.”, he barked.
The ball was snapped, I came off hard on the linebacker driving him straight up the field. Ten yards into the pattern, I sat down hard and spun around, the ball was already on the way. I reached up and pulled it down, spinning to my outside avoiding a tackle, picking up an extra fifteen before I was brough down close to mid field. I got up, made a first down signal up the field, which the crowd voiced their displeasure at immediately. The linebacker I just beat squared up to me and yelled.
“Don’t get used to it motherfucker, you won’t get many more.”
I stepped towards him putting one hand in his chest, shoving him slightly.
“On your best day, you can’t run with me boy.”, I answered.
He immediately jumped at me, the referee quickly stepping between us. He was still yelling as I walked trotted back to the huddle.
“I see your making friends.”, Josh quipped as I leaned into the huddle.
“Everytime you see us matched, I want to abuse him.”, I answered.
Josh knelt in the huddle, he knew what I meant, we needed an emotional spark, anything would do right now.
“Double full, delay left, even screen, fade right on three.”, he barked.
The ball was snapped, Josh dropped back in the pocket and looked down field. As designed, the lineman held their blocks for a mental count of three then released their men, forming a wall to the left. Scott Douglas, our speed back, floated to the left as well, catching the soft screen pass from Josh. He went untouched into the end zone for our first score, we now led 7-3.
Our defense took the field and two plays later the Baltimore running back mishandled the exchanged, fumbling the ball at their thirty three. Sam Watkins, our rookie linebacker was on the spot, falling on the ball quickly. The offense ran back out on the field, determined to take advantage of the gift. Several plays later, we had a third and nine from their fifteen yard line. We called a play that had three options, one corner route by the wide receiver, a wheel route by our running back, and a quick slant by our other receiver. I was to primarily run a decoy route to the same side our running back would circle out to. That way if the ball was thrown to him, I could possibly come back and give him a block.
The ball was snapped, I ran to about the three yard line, then broke outside, turning to see what was developing. Josh had already looked off his first two options and was opening to throw the wheel route, when their weak side linebacker jumped the route. Josh pulled the ball back down, then scanned the field again. I cut my route off, then headed back towards the center of the field looking for any opening. I saw a crease between their middle linebacker and the safety, it was tight but it was there. I broke hard for the area, Josh apparently saw the exact same thing at the last moment. As he released the ball, he was blasted by one of their defensive ends, driving him to the turf. The ball was high and to my right, as I went up between the two defenders. I was able to get my right hand on the point of the ball and bring it in towards my body. Just as I brought my left hand to the ball, I was hit by both of the defenders at once, the three of us falling backwards. The ball slipped from my right into my left, as the linebacker pulled hard on my right arm. I pulled the ball against my body with my left, just seconds before the three of us impacted the ground full force. A split second later, I felt an arm rip at the ball, pulling it loose, causing it to fall to the turf. I looked down the goal line, the official was signaling touchdown. I jumped up, picked up the ball, accelerated to the goal post and slammed the ball over it, causing the post to shake.
The defense was still arguing with the official as I ran off the field. As we lined up for the extra point, the officials blew the whistle, signaling that the booth would review the touchdown. The referee went over to the booth, pulling the hood over his head. I was on one knee on the sideline when Coach Reed walked over to me.
“Good ?”, he asked.
“No doubt Coach, I was already on the ground when they stripped it.”, I answered.
It took quite a while, the crowd was beginning to grow anxious. Since the ruling on the field was touchdown, there had to be clear evidence, the ball had come free before I hit the ground. The referee stepped out from under the hood and ran to the center of the field, turning on his microphone.
“The receiver caught the ball with his right hand, lost control, then regained possession with his opposite hand. He clearly had possession when making contact with the ground, the ball being stripped after the play was over. The ruling on the field stands, touchdown San Diego.”, he stated.
The crowd erupted in a chorus of boos, but it didn’t matter, the ruling was right. We kicked the extra point and took a 14-3 lead, which we held until halftime. On the opening possession after halftime, they drove down and once again kicked a field goal narrowing the lead to 14-6. The third quarter was a defensive struggle, both teams forcing the other into punting situations, over and over. Early in the fourth quarter, there running back broke free and ran sixty eight yards for a score, cutting the margin to one, 14-13. We had three missed tackles on the play, Coach Reed was livid with the defense. On our opening possession of the fourth quarter, we quickly found ourselves in a third and fourteen situation, not an ideal down and distance.
“Twins left, X Cross, Giant Under, Power set, X Waggle on Blue.”, Josh called.
As we lined up for the play, Josh began cadence, he went with the hard count on one, unfortunately our right tackle moved instead of the defense. Flags littered the field from both sides, the ball was marched back five yards. Josh stuck with the same play, now looking at a third and nineteen. The ball was snapped, the receivers on the left crossed down field, I ran an out pattern under the switch maybe fifteen yards down the field. As I drifted toward the sideline, Josh read through the first three options, not happy with any of them. Having played with Josh for so long, our mental play clocks were almost in perfect synchronization. I knew just about the exact time, he would pull the ball down and begin to move from the pocket, trying to improvise. I scanned the middle of the field quickly, finding a spot between two defenders that was uncovered. I pushed hard for the spot, then sat down as the ball was headed my way. I knew I would be short on distance, so I knew I would need to pivot and try to pick up a few more yards. But before I could get my hands on the ball, the defensive back was on my back, knocking me forward, the ball careening off my hands into the secondary, then falling to the turf. As I got up, I looked around, then late, very late a flag was thrown. The Baltimore coaching staff erupted in protest, but it wasn’t even close, there was contact long before I touched the ball. The referee stepped up and turned on his microphone.
“Pass interference on the defense, number forty two. The ball will be placed at the spot of the foul resulting in an automatic ……first down.”, he ended.
We had caught a break, a gift of sorts, we were determined to make the most of it. Several plays later, Josh hit one of our wide receivers in the end zone, extending our lead to 21-13. It was still a one possession game, but we had some breathing room. There was 6:15 left to play when we kicked off, the ball going out the back of the end zone for a touchback. I sat on the end of the bench, hoping our defense would get the stop, but preparing just in case we had to go back out there. Coach Cullen had Josh and the recievers going over a package that we would run if they scored and tied the game up. If the situation was right, we would attempt to go for the win, rather than play it safe and go to overtime.
They methodically drove the ball down the field and with two minutes left in the game, they were on our seventeen yard line. By now we were all up on the sideline, watching the drama unfold. On first down, their wide receiver dropped a pass in his hands in the end zone. It would have been a tough catch, we had him covered well, but it was too close for comfort. As they lined up on second down, it appeared we had a blitz package called, I saw Sam Watkins stepping over and up to the line. When the ball was snapped, Sam came off like he was shot out of a cannon. The left tackle was able to push him wide for a second, but he quickly moved around his outside shoulder. As their quarterback stepped up into the pocket to throw, Sam unloaded into him, snapping his body forward causing the ball to tumble to the ground. When the pile was cleared, we had recovered the ball, the game was ours.
I arrived home close to one in the morning, Alexis was still waiting up when I walked in. I walked over to where she was sitting on the sofa, leaned over and kissed her.
“Hey baby, congratulations, you guys played well.”, she stated.
“Sam made it happen, huge play.”, I answered.
“Yes it was.”, she replied.
I went and grabbed some clothes, took a quick shower, then went into the kitchen to get a drink. I looked at the clock, we were due back at the practice in less than six hours. I climbed in bed and moved quickly over to Alexis, pulling her close to me, her back into my chest.
She immediately pressed her ass into me, sending a tingle up my spine.
“You’re not tired ?”, I whispered.
She rolled over and faced me quickly, he mouth on mine, her tongue hungry and searching. I reached down into her panties, her pussy was soaked, her legs opening to my touch. She had my shorts off in a matter of seconds, my hard cock in her soft hands. She rolled me on my back, straddled me quickly, pushing the head of my cock into her wet opening. She slowly slid down until I was buried deep inside of her, then leaned over and pressed her lips to mine. She began to move her hips very gently, pushing hard against me, her tongue deep in my mouth. She pulled her lips from mine, her beautiful jade green eyes open wide, looking deep into mine.
“I love you Brian Stevens, more than you will ever know.”, she whispered.
“I love you too baby.”, I replied.
She continued to move ever so gently, the walls of her pussy softly contracting against my cock, her eyes glued to mine. I was already too far gone, I knew I couldn’t hold back any longer, she sensed it too.
“Cum in my pussy baby, fill me up with hot cum.”, she urged.
I grabbed her hips with both hands, my hard cock throbbing as I released waves of hot cum deep inside of her. Within seconds, I felt my own cum coating my cock, as I gently rocked back and in forth inside of her. I looked at Alexis just as her eyes rolled back in her head, her orgasm hitting her head on, her juices mixing with mine, soaking the bed under me. She collapsed on the bed next to me, my arms still around her.
Our next game was on the road as well, this time in Houston. We played extremely well, one of our best efforts of the year, winning easily 42-21. We were now headed to the Conference Championship with New England being the only obstacle between us and another Superbowl appearance. The game would be on the road again, they were one game better than we were, thus securing the home field advantage. We practiced hard during the week, paying particular attention to all the small details. We left for the game Friday morning, arriving late that evening in our hotel. I had just finished unpacking my things when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find Josh and a few other players from the team.
“Get dressed sunshine, we are going to dinner.”, he ordered.
“When ?”, I asked.
“Meet us downstairs in ninety minutes.”, he replied.
I closed the door and returned to what I was doing. I hated games on the road, I could never seem to unwind, everything was so unfamiliar. I really didn’t feel like going out to eat, I had planned to get something sent up to my room. I changed into a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, then threw on a a pair of sneakers. I was sitting down in the lobby when Josh and the group came out of the elevator. We all got into a taxi, a large SUV that was waiting outside of the hotel. We were taken to a very nice steakhouse downtown, where Josh had secured reservations. We were recognized immediately, it was obvious the crowd was not overly receptive, however a few people did come over for autographs. As the meal progressed, it was obvious Josh had a full evening planned. We had practice scheduled the following morning at eleven, the last thing we needed was a night on the town.
We finished our meal, a raging debate was being held on where we were headed to next. Two wanted to go club hopping, Josh and Jaxon had other ideas.
“Titty bar……..Titty bar…..Titty bar.”, Jaxon chanted as he tapped on the table with both hands.
“I’m dog tired guys……. I’m gonna head back to the hotel.”, I told them.
“Come on Brian, live a little brother, let’s go see some ass.”, Brian urged.
“I got all the ass I need at home guys, count me out.”, I said, getting up, throwing a twenty on the table as a tip.
I flagged a cab quickly that took me straight back to the hotel. After a quick shower and change of clothes, I was laying on my large bed watching TV in just shorts and a tee shirt. I found a movie that started around nine thirty, so I stayed up until midnight, to see the conclusion.
Practice trhe next day was less than spirited to say the least, you could tell a lot of the team had partied well into the night, something that Coach Reed was not pleased with. He imposed an eight o’clock curfew for Saturday night, making sure no one left the hotel after dark.
We arrived at the stadium sometime just after nine o’clock in the morning, finding our lockers and getting dressed for warm ups. I hit the field a few minutes before ten dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, my IPOD blaring into my ears as I ran through my pre game ritual of stretching, then getting the feel of the turf. After about an hour, I returned to the locker room to report to the trainers for taping. I was dressed and ready to go at least thirty minutes early, I was sitting on the locker room floor in the corner, away from everyone else. This had been a really strange year for me, the injury had set me back, but more importantly, the desire and the passion this team exhibited last year for some reason just wasn’t there. Maybe it was the success from last year, maybe we felt we just had to show up for the win. It was hard to say, but something was missing.
In his pre game speech Coach reed quickly touched on that exact point, urging us to give the absolute best effort of the year to assure we would go on to a second straight Super Bowl.
We opened up the game on defense and watched our opponent drive seventy nine yards for a touchdown with very little resistance from our defense. When the offense stepped on the field for the first time, half of the first quarter was already gone and we were down 7-0. We manged to pick up one first down, but then had to punt the ball back to them. Once again, they methodically drove down the field kicking a forty yard field goal, extending their lead to 10-0. By halftime, we had given up yet another score, but more importantly we had only crossed mid field once, they had a convincing 17-0 lead.
Coach Reed absolutely exploded at halftime, objects were hurled around the locker room, drink tables turned over and chairs thrown. Never had I seen him like this, you could hear a pin drop in the room.
“Why the fuck did we travel completely across the fucking country to get here, then lay down and die ? You think anyone gives a fuck you won the Super Bowl last year, trust me they don’t. In this league, you’re only as good as your last game, and right now, we’re horrible. I hope all the drinking and strip clubs were worth it, it’s costing you the game right now. We have missed blocks, dropped passes and fumbled twice. Henson you couldn’t find your own ass with both hands, much less an open receiver out there. Jaxon, you have dropped two key passes already and Stevens, I don’t know where the fuck you have been, you have exactly one catch.”, he ranted.
“They have Stevens doubled on most patterns Coach.”, Josh replied.
“That’s a load of crap Henson, I have seen the two of you beat double coverage time in and time out.”, he snarled back.
We opened the second half on offense, the huddle was deathly silent as Josh stepped inside and knelt down.
“Power left, Waggle right, Jet 60 on two.”, he called.
We lined up and ran our first play of the second half, a screen to Scott Douglas for a pickup of fifteen yards out to our thirty five. We huddled up quickly, the play was called and we lined up. Four plays later we were again inside of their forty moving the ball well. The quick up beat tempo was back, we were snapping the ball with well over eight seconds left on the play clock. That was our normal tempo and when we were on, it caused havoc to a defense. Not only did it limit the amount of time they had to match our substitution packages, it also took valuable rest time away from them between plays. As we lined up again, I went in motion from right to left, the strong safety shifted and went with me. This signaled man to man coverage, Josh picked it up immediately calling an audible.
“Kill, Kill, Kill, Iso 17 Wide, Iso 17 Wide.”, he screamed.
Every game we would use different audibles so that no team could pick up a pattern from game to game. It was the same plays, just different terminology. We were digit adding this game, something we did three to four times a year. Since I was number eighty nine, eight plus nine equaled seventeen. He had called an isolated wheel route on the left, with me swinging off the wide receivers inside post route. If the corner and safety swapped off, I would break the route off at about fifteen yards and run a curl. If the safety stayed with me, I would try and take him down the sideline long.
The ball was snapped, I came off drifting left watching for Jaxon’s cut inside. At about twelve yards he broke hard inside, I swung under him, then turned up along the sideline. I looked back after about twenty yards the ball was already in the air. The pass was dead on, I never missed stride, I was tackled from behind inside the five yard line. Two plays later, Scott Douglas punched it in for a touchdown.
By the end of the third quarter, we had cut the lead to 17-10, our defense had really stepped it up. We were still moving the ball, but yards were at a premium. Early in the fourth quarter, Scott Douglas ripped off a seventy seven yard run that would make the highlight reels later that night. He broke at least three tackles and made several other defensive players miss him in the open field.
Scott Douglas ran like he was possessed in the fourth quarter, scoring twice more and putting the game out of reach 31-20. By the end of the game he had amassed two hundred and eight yards rushing, his best day as a pro by far. We were heading to our second consecutive Super Bowl, something very few teams had been able to accomplish. Before we landed in San Diego that night, we learned our opponent would be Green Bay, a team with a tenacious defense. The Super Bowl was being held in Arizona this year, so it would be fairly close to home.
Alexis was still awake when I arrived home late Sunday night, she was all smiles.
“Hey baby, congratulations, I can’t believe it, the Super Bowl again.”, she said, wrapping her arms around me.
“It’s hard to believe, Scott was amazing, he got us there.”, I answered.
By the time I got up in the morning, Alexis had already left for work. We had the next two days off, then we would begin preparing for the Super Bowl on Wednesday. I needed the rest, my body was sore and bruised, by this time of the season sometimes the simplest body movements were difficult. I ran a few errands on Monday, returning home just after noon, then cleaned up the house a bit. I had just sat down and turned on the TV when my cell phone rang, it was Alexis.
“Hey baby, I just got a call from Wayne Hiller, your GM, he wants to begin negotiating your new contract as soon as possible.”, she informed me.
“Can’t it wait until after the Super Bowl ?”, I asked.
“I’m sure they’re thinking, if you guys win another one, our leverage goes up. He’s going to email me an opening proposal sometime today. We can talk about it tonight. But just so you know, I am looking for a five year deal, with close to half guaranteed.”, she answered.
“Whatever you feel the market is Alexis, this is what you do.”, I replied.
That night at dinner, Alexis laid out the initial offer she had received from Mr. Hiller on the table.
“They are offering fifty one million for five years, with twenty four million being guaranteed. They have included the basic incentive program that you have now.”, she started.
“What do you think ?”, I replied.
“Ron Fulton from Dallas is regarded as one of the top three tight ends in all of football. Most people list you right behind him, some even say you’re dead even. He signed last season for seventy eight million over five years, with thirty four million being guaranteed. You’re younger than he is, you’ve have no serious health issues, and you caught more balls last year then he did. So I am thinking , we should get extremely close to his number.”, she added.
We talked back and forth for a while, the numbers were really staggering, almost inconceivable that someone could make that amount of money playing a kid’s game.
“Brian, have you really given any thought to what you want to do after football ?”, she asked.
“No, not really, why ?”, I answered.
“Well, and I’m just throwing this out there, but if you sign for five years, at the termination of that contract, you will have nine years in the league. We have done well financially, if we continue to invest as we have, maybe you should think about walking away at that time, while you’re still young and healthy.”, she continued.
“That’s something to think of.”, I answered.
We agreed Alexis would make a counter offer the following morning, basically getting the process started. Any figure close to what she had referred to would definitely fix us for life, if we lived within our means.
While Alexis showered, I cleaned up the kitchen and took out the trash. I grabbed a pair of shorts and a tee shirt, then went into the shower myself. I finished up and brought my towels and clothes to the laundry room, then went back into the kitchen to get a drink. Alexis was sitting on the sofa in the den area, her eyes staring at me intently.
“What’s wrong ?”, I asked, pouring my drink.
“Come on over and see.”, she replied.
I finished pouring my drink, replaced the pitcher in the refrigerator and closed the door. I walked into the den and around the sofa to see Alexis dressed in a white tee shirt and black lace panties. Her hand was inside of her panties softly stroking her pussy, as her jade green eyes were riveted to mine, a seductive look on her face.
“See anything you might like ?”, she asked, in a most innocent tone.
“Oh yea.”, I quickly replied.
“Well sit down and watch me then.”, she urged.
I sat down on the other end of the sofa from Alexis, my eyes glued to her right hand, which was moving steadily inside of her silk panties. She leaned back slightly, opening her legs just a little further as she eased a finger deep inside of herself. Then with her left hand, she pulled the waistband of her panties straight down, exposing her soaking wet slit to me. My cock was now hard, straining against the soft cotton fabric of my boxers, something I know Alexis was aware of.
“I love to play with my pussy while you watch baby.”, she whispered.
Her breathing was now becoming shallow, her motions less fluid, I could sense she had an orgasm building. I suddenly got the feeling Alexis was waiting…….her eyes told me she wanted something……but what ? I wondered if perhaps she was looking for direction, that she wanted me to tell her what to do.
“Don’t you cum yet.”, I commanded.
I could tell she was surprised, but in a pleasant way, a soft smile crossing her face. The index finger of her right hand was now moving in small counter clockwise circles on her clit.
“Why can’t I cum ?”, she pouted.
“You can’t cum until I tell you can.”, I commanded.
She gave me a look like she was somewhat disappointed, but deep down I knew better. I pushed myself back against the arm rest of the sofa turning my body towards her, making sure I had a really great view.
“Take your panties off for me.”, I instructed.
Without any hesitation, she pulled the black panties off, tossing them to the floor next to the sofa. She then leaned back against the opposite arm of the sofa, once again opening her legs for me, her right hand quickly finding her swollen clit.
“That’s it baby, rub it for me, real easy, slow……not too fast.”, I whispered.
I could tell by her shallow breathing she was well on her way to an orgasm, but I was determined to make her work for it. I reached out with my right hand and softly ran my hand up her smooth, silky leg. I watched as she eased one finger deep inside of herself, her back and hips arching against her palm. I leaned down over her, my lips softly kissing the inside of her thighs, as she worked her fingers in and out of her pussy. I pushed myself up and quickly stood up, extending my hand to her. I led her down the hallway towards the bedroom, when she stopped suddenly and pulled me in close, her tongue forcing it’s way past my lips. I pushed her gently against the wall, pinning her body with mine as I returned her kiss, my thigh spreading her legs apart. I pulled my lips from hers, looking deep into her jade green eyes.
“You will not cum until I tell you too. You understand that ?”, I ordered.
Alexis didn’t speak, she simply nodded yes, I could feel her body trembling in anticipation of what yet to come. I pushed my hand down between her legs, until my palm was against her clit, my fingers probing between her lips. I knelt down between her legs, as she leaned back against the wall exhaled deeply, then closed her eyes. I pushed two fingers deep inside of her, curving them upward, feeling for that one spot, the one that makes her lose all control. She let out a gasp as I touched it for the first time, my fingers massaging it gently as I had been taught to do. As I worked my fingers over the spot, I leaned forward and began to flick my tongue over her now swollen and hard clit.
“Baby please…….. God, please let me cum now…..”, she begged.
“Not yet.”, I replied.
I continued to work my fingers deep inside of her, once again placing my lips to her clit. I knew she is on the brink, I could feel her body trembling, her toes were curled, low moans coming from her throat.
“Ok baby, cum for me.”, I whispered.
I put my lips on her clit and sucked it into my mouth hard, my tongue dancing over it as my fingers moved deep inside of her. Her hips were grinding against my mouth, her legs were trembling, liquid was running down her legs. She reached down and pushed my hand from inside of her, then pressed one finger against her clit, lifting it slightly.
“Oh Goddddddddddddddddddddd.”, she screamed out, a powerful stream of clear liquid drenching my chest.
I leaned forward extending my tongue as Alexis violently sprayed my mouth with her orgasm. Each time the stream would begin to wither, another geyser would fill my mouth, causing her legs to tremble, her knees to buckle. Finally she was spent, her body limp against the wall, her finger lightly stroking her clit.
“Oh baby, that was incredible.””, she whispered.
I stood up and took her by the hand leading her into the bathroom, where I turned the water on for the shower. I watched Alexis step into the shower, the water cascading down her magnificent body, a steady stream running off her stunning ass. Even after all of this time, I still wondered how I had managed to marry this incredible woman. I stepped into the shower, joining Alexis under the shower head. I pressed my lips to hers in a passionate kiss, the water heightening the sensation I was feeling. My hard cock was pressed firmly against her stomach as she straddled my thigh, pressing her wet pussy into my leg. I finally pulled my lips from hers, I had to catch my breath, the water was making it difficult to breath.
“Mmmmmmm, I love you Brian Stevens.”, Alexis whispered softly, her eyes filled with passion.
“Well that’s a very good thing Ms. Clarke, because I just happen to be head over heels in love with you too.”, I replied, kissing her quickly on the lips.
“Would you mind washing my hair ?, she asked, handing me a bottle of liquid, then turning her back to me.
I squeezed a large amount of the shampoo into my palm, then began to work it into her long jet black hair. As I was rubbing the shampoo into Alexis’ hair, she reached back around her and grabbed my stiff cock, pumping me with her small soft hand.
Aftrer rinsing her hair in the steaming hot water, she turned to me and squeezed liquid soap all over my shoulders, chest and arms. Her small gentle hands rubbed the soap into my body, her fingers sending shivers down my spine. She then began to apply the soap to my cock, her hand gliding along aided by the soapy lubricant. After several minutes, I stepped under the water to rinse off, my body aching for Alexis. We stepped out of the shower and quickly toweled off, then made our way into the bedroom. We fell into the bed in each other’s arms, our hands moving over the other’s body. Alexis’ hand wrapped easily around my cock pulling it firmly back and forth, precum oozing from my cock.
I slid down her body once again, parted her legs as my hands moved across her softly silky skin. My mouth quickly followed my hands, moving ever closer to where she wanted me to be. She moaned softly as my tongue parted her lips, easing slowly inside of her. I quickly began to gently suck her clit, as my fingers moved inside of her pressing against her soft walls. As I ran one hand up her stomach to her breast, she exploded once again on my fingers, her juices coating my hand and lips. She fell back on the bed out of breath, as the last few waves of her orgasm rippled through her. I moved back up next to her, my hand softly caressing her cheek, her eyes were still glazed over.
“God, you make me feel so good. You’re so caring, so unselfish.”, she whispered.
She rolled over and leaned into my face, I could sense she had something in mind. She leaned over and kissed me softly, her tongue tracing my lips, then pushing into my mouth. I ran my hand down her back, coming to rest on her firm, tight ass. She straddled me quickly, reaching down and pressing the head of my cock, against her warm wet opening. With one move of her hips, she buried my cock deep inside of her, she was soaked with desire. She began moving her hips up and down slowly, up to where just the head of my cock was inside of her, then plunging back down until she bottomed out. She was staring directly into my eyes, her face just inches from mine. I placed my hands on both of her hips and began to move my body with hers.
“That’s it baby, slide that cock in me.”, she whispered.
I tightened my grip on her hips, then with one quick move, flipped her over on her back. I eased between her legs, pushing the head of my cock between her warm, wet lips. I felt those long, muscular legs wrap around me, her hands running up and down my chest. I began to slide my cock in and out of her pussy, her walls squeezing my shaft tightly. My cock was throbbing, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to last very long.
“God, baby your pussy feels so good.”, I whispered.
She smiled at me, then pulled my head down, pressing her lips to mine once again in a passionate kiss. When she released me, her eyes looked into mine, it was as if we were one. She pulled my head down so that her lips were against my ear, her breath warming my face.
“I want to feel you cum in my pussy baby, let it go.”, she urged.
I started pumping into her with reckless abandon, my heart was racing , my cock throbbing. With one final thrust, I buried my cock deep inside of her, the first explosion of cum washing her insides. With each contraction, I could feel her insides being filled with my seed. I rolled to the side gently, pulling her over to me, my cock still inside of her. She looked up at me with those beautiful eyes that a man could get lost in, the ones I never got tired of looking into.
All that week and early into the next, we worked hard getting ready for the big game, it was as if we had new life. Being the defending World Champions the pressure would be on us, but with that said, we were still only two point favorites to win the game. By the time the week of the game had rolled around, the odds had dropped to dead even, the experts figured it could be anyone’s game.
We left for Arizona on Tuesday, Alexis would fly in Friday night after work. Alexis had spoken to Ashley late in the week, she unfortunately couldn’t attend due to problems with her schedule at school. We were settled into our hotel on Tuesday evening, then given the night off, we would practice early in the morning.
We practiced both Wednesday morning, then Thursay evening alternating with our opponent, leading up to Friday’s Media Day, which was always a circus. The city was packed with fans, you couldn’t walk five feet out of the hotel lobby door without being surrounded by fans seeking autographs. We arrived at the arena around ten in the morning, we had a complete schedule of events that would take us late into the afternoon. I had no sooner entered the arena when a young man from a national TV affliate came up to me asking for an interview. I followed him to the booth where his crew was set up, a very attractive young reporter was behind the news desk. I was ushered into the chair next to her, the crew scrabbled, within minutes the camera operator was pointing at her.
“Good morning, this is Pam Morgan and I’m here with Brian Stevens, the extremely talented tight end from San Diego. Thank you for joining me Brian, how are you today ?”, she started.
“I’m fine. Thank you for having me.”, I replied.
“Brian, you guys haven’t had the magical season you had last year. You personally dealt with a possible career ending injury earlier this year. How does it feel to be sitting here today ?”, she inquired.
“Really strange Pam, it’s been an up and down year for us. We haven’t always played to the level we wanted to, but still here we are. This team is probably better than last year’s team that won this thing, but for some reason, we have struggled more this year.”, I answered.
“You’re in an option year, has the team started any talks about locking you up long term ?”, she asked.
“Actually yes, my agent has entered into talks with the team, we are hoping to get a long term deal signed, I really want to stay with this team.”, I responded.
“I have heard some teams may be interested in tossing huge amounts of money at you. What would it take to get you to leave San Diego ?”, she said.
“I leave those things to my agent, Pam.”, I answered.
“You’re wife is your agent is she not ?”, she laughed.
“Yes she is, that’s why I keep my mouth shut.”, I laughed back.
Everyone on the set laughed at my comment, I guess it was an odd situation to say the least.
“Brian, we have heard Steve Tillman, the Green Bay Defensive Coordinator, state he’s not going to let you and Scott Douglas beat him. He has emphasized that he will pay particular attention to both of you. In fact, some of the defensive players have came right out and said, they will be looking for you. Any comment ?”, she asked, trying to get a reaction from me.
“Well I can’t speak for Scott Douglas, but I’m almost six foot seven, two hundred sixty five pounds. They won’t have to look hard to find me.”, I replied.
“Everyone is pointing to the matchup between you and Greg Jackson, the very talented free safety from Green Bay. He’s one of the most physical defensive backs in the league, he’s also one of the most vocal. He has already promised to introduce himself to you early in the game.”, she ended.
“That’s fine Pam, he’s entitled to his opinion. I’m playing with the best quarterback in the league in Josh Henson, I’m not worried.”, I answered.
We finished up the interview and I moved on to another set. It seemed the recurring theme of every interview was based on the talk that was coming from our opponents camp. Scott and I would be targeted, shut down so to speak. As I was waiting to be interviewed for the last time, I noticed they had Greg Jackson in the chair before me. I noticed that he was smiling and nodding his head in my direction as he answered questions. I turned and ignored him, waiting for him to finish. As he got up and took off his microphone, I walked past him to sit in the chair he had just gotten up from. Once again, he had this idiotic smile on his face, nodding his head up and down in my direction.
“Enjoy it baby, it’s all downhill from here.”, he laughed.
“Now I’m frightened.”, I replied quickly, laughing.
“Damn right you are man, you should be, you’re gonna get hurt.”, he shot back.
“I won’t be hard to find, boy.”, I responded.
Quickly members of the production crew stepped between us, pushing him off and out the tent, trying to calm him down. I sat down in the chair, connected the microphone and turned to the commentator who was still trying to take in what had just happened.
“Seems you two are ready for war ?”, he asked.
“It’s all trash, Sunday is all that matters.”, I answered.
I finished up the interview, with basically all the same questions being asked again, it was like an old movie that you had seen several times before. We left the arena a little after three in the evening, heading staright back to the hotel. Alexis arrived that night, we had dinner together, then spent a little quiet time in her room.
The game was scheduled to start at 3:30 in the evening, we arrived at the stadium just after ten. I dressed in shorts and a compression tee shirt, grabbed several pair of shoes, then head out to the field. I went through my normal two hour ritual warming up, running then trying different shoes on the synthetic turfs, trying to find the right shoe. I entered our locker room right after nnon and hit the trainer’s table to get taped up. I then dressed in my game pants and jersey, then headed back out on the field for team warmup’s.
We were sitting in the locker room about a half hour before game time, I was in a corner alone, my eyes closed. For some reason I was thinking of Courtney, I couldn’t get her out of my head. I was thinking back to the day I was drafted, the party on her parent’s patio. How excited she was for me, when San Diego finally called me name. I wondered how different my life would be had she not gotten sick, where would the two of us be right now ? I was jolted back to reality by the sound of the entire team moving towards the tunnel, the introductions were about to begin.
We won the toss and elected to receive the ball first, both teams lined up for the kick off. After a long kickoff and a touchback, the ball was placed on our twenty yard line. Josh knelt in the huddle, he was in full command, his voice clear and crisp.
“I’ve heard nothing but fucking shit from this defense all week. Let’s stick it in them and break it off early.”, he growled.
“Power left, 56 toss on three.”, he barked.
We broke the huddle and lined up in a standard running formation, one receiver on each side of the formation, I was lined up tight next to our right tackle. As Josh began to call cadence, their defense shifted into a run blitz, bringing eight men to the line of scrimmage. They were covering our wide outs man on man, Greg Jackson was lined up maybe five yards down the field, directly across from me.
“Kill, Kill, Kill, 17 Go, Omaha, 17 Go, Omaha.”, Josh called out, changing the play.
We were using our number signals, combined with city names in this audible package. I was number eighty nine, eight plus seven was seventeen, I was the primary target on this route. Omaha was a northern city which meant I was going on a deep seam route. I wanted to laugh as I looked back at Josh, he was going at Jackson on the first play. The ball was snapped, I came off the line at half speed colliding with my opponent maybe seven yards down the field. I could see he was going to try and chuck me high under the pads, so just a split second before contact I lowered my upper body. He lifted both hands to contact my shoulder pads, but with my head down, one hand missed badly, going off my helmet, causing him to stumble slightly. With my left hand inside of our bodies, I pushed off and accelerated up the field, using the hash marks as a target. Josh had seen the mistake immediately, but he was holding on to the ball as long as possible. Jackson was frantically trying to close the gap, but it wouldn’t be in time. Josh launched the ball, it was dead on the hash marks, I never missed a stride. I pulled the ball in somewhere around their forty five yard line and was inside the ten before Jackson and one of their other corner backs ran me down. As we unpiled I could tell he was livid, now was my chance to really get in his head.
“You’re right, that was all downhill.”, I laughed at him.
“Fuck you eight nine, you won’t get another one.”, he shouted, pushing me in the chest.
I laughed at him once again, then trotted back to the huddle. Josh slapped me on the helmet as I leaned over.
“Big catch baby, way to get it started.”, he shouted.
“I want this fucker Josh, let’s clean his clock early.”, I urged.
“Split right, Scat Right, 639 Y, Power Right Angle”, Josh called, “It’s Hyper Dunk time baby.”
This play was designed as a simple corner fade, I would simply hold the block on the linebacker for a second or two, then head right to the back right hand corner of the end zone. Josh would just throw the ball up, depending on the coverage, either to the pylon, or my back shoulder, whatever was open. I sensed that Jackson would try and immediately settle the score, he was that emotional of a player.
We lined up again in our power formation, two receivers one on each side, with me next to the left tackle this time. They were in a standard zone under, man over package. They were crowding the line with players again, matching up man on the outside.
On the first number called, I went in motion to my right, lining up in the slot, between the right tackle and the wide receiver. As thought, Jackson slid over in my direction, at least looking like he was matching me man to man. On the snap, I came off inside first, then broke hard to the right corner pylon. Josh and I had run this pattern so many times, we could probably both do it blindfolded. As I accelerated to the corner, I knew the ball was already coming. I snapped my head back and there it was, high and on my outside shoulder. I went up with Jackson on my back, made the catch then landed with both feet in bounds before he pushed me out. I jumped up quickly, the ball in my hand and started towards the goal post. After being beat twice in as many plays, he was not in the mood for me show boating. He blocked my path quickly, squaring up with me chest to chest. I went to step around him but he quickly stepped with me, trying to stay between me and the goal. By then two of our offensive lineman showed up and pushed him aside, slapping my back.
“This is for you baby.”, I yelled at him.
I accelerated towards the goal post, planted my feet and elevated as high as I ever had, slamming the ball down over the goal post with tremendous force. I headed to the sideline, where everyone was still celebrating our quick score.
Coach Reed met me at midfield, one arm around my shoulder, shaking me.
“You’re money baby, you never let me down son.”, he shouted.
I sat down on the end of the bench, taking a water bottle with me. We had just covered eighty yards in two plays, there was still 13:56 left in the first quarter, we already had a 7-0 lead. Josh fell on the bench next to me, he was all smiles as he looked my way.
“That motherfucker is out of control HD. He’s going to have a long day, you got him psyched.”, he laughed.
Josh was on the headset listening to Coach Cullen who was upstairs in the press box. They were going over a series of plays that we would run on the next possession, both of them going back and forth with each other. Sometimes the two of them reminded me of an old married couple with all of the arguing. Suddenly the crowd erupted in an roar, one that I had come to learn meant something big was happening. I got up and scanned the field just in time to see our defense celebrating, running off the field. I looked up at one of the giant screens directly across from where I was sitting. The replay showed our linebacker Sam Watkins stripping the ball from their running back, then falling on it himself giving us the ball inside of their thirty yard line. The offense jumped up and headed back on the field, we were in business again. After the television time up, the referee blew his whistle, Josh knelt down in the huddle.
“Double Slant, Max Protect, Hot Read on three. I’ll call the route at the line.”, he shouted.
Josh was in one of his zones, he was going for kill right away. He was going to go at the weakest corner in an iso move right away. He simply had to scan the field, to see who was matched on whom. I trotted out to the left slot as usual, surprised to see Greg Jackson, once again matching up on me man to man. I looked to my left and saw Nate Collins the rookie lined up on my outside shoulder, he looked like a deer in the head lights. I smiled and nodded at him, he smiled back weakly, I knew what he was thinking.
“Blue fifty eight , Iso sixteen, Tulsa, Iso sixteen Tulsa.”, he called.
I put my head down and smiled, sixteen, double eights, Nate’s number was being called. He was going to run a mid range post right across the middle. I was going to drag out under him, working the sideline in case he was covered. The ball was snapped, we came off hard togther. Nate broke his route off at eight yards, the ball was already in the air. He plucked it clean with both hands extended from his body as he had been taught. He side stepped one tackle, then accelerated up the field, finally being tackled at the eleven yard line. He was all smiles as he came back to the huddle, you could see relief on his face.
“Good one Nate.”, I said, slamming my fist into his upper pads.
“Thanks man.”, he replied.
“Ok here we go, Power Left, Scat Right, Dive Left, Option Pitch Right.”, he called.
This was a play we rarely used, but if it was run right and the defense bit early, it worked. We would line up one receiver to the right, I would line up tight next to the left tackle. Josh would be under center, with both running backs in an I formation behind him. On the snap, everyone would zone block down to the left. Josh would open up to his left and face the fullback who would be coming right at him. Scott Douglas would delay for a full second, then break hard to the right way from everyone. Josh would then flip the ball like an option read ahead of Scott, who was running naked to the right.
The play worked perfectly, the entire defense bit going left. By the time Scott gathered in the pitch from Josh he only had one man between him and the goal line. Trying to tackle Scott in the open field was next to impossible, much less after he had a full head of steam. He made one one fake to the inside freezing the defensive back in his tracks then practically walked into the end zone. As we sat down on the bench once again, I looked at the clock. There was a little over ten minutes left in the first half, we were already up 14-0, this was unbelievable.
Once again we were on the sideline scheming plays for our next possesssion. But this time our opponent went on a long sustained drive, scoring with just a few minutes left in first quarter, cutting our lead to 14-7. Once again we started our drive from our own twenty yard line, Josh determined to get the touchdown back as soon as possible.
“Overload Left, Double Cross, Max Protect, Circle Right on Two.”, he called.
Seven plays later, we were inside of their thirty attempting to score again. After two short runs, we were facing third and six, at the twenty four yard line. He called a quick slant to Nate Collins who lined up on the left side. It was a five yard pattern, should be easy enough to convert. They made an excellent adjustment on the snap moving up to jam Nate on the line of scrimmage. I was running a delayed out then stop and run across the field trying to slide either under or over the safety who had deep responsibility. I saw Josh scramble out of the pocket moving to his right, just as I was . I saw what appeared to be a soft spot in the coverage so I moved up towards the area. Josh threw the ball on a dead run, it was high, really high. I went up to get it, but realized right away, I had no chance. I was on the way down, when I felt the impact rock me, slamming me straight back to the turf. I laid there for a second, everything was spinning, my ears were ringing. As I went to get up, I saw the yellow flag had been thrown right at my feet. Their safety Greg Jackson was pleading his case to the official a few yards away. I got up to one knee as the trainers were talking to me, trying to make sure I was ok. I stood up with a bit of assistance, then slowly walked off the field under my own power. I heard the referee on the microphone just as I got to the sidelines.
“Personal foul on the defense, number 41, contact with a defenseless receiver. The result of the penalty will result in a ……first down.”, he announced.
They marched off the penalty as I was led over to the bench to sit down. I was handed a drink, I took a long gulp, then threw the rest on my face. As I looked up at the screen, I saw just how brutal the hit was. They kept replaying it over and over. There was no doubt, he was looking for a knock out hit, he went in helmet first to my head. Score one for him I thought to myself, he took a big step to getting us back on a level field. Three plays later we kicked a field goal extending our lead to 17-7.
As the defense took the field, first Josh came over and checked on me. Right behind him was Nate Collins, the rookie. He looked like he had seen a ghost.
“Are you ok, man ? Jesus that was fucking brutal.”, he said, kneeling in front of me.
“I’m ok man, thanks.”, I replied, slapping his shoulder pads.
On our next offensive possession I took the field, getting into the huddle, the ball was on our own thirty six. After a draw play and a quick screen pass, we crossed mid field, we were in sync again.
“Overload right, Y Weak Cross, Double Post Right, 89 Wheel Left, Waggle on two.”, Josh shouted.
This was one of my favorite plays, I got to run a wheel route after a delay, hopefully isolating myself on a linebacker along the sideline. I was the third read, but if I got open, it was usually for a nice gain. The ball was snapped, I dropped into pass coverage, chipping the defensive end with our left tackle, all the while watching the Will Linebacker. He started to rush a few steps, then back peddled, watching Josh’s eyes. At the count of three, I released the end and broke up field, five yards then cut out hard to the sidelines. The linebacker saw me maybe three steps too late, he was in trouble. As soon as I hit the hash marks, I turned up field looking the ball. Josh saw me late and put way too much air on the ball. I had to slow up and wait on it, giving the defender a chance to catch me from behind at the twenty four yard line. Once again, I took a pretty good hit on the sideline driving me out of bounds. As I got up and headed back to the huddle, their corner back was jawing in my direction after his hit.
“Come on boy, I got a lotta more for your ass.”, he shouted.
I simply shook my head running back to the huddle. No matter what profession you were in, no matter how much money was paid, there were always going to be ignorant people. We’re up by ten and driving again and this asshole is talking smack. We picked up another first down on the eight yard line, it was first and goal. We ran an off tackle play first, then a delayed trap getting the ball to the three yard line. On third down, Josh threw a pretty good pass to Nate Collins in the end zone, he just couldn’t hold on to it. Coach Reed took a time out immediately, discussing the possibility of going for it on fourth down. It was a two possession game at this time, a field goal would still only make it a two possession game. But a touchdown here would really make a statement going into halftime.
I watched the discussion between Josh, Coach Reed and Coach Cullen intently. I could see Josh pleading his case with passion. Finally I saw Coach Reed nod to him, I knew he had won. He trotted back on the field with a confident look on his face. He knelt down in the huddle and called the play, one we had used only once this year.
“Power Left, Max Protect, Delay Giant Slide Right, on three.”, he called.
We were going to run a pass play, to our fullback, who would go in motion to the right. He would then come off to the goal line, cut out hard, the ball would be thrown immediately. If the timing was right, it was impossible to defend, but timing was everything.
Because he was so good at voice inflection, we would call a double quick count like this trying to get someone to jump offsides. Unfortuanately before Josh could finish our right guard flinched, causing trhe flags to fly.
“False Start, Number Seventy Two on the Offense, Five Yard Penalty, it’s still Fourth Down.”, barked the official.
We turned to the sidelines to see the field goal unit running on the field, we had blew it. Coach Reed wasn’t going to gamble on a fourth and goal from just outside the eight. As we trotted off, I slapped our bif offensive guard, Max Brown, who had just moved on the back.
“Don’t sweat it Big Max, we’ll get it back baby.”, I consoled.
We kicked the field and took a 20-7 lead into the half, which considering was really incredible. Without the two quick scores we had early, this would be a 7-3 game. Both units went over all adjustments with their perspective coordinators, then the coaches met right before we went back out on the field. Everyone seemed pretty relaxed, well except for Nate who was sittiing next to me. His leg was going a hundred miles an hour.
“You ok Great Nate ?”, I laughed.
“Yea , Im good…..But…”, he started.
“But what ?”, I asked.
“Damn I want that fucking ring man.”, he said in a low tone.
“I know Nate, we all do.”, I replied.
The entire third quarter was a battle, neither offense could generate any kind of drive of any kind. The hitting had become fierce, it was life or death time, everyone knew it. With just two minutes gone into the fourth quarter, they connected on a fifty five yard pass for a touchdown, closing the score to 20-14. After a long kickoff and touchback we took the field for the first time in the fourth quarter. Josh had been frustrated for most of the second half, nothing seemed to go right for us offensively. After one run with no gain and another dropped pass, we were facing third and ten again, staring a three and out in the face.
“We’re letting this get away guys, come on.”, Josh screamed in the huddle.
On third down Josh converted a fifteen yard pass to our other wide out Jaxon in the flat giving us the first down we needed. After two quick runs, we picked up another. The clock was moving, just over nine miuntes left in the game. A field goal would make it a two possession game and swing the odds back to our defense. The key was to take as much time off the clock as we could before we kicked it. Preferably somewhere around three minutes left would be ideal. We knew the defense was thinking the same thing, they were going to be putting eight and nine in the box, looking for us to run. After two more runs by Scott, we were looking at a third and two on our own forty two. I had noticed on both previous running plays, Nate had lined up wide left and had drawn only single coverage. In fact, they had swapped corners on him, matching him up with the shorter but faster of the two. While Nate wasn’t the type of guy who would stretch the field, his six foot four frame was hard to defend, especially if you were five foot eight. Before we broke the huddle, I called out to Josh to look left before the snap, just in case. True to form, they were selling out again, they had eight men on the line on scrimmage. As Josh began cadence, he glanced to the left and saw exactly the same thing I did.
“Shift, shift, shift…. Fire Sixteen….Fire Sixteen….. Strong Right, Strong Right.”, he yelled, turning around and waving for Scott to shift to his right side, then motioning me to to the right as well.
Josh was a master when it came to mind games, he processed information so quickly, made split second critical decisions without hesitation. He had just told Nate Collins to run a deep sideline route with no hesitation, he would be the sole target. But in turning and shifting both Scott and myself way from Nate, he sold the defense we were going power right. He bent down under center and took the snap, dropped back, faking a hand off to Scott. I picked up the Mike linebacker on a blitz and was able to take him off his feet with a low block at the knees. I turned to see Josh plant and launch the ball deep in Nate’s direction. Just as I got back to my feet, I saw Nate go airborne at about the fifteen yard line, the defender was with him stride for stride. The corner made a great effort, but Nate was simply too tall, the ball was too high for him to make the play. Nate pulled it down and was knocked out of bounds at the eleven yard line. Quickly the official on the spot ruled it a catch, then a push out of bounds. The defensive back was arguing that Nate did not have control of the ball, that it as incomplete. By the time Nate had returned the the huddle, the Green Bay coach had already tossed the challenge flag and was talking to the referee.
“Did you have possession ?”, Josh quickly asked Nate.
“I had the ball with both hands, I’m just not sure where my feet were.”, Nate replied.
As everyone began to look up at one of the two monitors that were on each side of the field, the referee stepped forward and turned his microphone on.
“Green Bay is challenging the ruling on the field of a completed pass.”, he said, turning off the microphone and running for the video booth.
By the time the referee had gotten under the cover of the booth, they had already showed the play from several angles. One of the angles clearly showed Nate had possession of the ball. But on everyone of the three replays they had, it was really hard to tell if his left foot had touched the line or not, it was extremely close. Due to the fact it was the Super Bowl and how critical the call was, the official stayed under the hood for a very long time. Finally he trotted back on the field, stepped to the center and turned on his microphone.
“After further review the ruling on the field of a completed pass is confirmed. It will be first down at the ten and a half yard line. Green Bay is charged with it’s second time out.”, he finished.
Everyone in the huddle congratulated Nate, it was a huge play at a critical time of the game. The only problem was there was still eight and a half minutes to play in the fourth quarter, we didn’t want to leave that much time on the clock. With the ball being just outside the ten yard line, we could conceivably pick up a first down inside the one yard line. Josh knelt in the huddle, there was no doubt we would try at least two straight running plays, before thinking about throwing the ball.
We ran a quick hitter betweent the right tackle and the right guard, picking up about three yards on first down. After a delayed draw play on second down we picked up another 3 yards, bringing up third and about 4 yards to go. Josh knelt in the huddle, this play could decide the game. He decided to go with the quick slant to Jaxon on the right, it was a single read, either he was there, or he would throw the ball away. As we lined up, I was tight right, next to the tackle, we had a full backfield, our standard power formation. As Josh began to call cadence, the defense shifted into dime package with six defensive backs. Both Nate and Jaxon were doubled in an over and under scheme, making the play we had just called, very tough to complete.
“Time Out………Time Out…..”, Josh yelled at the official behind him.
As Josh trotted to the sideline to talk to Coach Reed and Coach Cullen, we stayed in the huddle, you could see the tension in everyone’s eyes. I looked over at Nate Collins, he looked like a toddler who had to go to the restroom, he was bouncing all around.
“Hey Nate, I think they are going to call your number man. I feel it.”, I laughed.
“Don’t wish that shit on me man. That’s fucked up.”, he replied.
By now Josh was entering the huddle, the brain trust had decided on the play. Everyone quieted down and Josh leaned forward.
“Ok, this is for the ring. Power Right, Sixteen Fade Right, Nine Deep Post Right, Waggle Swing Left Short, Giant Delay Right Spin Cross, Wide Protect on One.”, he instructed.
It took me a minute to process the play, this was one of our more complex throwing patterns. Nate was going to line up on the right and run a quick right corner fade, Jaxon, would line up to the left, drive to the back of the end zone, then drag across the back line to the right middle. Scott Douglas would run a swing route out into the left flat, while I lined up on the right, drove to the goal line, cut out to the right, then pivoted hard coming back across the goal line to the left. Anyone one of us could be the target in this pattern. We took our stance on the line, once again they showed us three down lineman, two linebackers, and six defensive backs.
“One Twenty Seven, One Twenty Seven…….Red Sixteen, Red Sixteen, Hut….” he barked.
The ball was snapped, I came off the line and collided with one of the defensive backs at the goal line, then cut to my right. He was right on my back as I broke out maybe a step behind me. I then planted hard and swung completely around and started running hard down the goal line in the opposite direction. I had caught him by surprise, I was now a few steps ahead of him, but Josh had already locked into Jaxon running the deep route along the back of the end zone. I saw him cock his arm, then begin his throwing motion. Suddenly he stopped and pulled the ball down, then started scanning the field. I had one defender on my back and one maybe five yards ahead of me at about the one yard line. I saw Josh’s eyes lock on mine, I knew that crazy bastard was going to try and thread the ball between the two of them. I moved up the field just slightly to the one to make sure the defender behind me couldn’t come over the top with his hands. Just as I looked back towards Josh again, he fired a laser shot, just inside of the defender’s out stretched hands. I made the traditional cradle with my palms just seconds before the nose of the ball snapped between them, snapping my wrists back. As I pulled the ball in and began to think about turning to the goal, I was blasted from two different sides, hitting the turf hard, several bodies falling on top of me. Under the pile, I was trying to pull the ball out from under my sotmach towards my helmet, getting it closer to the goal line. I felt hands pulling and clawing for the ball, as I continued to try and work it forward. Finally the officials were able to get everyone up and mark the ball, I had not scored, the nose of the ball was just inside the one yard line.
As I got up and looked up at the screen, I was sure I had gotten closer than where the ball was spotted. But after watching the replay, it was indeed a very good spot, they were right on the money. The referee signaled a time out, calling in the chains to measure the ball. I looked up at the clock, there were five minutes and eleven seconds left to play. It seemed the entire stadium was standing as the officials moved over the ball to extend the chains. Twice the referee had to push defensive players out of the way as to not to obstruct the measurement. Finally the official took the forward stick and stretched it out, setting it down next to the ball. The referee got down over the ball to get a better perspective of the measurement, it was just that close. Finally he stood up and made the signal, it was a first down. The crowd erupted, the defense began protesting vehemently but it was no use.
As the back judge headed past me, I asked him how close was it. He told that the nose of the ball had been maybe a sixteenth of an inch past the down marker. As we huddled up, for the first time in the game, I could see a smile on Nate’s face. Josh knelt in the huddle, asking everyone for quiet.
“No doubt, their all coming. They have to sell out on a run blitz. They will never expect this on first down.” he started.
“Power Set, I Formation, Single Left, Double Twins, Sixteen Right Fade on Three.”, he barked.
As we broke the huddle, I was lined up on the left, Nate was the single receiver in the formation lined up maybe three yards to my left. As I got in my stance, I couldn’t help think about the fine line between genius and insanity. We had three plays to punch it in, but yet Josh was going to throw an out route into the end zone to a rookie. I knew right about now Nate’s heart was ready to explode from his chest. The ball was snapped and they came all out, sending eight looking for the run. Josh took a quick three step drop and fired a dart to the pylon. I don’t think Nate Collins ever had a chance to think about it, the ball was on him as he came out of his break. He reached out and plucked it out of the air as the defender drove him to the ground, the official signaling touchdown.
I was already running in that direction when he caught the ball, I was the first to arrive. I could see the defensive back was trying to rip the ball from Nate with one hand, the other was pulling on his face mask. I reached down and grabbed him by his shoulder pads violently pulling him off of Nate. By that time, another defender got there pushing me from behind causing me to fall over the both of them. I jumped up quickly and went after him grabbing his face mask with one hand and his jersey with the other. It took all of the officials and several players to get the situation resolved separating the four of us. Everyone was still cursing at each other as we were being pulled apart. That’s when I noticed there were four flags laying all around us, the officials were all in huddle discussing the situation. Finally the referee stepped to the middle of the field, switching on his microphone.
“After the touchdown, we have multiple dead ball personal fouls. We have a personal foul on the offense number 89, we also have a personal foul on the defense number 57. Those penalties will offset.”, he finished, turning off his microphone.
As we walked towards the sidelines, Nate came running up next to me, still clutching the ball tight between his hands.
“Thanks for getting my back man.”, he said.
Before I could answer, Coach Reed was waiting as I knew he would be. He motioned the two of us over, as usual, he was trying to look angry.
“Stevens what the fuck is wrong with you ? How many fucking times does this have to happen ?”, he yelled.
“Fuck him Coach, he was……”, I started.
“I don’t want to hear it, go sit your ass down.”, he barked.
I went to my normal seat on the bench and looked up at the clock, it read four minutes eleven seconds left to play. With the extra point, we now had a 27-14 lead, it would take a disastrous turn of events for us to lose this one. After a long kick off and a touchback, our opponents started their drive from their own twenty yard line. We lined up in our base prevent defense, three down lineman, two linebackers and six defensive backs. The idea was to give up ground in small chunks, using up the clock along the way. They methodically moved their way down the field, completing short five to ten yard passes, all the while the clock was running. Just as they got inside our twenty yard line, the two minute warning was given. Everyone on our sideline was ready to erupt in celebration, but in this game you always knew, anything could happen. I sat alone on the end of the bench quietly, once again thinking about the road I had traveled to get here. My dad had always preached to me nothing in life worth while was ever easy. Now here on the bench, just minutes away from back to back World Championships, I had an empty feeling. I had won everything there was to win in this sport, yet something was missing. It was at that very moment when I came to the realization that, even though I was married to Alexis, I had no family.
Grandparents I never knew, a mother that couldn’t stand the sight of me, a father that had been taken from me at much too early of an age, there was no one. I heard someone say once, that great moments in life can only truly be enjoyed, when you’re surrounded by the ones you love. I was quickly brought back to reality as Josh sat down next to me, putting his arm around my shoulder.
“What’s wrong man ?”, he asked.
“Nothing, just thinking about my father.”, I replied.
“He’s proud of you right now, even though he can’t tell you just how much.”, Josh answered.
“That’s the problem.”, I responded.
Josh got up and patted me on the shoulder, walking toward the sidelines to see what was left of the game. With one minute twelve seconds on the clock, they scored a touchdown. After kicking the extra point they cut the lead to 27-21, a one possession game. Coach Reed called for the “hands” team to take the field, everyone in the stadium knew an onside kick was coming. The hands team was made up of all skilled position players, receivers, defensive backs, running backs, players who handled the ball all the time. We wouldn’t attempt to set up a return, we were just looking to fall on the ball so we could end the game.
Everyone was on their feet as they lined up to kick off the ball, the kicker stepped forward and struck the ball near the top causing it to tumble twice, then take a high arc in the air. The ball was kicked to my side but on my inside shoulder, right at Scott Douglas. He scooped up the ball falling down and curling his body around the ball. I was the second player on the pile, basically laying my body over his to prevent anyone from trying to strip the ball free. A split second after I covered him, it felt as if the weight of a truck landed on us, arms and hands pulling and clawing for the ball. I could hear the whistles from the officials blowing, I knew they were trying to sort through the pile to get to the ball. Finally they were able to see that the ball was wedged between Scott and I, I heard the officals scream out San Diego ball.
We took the field and snapped the ball twice, taking a knee, running what time was left off of the clock. Our sidelines erupted, we had just achieved something few teams had ever done, win the Super Bowl, back to back. Immediately all of the activities that came with that responsibility came to mind, we would be busy for months to come. As I shook hands with a few players on the field, I was eager to get back to the dressing room and start to change. Strange as it sounded, I was not really in the mood for a celebration. As I headed to our locker room, a well dressed young woman from one of the major sports networks, stopped me for an interview.
“Brian, you had seven catches for one hundred sixty eight yards and a touchdown, you guys made it look easy out there today.”, she started.
“It’s never easy, we’re just fortunate to have the best quarterback in the league right now. When Josh is in a groove, he can shred a defense. I think you saw that today, everything he threw was spot on.”, I answered.
“Rumor has it you have begun negotiating a long term deal recently, any progress so far ?”, she asked.
“I don’t get involved with those things, I let my agent handle it. I know I want to be back here next here, this team is so talented, I can’t imagine playing anywhere else. But I also realize that this is a business and sometimes feelings don’t matter.”, I replied.
“Thanks Brian, I appreciate the time.”, she ended.
I was able to get back inside of the locker room quickly, then started to undress. I was already out of the shower before most of the players began filing into the locker room. As I was finishing dressing, Nate made his way to his locker which was next to mine.
“I can’t believe it, my first year, a Super Bowl ring. “, he yelled.
“You earned it man, you had a great game.”, I answered.
We left for the hotel about two hours later, getting in close to midnight. I went up to Alexis’ room and spent a quiet evening with her, we slept until the wake call came the following morning. The team arrived back in San Diego on Monday afternoon to a packed airport of screaming fans. It took close to two hours to get out of the airport with all the fans requesting autographs and pictures. It was close to six thirty that night when I finally got home, I was exhausted.
Alexis went back to work the following week, her main objective at the time was to get me locked in to a long term deal. She had received inquiries from two other teams about me possibly playing for them the following season. We had discussed the future in great length, with both of us agreeing that if all went well, I would walk away from the game at the end of my next contract.
Perhaps two weeks later, I received a call from Ashley, it had been a few weeks since we had spoken. I could tell right away from the inflection in her voice something was wrong.
“Brian, I’m not sure I should be calling you, but I think you have the right to know.”, she started.
“What’s wrong Ash ?”, I inquired.
“Something is going on with your grandfather, I’m just not sure what it is. I was talking to one of the teachers at school, her sister works for the nursing home, just out of town. Apparently your mother has put him there against his will.”, she continued.
“That does sound like my mother.”, I replied.
“I’m not really sure what is going on, if he’s sick or what. I just thought you should know.”, she ended.
Ashley gave me the number to the home, I called it immediately after hanging up with her. The administrator was very reluctant to speak to me over the phone citing the home’s confidentially policy of their patients. Since I was not listed on his contact sheet, there was very little she would tell me, other than he had been a permanent resident for the past six weeks. I thanked her for her time and hung up, deciding to talk to Alexis that night.
When Alexis got home that evening, I told her about Ashley’s call and what I had found out. Without any hesitation, she insisted I fly there immediately and find out what was going on. Years back when I had met my grandfather in the diner, he had given me his cell phone number. We had spoken maybe two or three times over the years, however he was always guarded against letting my mother find out. I knew my grandmother had died a little over a year ago, apparently my mother had replaced her as sole dictator of the family. I found his number and called, but quickly received a recording telling me the number had been disconnected or was no longer in service. I then hung up and called the airline, booking a seat out on the first plane in the morning.
Alexis dropped me off at the airport that morning on her way to work asking me to call her and let her know what was going on as soon as possible. I kissed her goodbye and promised her I would call her as soon as I could. When I arrived at the airport, I rented a full size Mercedes CL600 Coupe, it was quite a machine. For some reason, it seemed I always arrived back home on a Wednesday, I laughed to myself as I pulled into the school parking lot. It was just after one thirty, less than thirty minutes until Ms. Carter’s weekly stage performance. I walked through the large double doors took the first right and headed straight to the office. I noticed there was a young woman sitting in the secretary’s desk, I guessed Ms. Wilson had finally retired.
“Yes sir, how may I help you ?”, she asked, barly looking up from her paperwork.
“I would like to see Ms. Carter.”, I answered.
“Do you have an appointment sir ?”, she responded.
“No ma’am, I don’t.”
“Well Ms. Carter has General Assembly in about fifteen minutes, she won’t be available for quite a while. But I will tell her you are here, would you please sign in.”, she directed, pointing at the clip board on the desk.
I quickly printed my name on the line and used the word personal for the nature of my visit. I set the clip board back down on the counter and took a seat in the lobby. I heard the secretary pick up her phone call in to the back.
“Uh Ms. Carter, I have a…..uh, Brian Stevens here to see you, but I told him……”, that was about as far as she got.
I heard the high heels clicking on the floor just seconds before she rounded the corner, she was smiling from ear to ear.
“Come here baby and give me a hug.”, she beamed, throwing out her arms.
“Mmmmmmm, it so good to see you sweetheart, how have you been ?”, she asked.
“Just fine Ms. Carter, how have you been ?”, I replied.
“Keeping them on the straight and narrow, you know me.”, she winked.
She grabbed me by the hand and we started down the hallway, she was talking a mile a minute. She told me she was watching the day I was carted off the field to the ambulance and how she had been so worried. She told me about how she had just watched the Super Bowl and how proud she was of all that I had accomplished. She asked about Alexis and what the two of us had been up to. It was close to five minutes to two when we made our way to the back of the auditorium. I could hear the students filling in the rows, pulling down the chairs, getting ready for this weekely ritual. Ms. Carter stepped through the curtains motioning me to stay put for the time being.
She addressed the student body as she had done hundreds of times before, with her no nonsense brand of authority. While I’m sure there were a lot of students who didn’t particularly like her, most respected her. She was strict, but she was fair. If you were sincere, she would always take at least one chance on you. She finished up her announcements quickly, I noticed there was still close to fifteen minutes left of the assembly. It was time for her to introduce another of her visitors, as she called us, she always believed in having former students come back and talk to the general assembly.
“This is probably the fourth or perhaps fifth time this young man has been back, it seems every time he returns it’s with new accolades. Just two weeks ago, he won his second straight Super Bowl in as many years. Boys and girls, please help me welcome, Brian Stevens.”, she finished.
The auditorium exploded in applause, much more than I had ever remembered as I stepped through the curtain. I looked over to the far right and waved to Ashley, who was in her normal spot with her glass. She waved back, excited to see me, it had been a while. I stepped up to the microphone and leaned forward.
“Thank you Ms. Carter, this always seems to be the first place I stop at every time I come back here.”, I told her.
“That’s because you can’t wait to see me.”, Ms. Carter answered quickly, leaning over the podium.
Everyone in the room exploded in laughter, she knew how to work a crowd of young people. I leaned over and hugged her, kissing her softly on the cheek. All the students started oohing and pointing at her, I could tell I caught her off guard.
“Kissing in general assembly, isn’t that a detention Ms. Carter ?”, I asked.
Once again the entire student body erupted in laughter, everyone was clapping.She raised her hands and settled the group down, then motioned for me to continue.
“Well, I really didn’t have anything prepared, so does anyone have any questions that hopefully I can answer ?”, I asked.
As is usual in a large crowd of young teenagers, no one wants to be the first to raise there hand. I scanned the crowd, but there were no takers, at least not yet. Ms. Carter stepped back next to me leaning into the microphone.
“Let me get this straight, we have a young man here who helped win this school’s first State Championship in football, won a National Championship in college and now has two Super Bowl rings and no one can think of anything to ask him ?”, she prodded.
Finally one younger looking boy in the second row raised his hand meekly. I leaned over and pointed at him, he stood up slowly.
“What happened to you in the game where you got taken off the field in the ambulance ?”, he asked softly.
“Well, I had what is basically called a stinger. It’s when the nerves in your spine are severely compressed or severely stretched. It’s a spinal cord injury that causes temporary pain and numbness to your extremities. In my case, I was totally numb from the neck down for quite a while. Fortunately it was a temporary injury, I was able to bounce back pretty quick. ”, I answered.
Another hand shot up, this time from a young girl sitting in the senior section. She stood up and smiled at me, then asked her question.
“Do you make a lot of money playing football ?”, she inquired.
Once again the room erupted in laughter, much to her dismay, she really intended it to be a serious question. I leaned into the micropohone once again and addressed her.
“That’s a very valid question, why do you ask ?”, I responded.
“Well my boyfriend plays football, he keeps telling me he is going to play in the pro’s one day.”, she replied, her voice turning somewhat sarcastic.
“Does he go to this school ?’, I asked.
“No, he goes to school at Baker.”, she answered.
“Well I’ll try and answer your question, but I have to go back a few years. I was very lucky to have a father who coached football when I was growing up. We practiced for hours and hours after he came home. Then I started training in a gym six to seven days a week, never taking a day off. I never drank alcohol or took any drugs of any kind. But I think the biggest thing is, you just have to be lucky. I was never injured seriously, I played on very good teams and someone took a chance on me. I never dreamed I would be in this position right now, I consider myself very lucky. But to answer your question, I would tell your boyfriend to put all of his effort into getting a degree first, then football second. I laid on a football field earlier this year and thought my career was over for a while. Football can be taken from you at any time, an education cannot. It’s next to impossible to play ball at the level I am at now. It takes everything you have to give, then you need a great deal of luck, as I have had.”, I finished.
I answered a few more questions then finally Ms. Carter stepped in and announced to everyone it was time to head back to class. The groups began getting up in the regular orderly fashion beginning with the freshman. As they were starting to file out, I walked across the stage and down the steps over to where Ashley was standing. I gave her a warm hug and a soft kiss on the cheek, it was great to see her again.
“Hey, I didn’t know you were coming, you should have told me.”, she said softly.
“It was a split second thing really.”, I answered.
She asked that I walk back to her class room where she would give me a key to the house, so I could make myself at home. I walked down the hall with her, I noticed that she had a new room this year, on the other side of the school. As she fished the keys out of her purse, she opened the clasp and pulled the house key off. I took the key, left school and drove straight to Ashley’s.
I called Alexis to tell her I had arrived safely, promising to call her the following day when I found out what was going on with my grandfather. I woke up early the next day, had breakfast with Ashley, then left for the home about the same time she left for school. It was about a forty minute drive but I have to admit, it was a very nice facility from the outside. I walked up the steps and followed the signs to the main office, where I was greeted by a receptionist.
“I would like to speak to someone about my grandfather, Mr. Thomas Winters please.”, I asked.
She asked me to have a seat, that one of the administrators would be with me shortly. Several minutes later, an older woman, very well dressed, introduced herself to me.
“Mr. Stevens, I’m Lynn Johnson, it’s very nice to meet you. I’m a huge fan.”, she said, extending her hand.
“Thank you Ms. Johnson, it’s nice to meet you too.”, I replied.
She invited me into her office, where she closed the door and offered me a chair. She moved behind her desk, rearranged a few pieces of paper, then looked up at me with a warm smile.
“Alright Mr. Stevens, what are your concerns regarding your grandfather ?”, she asked.
“Well for one, why is he here ?”, I asked.
“I’m not sure I am the one who is best suited to answer that question.”, she responded.
“Is he sick ?”, I inquired.
“No not at all. Mr Winters is quite healthy, I think it was more based on his mental state than his physical health.”, she answered.
“I’m sorry ma’am, I’m not following you.”, I replied.
“Mr. Stevens, perhaps it would be better if you discussed this with his daughter, Mary, and her husband.”, she urged.
“Well Ms. Johnson, let me get right to the point. His daughter Mary, is my mother, Richard for a lack of better words, is my step father. I have no use for either of them. Richard beat me as a child and when everyone found out, my father took me away from all of that.”, I started.
“Oh I see.”, she replied softly.
“I haven’t spoken to either of them in years, nor would I ever consider doing so.”, I told her.
I could see she was getting uncomfortable, I was guessing my mother had probably filled her head with all kinds of garbage. My mother could play the role when it came to making people feel sorry for her.
“Ms. Johnson, would it be possible for me to see my grandfather ?”, I asked.
“Well of course you can, come with me.”, she urged.
We walked down the long hallway, then stepped outside before going into another wing of the facility. There was a nurses station in the center of the wing, two women in white uniforms were manning the station. Ms. Johnson asked if my grandfather was in his room, they replied that he was. I followed Ms. Johnson to room 1310, where she knocked softly on the door and entered.
“Mr. Winters, you have a visitor.’, she announced, walking into the room.
My grandfathers face lit up as soon as he saw me, I could tell he was extremely surprised. Ms. Johnson excused herself, then left the two of us alone, closing the door behind her. I looked around the room, it was small to say the least. A full size bed, a table with two chairs, one dresser, a small TV and a night stand next to the bed. I sat down at the table across from him, he reached over and grabbed my hand.
“We watched the game in the main recreation room, I was so proud of you.”, he said, squeezing my hand.
“Thanks grandpa, we played well.”, I answered.
I could see that even while he was happy to see me, something was wrong, he seemed very depressed.
“Grandpa, why are you here ? What happened, why aren’t you home, in your own house ?”, I asked.
He looked down, wringing his hands, he seemed almost ashamed. He took a deep breath, then looked up at me with very sad eyes.
“I don’t know what happened Brian. I forgot to pay a few bills here and there, so your mother had me put her name on all my accounts. She started paying all the bills, taking care of everything. A few months ago, she came home from work one day and told me that I would be better off here. So, here I am.”, he admitted.
“Just like that ?”, I asked.
“You know how your mother is, she is the splitting image of your grandmother. They always get what they want.”, he answered.
“So she has everything ? Your house, the truck, your money ?”, I asked, dumbfounded.
“Yes, she does.”, he replied.
I knew my mother had issues, but to put her own father in a home, just to take what he had worked his entire life for, was not something I thought her capable of.
“Grandpa, you’re ok with this, I mean being here ?”, I asked.
“I don’t really have a choice.”, he answered.
“Of course you have a choice, that’s your house she’s living in.”, I told him.
“Honestly Brian, I feel more comfortable here. Your mother and Richard, they don’t have any need of me. They make me feel……well , like I’m not wanted. At least here, I feel like I fit in, most people in this wing are like me, not really needed or wanted anymore.”, he responded.
I felt so sorry for him at that moment, I could tell his words were genuine and heart felt, tears were stinging my eyes. We sat there in silence for a few moments, then I leaned over and took his hand once again.
“How about we go get some lunch somewhere, just the two of us ?”, I offered.
I immediately saw a gleam in his eyes, a soft smile come to his face.
“I would like that, can you give me a few minutes to get ready ?”, he asked.
“Sure, I’ll be right outside.”, I responded.
I stepped out into the hallway, then quickly called Alexis on my phone. I filled her in on what had happened as quickly as I could, knowing what her reaction would be before I even asked the question. After a brief conversation, I promised to call her later after I got a better handle on what was going on. As I leaned on the wall out in the hallways, one of the nurses looked in my direction.
“You’re the grandson ? The football player from …..”, she asked.
“San Diego, yes ma’am I am.”, I answered.
“He talks about you all the time, he is so proud of you.”, she smiled.
Just then the door opened and out walked my grandfather, closing the door behind him. He informed the two nurses that we were going out to lunch, like it was some extraordinary event. I followed him down the hall back to the center of the complex, then out past the administration building where we had to sign out, it was required if a guest left the premises for any reason. We walked out into the parking lot and I directed him to where I was parked.
“Is that your car ?”, he asked.
“No grandpa, I rented it at the airport.”, I answered.
We drove to the other side of town to a decent steak house and had a really good meal. After several hours of being together, the old man had come out of his somber mood, he really seemed to be having a good time. He was asking me all kinds of questions about Alexis and San Diego, I could barely keep up with him. As we headed back to the home, I could see his mood begin to change back to what it had been. He became quiet and distant as we drove the last few miles. When we pulled up into the parking lot, I stopped the car and turned to him.
“Grandpa, I have an idea. Why don’t you come out to San Diego with me for a while, stay with Alexis and I. We have a huge house, you could have your own wing. I’m off for several months now, we could spend some time together.”, I offered.
“Oh, I couldn’t do that Brian. You young kids don’t need an old man hanging around all the time.”, he replied.
“Grandpa, we have had Alexis’ mother stay for over a month already, it’s not a bother, I mean it. I want you to meet Alexis anyway. I promise you, whenever you’re ready to come back, I will fly you back here.”, I offered.
“Brian, I don’t know. What about my room here ? I can’t just give it up.”, he protested.
“You said my mother was paying the bill, let her keep paying it. You don’t owe anyone anything grandpa, what do you say ?”, I asked again.
“I don’t have any luggage, few clothes, I can’t just walk out of here today.”, he argued.
“Come on grandpa, just for a couple of weeks. I’ll bring you back whenever you want.”, I pleaded.
The old man sat there thinking, I could tell he was struggling with the decision. He finally turned and patted my knee and smiled.
“Ok, maybe for a week or so, but when I’m ready, no arguing about me coming home ok ?”, he instructed.
“I promise.”, I quickly agreed.
We got out of the car and walked back into the main complex, then through the recreation room which was quite full by this time of the afternoon. Two men who were sitting at a table playing cards waved to my grandfather, one of them calling out to him.
“Hey Tom , you up for some rummy ?”, one of them called out.
I followed my grnadfather over to the table, obviously these were two of his new friends. He patted the one on the back and turned, pulling me by the hand.
“Guys, this is my grandson Brian, the one I told you about. Brian this is Don and Chester, two friends of mine.”, he said.
“It’s very nice to meet you.”, I stated , shaking both of their hands.
“Well Tom, you sure didn’t lie about one thing, he is a big son of a bitch.”, the one named Chester laughed.
“Guess what guys ? I’m going to San Diego for a while, hang out with my grandson.”, he boasted, putting his arm around me.
The three of them talked for a while, then we made our way back to my grandfather’s room. I told him I would call the airlines and book the flight back home as soon as possible, then get back to him. I left a short time later, but made it a point to stop by the administration building and let Ms. Johnson know what was going on. She seemed really surprised when I let her know about the plans we had made.
“Mr. Stevens, I can’t hold his room here if he is not going to be residing with us full time. We have a waiting list of people wanting to get in.”, she argued.
“If his bill is paid monthly, doesn’t that guaranty his room ?”, I asked.
“Well yes, but I don’t think his daughter is going to agree to pay for a room that he is not using.”, she replied.
“Ms. Johnson, here’s my phone number, you can get me here anytime. If for any reason the bill is not paid, let me know, I promise you I will pay it immediately, it’s not a problem.”, I told her, handing her my number.
“Not a problem Mr. Stevens, we will hold the room until he comes back. One thing however, you are planning to tell his…..um, your mother that he is going with you correct ?”, she asked, nervously.
“Personally Ms. Johnson, I don’t owe my mother the time of day, but I will make sure he calls her and lets her know what is going on.”, I promised.
I left the home and drove back to Ashley’s, she was not home from school yet. I was able to arrange a flight back home the following day, we would depart at three fifteen in the afternoon. I called my grandfather immediately and told him to be ready for around noon, that I would pick him up then. I then mentioned perhaps, he should call my mother and tell her what was going on. He seemed reluctant, but after some debate, he agreed he would do just that. I hung up the phone, turned on the TV and settled down on the sofa. I must have dozed off on the sofa, my cell phone ringing startled me back to reality. I looked at the number, saw it was a local call, then answered it.
“Who the hell do you think you are, coming down here and trying to take my father away from me ?”, the woman growled.
“How can I help you ?”, I replied, with no inflection in my voice.
“You can get your sorry ass on the plane and go back to where you came from, we don’t need you here.”, she yelled.
“That’s exactly what we are going to do tomorrow, we leave a few minutes after three.”, I answered.
“Like hell you are, my father is not going anywhere with you.”, she screamed.
“I think that’s up to grandpa, not you. He wants to come spend some time with Alexis and I, so that’s exactly what we are going to do.”, I informed her, once again, in a calm soft tone.
I knew my mother well, she lived for the confrontation. She loved to argue and try and assert her will over people, she had learned that from my grandmother. The fact that she could not pull me into an argument was frustrating her even more.
“Who the hell is Alexis ?”, she asked sarcastically.
“Alexis is my wife, we have been married almost a year now.”, I replied, calmly.
There was a sudden silence at the other end of the phone, I knew I had caught her off guard. But true to form, she recovered quickly, I knew she would.
“Well if you think you’re going to waltz down here, take my father back with you, then try to lure his house and money out of him, you’re fucking crazy.”, she screamed.
“First, I don’t want a thing from grandpa, other then to just spend some time with him. And from what I have been told, you and Richard have already gotten your names put on everything grandpa owns.”, I answered, calmly.
“Just get on the plane and head back to your whore wife, leave this family alone. I never wanted you in the first place, you ruined my life, you and that worthless piece of shit father of yours.”, she screamed, slamming the phone down.
I just sat there for several moments thinking just what I could ever have done to make her feel this way. I never asked my mother for a dime in my life, I had been almost fourteen when I moved in with my father. From that time on, I had rarely even spoken to her, much less asked for anything. I pushed it out of my mind, but I had a bad feeling that I had not heard the end of this situation. I decided to call my grandfather, just in case she had spoken to him, as she had to me.
I could tell immediately, she had, his voice was nervous and shaken. He basically repeated everything that she had told to me, then adding he thought maybe I should just forget the whole thing.
“Is that what you want grandpa ? Or do you really want to come out and visit ?”, I asked.
“I really wanted to come……….but I don’t want to cause problems for you, Your mother can get ruthless when she gets like this.”, he warned.
“Then you be ready at noon tomorrow grandpa, there isn’t a thing she can do about it. You just let me handle everything.”, I urged.
I then called Alexis and let her know everything that had went on, I could tell she was extremely upset at how my mother had spoken to me. I asked her to relax, everything would be ok, that we would see her tomorrow evening after work. I watched a bit more TV before Ashley got home, then the two of us went out to dinner, getting home around eight o’clock that night. I took a shower and went straight to bed, I was exhausted from all the running around.
I got up early the following morning, so I could see Ashley before she left for school. It was always sad saying goodbye to her, but this time I had other things on my mind. I decided to stop by the high school and see Coach Mike before I left, I always enjoyed our talks. I had just left his office behind the gym and was walking back down the hall to the front entrance when the bell rang signaling change of periods. Immediately the hallway was jammed with young teenagers all talking and scurrying to get to their next class. I had just rounded the corner as was headed toward the main exit when I heard a young female voice behind me.
“Hey Brian, wait….hold up.”
I turned around to see three girls, all appeared to be maybe fifteen or sixteen at the most, one of them was walking toward me. She didn’t have to say a word, I knew immediately. It was Courtney’s younger sister Gia, the ressemblance was quite uncanny.
“Oh my God, look at you.”, I said, holding out my arms.
She ran the last three steps and jumped into my arms, squeezing me tightly. I held her for longer than perhaps I should have, my eyes filling with water. I finally sat her down, then stepped back, wiping my eyes.
“I can’t believe how big you have gotten. And you’re beautiful, you remind me so much…..”, I stopped. mid sentence.
She lowered her eyes for a second, then looked back up at me, she knew what I meant.
“I wanted to talk to you the other day at assembly, but my teacher wouldn’t let me. Oh….these are my friends, this is Beth, this is Jeanette.”, she replied.
“Hi ladies, it’s very nice to meet you.”, I responded, shaking both of their hands.
Before anyone could say anything else, the warning bell rang, letting you know you had two minutes left to get to class. Then I heard a very familiar voice behind me.
“Mr. Stevens, are you flirting with these young ladies, keeping them from going to next period ?”, Ms. Carter said, sternly.
“Guilty Ms. Carter, it’s my fault. I haven’t seen Gia in years, I can’t get over……. I mean she’s beautiful.”, I stammered.
“Well I’m sorry to break up your reunion but these young ladies need to get to class now.”, she instructed pointing down the hallway.
I quickly hugged Gia once more, then watched her and her two friends disappear around the cinder block wall. I turned and walked the last few steps with Ms. Carter to the exit, promising her I would stop by on my next visit to town.
As I drove across twon to pick up my grandfather, I couldn’t help but think about Courtney. Seeing Gia brought up a rush of feelings I hadn’t felt in years. By the time I pulled into the parking lot of the home, I was feeling a bit depressed. I got out, locked the car and headed to the administrators office. I sensed something was wrong the second the receptionist looked up and made eye contact we me. She quickly picked up the phone and spoke softly into it.
“Ms. Johnson, …… Mr. Stevens just walked in.”, she stated.
“Ok, thank you, I will.”, she answered, hanging up.
She looked back up at me, I could tell she seemed extremely nervous for some reason. She informed me Ms. Johnson was in a meeting, but she would be out shortly. I sat down in one of the chairs and looked up at the clock, it was twenty minutes after twelve in the afternoon. Several minutes passed before Ms. Johnson opened her door and stepped out of her office, I could tell from her demeanor she was not pleased to have becomed involved in our familiy problem.
“Mr. Stevens, it seems we have a bit of an issue, would you mind coming into my office please ?”, she asked.
“No ma’am, not at all.”, I answered.
She walked ahead of me, opened her door and motioned for me to enter. As soon as I stepped into the door frame, I knew what the problems were. There sat my mother and her husband both looking at me as if I were the most vile person to walk the planet. Ms. Johnson stepped back around her desk and sat down. I sat in the only open chair that was left, unfortunately it was right next to my mother. As I sat down, I made a promise to myself that no matter what happened, I was not going to lose control.
“Mr. Stevens, your ……..Your mother is refusing to allow her father to leave with you. She has insisted he stay here, where he can be cared for properly. I am …well I feel like I am caught in the middle of this, I really do not know what to do.”, she admitted.
“Ms. Johnson, is there anything medically that my grandfather is being treated for ? Does he have a medical condition that would prevent him from traveling with me ?”, I asked softly.
“Well no……none that I can think of.”, she answered.
“So then the decision is up to my grandfather, am I correct ?”, I inquired.
“Well technically yes, but….”, she started, until my mother cut her off.
“I don’t know what your game is Brian, but you’re not taking my father to California and that’s final.”, she snapped at me.
“Again, I think that’s up to grandpa, not anyone else. Now let’s ask him what he wants, because we have a plane to catch.”, I urged.
Ms. Johnson shrugged her shoulders and called the nurse’s station in my grandfather’s wing, asking them to bring him up to the main office.
My mother kept insisting all the while that I didn’t have the right to be there, that she was responsible for her father, no one else. I sat there quietly not saying a word, I could feel Richard’s eyes on me. I guess deep down, I really wanted him to try something, I owed him for several beatings he had given me as a child, I would love to return the favor. Just then there was a knock on the door and my grandfather entered, carrying a small bag with him. As soon as he saw my mother and Richard there, I could see him withdraw, he actually became frightened it appeared. I wondered if perhaps Richard had intimidated him as he had done to me so many years ago. Richard was a tough guy, as long as you were smaller or weaker than he was. I stood up and turned and shook my grandpa’s hand, offering him my chair.
“Hey Grandpa, you ready to go ?”, I asked.
“Well I don’t know…..what is going on ?”, he asked, looking around the room.
“Dad, I told you twice yesterday, you’re not going and that’s final. So tell him to get out of here and never come back, period.”, she ordered.
I could sense my grandfather was caving, he always did when it came to confrontations between him and the women in his life. He put his head down, his hands on his knees, his foot tapping the floor nervously. I knelt down in front of him and took his hand in mine.
“Grandpa, listen to me. Alexis and I want you to come visit us for a while. But that’s up to you, no one else. No matter what happens here, from this point on, I am in your life, no matter what. If you need anything, you just ask. But I’m leaving it up to you, if you want me to leave, I understand. But you make the decision, don’t let anyone else. And I promise, I will bring you back whenever you want.”, I finshed.
He looked up at me with a smile on his face, tears in his eyes, his hand squeezing mine. He started shaking his head, tears streaming down his face.
“I……I just don’t understand it son.”, was all he could manage.
“What don’t you understand grandpa.”, I asked.
He looked over at my mother and Richard, staring at both of them for quite a few seconds, then looked back at me.
“After everything this family has put you through, the physical and mental abuse, the years of isolation, your only concern is for me. I just can’t……… I am so proud of….you. Your father raised one hell of a man.”, he said, softly.
“His father ? All that son of a bitch cared about was football……he raised a freak of a kid, look at him….you know he’s on steriods, we all heard about it.”, she scolded.
“And what do you care about Mary ? This is your son, your only child, My God can’t you let it go finally ? We were wrong, so very wrong for what we did.”, he sobbed.
My mother paused for a second, all eyes on the room were on her. She looked down for a moment, finally maybe something had gotten through to her. But true to form, she responded quickly.
“All I did was bring him into the world, he’s nothing to me. And if you insist on taking his side, I will do what I have to do.”, she warned.
My grandfather shook his head, then turned and looked back at me. He put one hand on the arm of the chair, then squeezed my hand with the other, pulling himself out of the chair.
“Well Mary, you will just have to do what you think is best. But I’m going to spend sometime with the only grandchild I have. All of this hate has robbed this family of years it can never get back, I’m not wasting one more minute of mine.”, he told her.
I walked to the door and opened it up for him, he stepped through it very slowly. I turned to Ms. Johnson, before following him.
“Ms. Johnson, I will be in touch with you. You have my number, any charges that come up, you just call me, I will take care of them. You keep his space here until I tell you otherwise.”, I asked.
“Not a problem Mr. Stevens.”, she replied, smiling, tears in her eyes as well.
As we walked towards the large double doors of the facility, I heard my mother urging Richard to attempt to stop us. I had to smile for a second, that was something I might like to see him try. By the time we had made our way into the parking lot, my mother and Richard were right on our heels.
“If you go with him, you might as well stay there.”, my mother screamed.
“Ignore it grandpa, she is just mad, she doesn’t mean it.”, I whispered.
“Sadly son, she does mean it.”, he answered.
I popped the trunk and placed his bag inside, then helped him into the passenger seat of the vehicle. I closed the door for him and started to walk around the car. My mother came up to me and blocked me temporarily, putting her hand on my chest. I looked over at the office and saw that both Ms. Johnson and her receptionist were standing outside watching. I turned back to my mother, you could feel the hatred pouring out of her.
“Mom, I will make sure he calls you every day, if that’s what you want. It’s just a visit, I will bring him back. He’s your dad, I undertsand that. But he’s my grandfather, you need to understand that.”, I stated.
Then out of no where, my mother violently slapped me across the face as hard as I think she could, it was quite a blow. I glanced in Ms. Johnson’s direction to make sure she had witnessed it, they had.
“He’s my father, you’re nothing to him, you never will be.”, she screamed.
At that point, I knew I had her where I wanted her, she had just assaulted me.
“You know what, that’s his decision to make, not your’s. That’s your whole problem mom, you let grandma make your decisions for you back then, you’re trying to be just like her. I’m done, we are leaving.”, I stated.
As I started to walk around my mother, Richard started to shift slightly, I could see he had his fists clenched, he was biting hard on his bottom lip. I squared up right against him looking down on him, for a split second, I thought he might have actually developed some courage.
“Richard, I’m gonna say this once, you so you better understand it. I was just hit once, I let it go. You won’t get the same considerations, now move or I’m going to move you. And I’m not the same little boy you used to beat on, I owe you. So if you want to collect, let’s do it now.”, I growled.
It took maybe two seconds for the fear to appear in his eyes, he started stepping back. I moved around him and to my side of the vehicle, then turned to my mother one last time.
“I’ll make sure he calls you.”, I promised.
“Go to hell you bastard.”, was her reply.
I climbed into the car, started the engine and backed out. As I pulled out of the lot, I looked into the rear view mirror, watching my mother redirect her anger towards Richard. If there was any consolation in all of this, at least he was going to be miserable for a while. We drove towards the airport in relative silence, I knew my grandfather was upset, I tried to get his mind off of it.
“Alexis is really looking forward to meeting you.”, I told him.
“Yes…Yes, I am anxious to meet her as well.”, he smiled back.
We pulled into the parking lot of the airport rental car service with about an hour to spare. I returned the car, we then checked in with the airline and made our way to Concourse B, where we would depart from. As we were sitting near the gate waiting to board, my grandfather began to loosen up a bit.
“You know, I haven’t been on a plane in thirty years.”, he laughed.
“Well, I’m sure it’s quite different then you remember it.”, I answered.
Twenty minutes before departure, they started calling for First Class to begin boarding. I stood up and grabbed both of our bags, turning to him.
“That’s us grandpa.”, I informed him.
“We are flying First Class ?”, he asked, surprised.
“We have to, I don’t fit in the Coach seats.”, I laughed.
We boarded the plane, the attendant showed us to our seats, we were on the second row. I offered the window seat to my grandfather, I figured he would get a kick out of it. He was looking all around the plane, I guess things really change over time. We had just settled into our seats really well, when our attendant walked over to where we were sitting, then leaned over to me. She was a very attractive women in her early thirties at best, she was impeccably groomed.
“Mr. Stevens, the Captain would like to come say hello, if that’s not a problem.”, she asked.
“No ma’am, not at all.”, I replied, quickly.
As she walked off, my grandfather leaned over and whispered in my ear.
“What is that all about ? You think perhaps your mother has done something ?”, he asked.
“I don’t think so grandpa.”, I answered.
A few seconds later, the Captain , dressed in his formal dark blue uniform walked down the aisle from the cabin. He stopped next to my seat, extending his hand to me.
“Brian, it’s really a pleasure to meet you in person, I’m a huge fan.”, he stated, shaking my hand.
“Thank you sir, I appreciate it. This is my grandfather, Thomas Winters.”, I answered.
“Nice to meet you Mr. Winters, you must be so proud of this young man. He’s quite a football player sir.”, he said, shaking my grandfather’s hand.
The Captain turned back to me, with a smile, I knew what was next.
“Would you mind signing something for me ?”, he asked.
“Not at all.”, I replied.
He went back to the cabin, then returned with a large plastic coffee mug, which had his name imbossed on it. I took the black permant marker and personally inscribed the signature to him. He thanked me and hurried back to the cabin to begin preparations fdor our departure.
We landed in San Diego in the early evening, then made our way to the front of the terminal. I checked in with a local transportaion service that I had used before, arranging a ride to take us home. Twenty minutes later we were in a limo heading down the interstate. We pulled up in the circle drive just after six thirty that evening, I was glad to see Alexis’ car in the drive way. We got out, I tipped the driver and we walked up to the front door.
“This is quite a house, Brian. I’ve never seen anything like it.”, my grandfather said.
“You haven’t seen the best part grandpa, she’s inside.”, I laughed.
I opened the door and invited him him, asking him to follow me to the den. As we entered the den, I tossed the two bags on the large sofa.
“Alexis, we’re here.”, I called out.
“Be right there, baby.”, she called out from the master bedroom area.
I offered my grandfather a seat on the sofa but before he could walk around and sit down, Alexis came out fo the back of the house.
“Grandpa, I would like you to meet Alexis. Alexis, this is my grandfather.”, I announced.
“I’m so happy to meet you sir, I have heard so much about you. Welcome to our home.”, she smiled, then hugged him gently.
“Thank you Alexis, it’s really nice to be here.”, he replied.
“Look you two get comfortable, I’m going to go change, then how about we go out for dinner ?”, she asked.
“Sure, go get ready.”. I answered, kissing her quickly.
She had no sooner left the room, when my grandfather leaned over to me, whispering softly.
“She is absolutely breath taking Brian, so beautiful.”, he stated.
“Yes sir, she is.”, I answered.
We went out that night and had a great meal, everyone got to know each other somewhat. My grandfather and Alexis hit it off quite well, he called her Alex, she nicknamed him Gramps. During that first vist, he stayed for close to a month, we really enjoyed having him. During the next few years, he visted us regularly. One Christmas, we had a memorable visit, with both Gramps and Mai staying with us at the same time. My grandfather died peacefully in his sleep a few years alter, I was so grateful for the time that we had shared in his later years.
Bryan Butler was sitting at the kitchen table, scanning the headlines of the Sunday morning paper, just as he did every day of his life. His two young grandchildren, Tory and Amy were playing on the floor in the den, watching cartoons on TV. He glanced up to see Bernie, his wife of thirty years cooking breakfast for them in the kitchen. He finished with the front page, then quickly turned to the sports page, which was his ritual. He scanned the front page quickly, his eyes locking on a small article that was on the front page bottom right of the paper. He began reading the article which would continue to the fourth page of the section.
Former San Diego TE Stevens Dies.
Early yesterday former San Diego Tight End Brian Stevens died in his sleep at the First Methodist Surgical Center, he was 66. Mr. Stevens grew up in Albany, Texas, played collegiate ball at Louisiana State University, then spent twelve seasons with the San Diego Chargers. He was a member of the 2011 and 2012 World Championship teams, as well as the 2015 and 2018 AFC Championship teams. He was named All Pro in seven of his twelve seasons and was recently inducted in the Pro Football Hame of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Mr. Stevens was the founder and CEO of Courtney’s Kids, a non profit charitable organization that assists parents of children suffering from adolescent forms of cancer. His foundation has raised an excess of twenty four million dollars since it’s inception, helping thousands of children from across the country.
Mr. Stevens is preceded in death by his grandfather, Mr. Thomas Winters and his father Mr. John “Coach John” Stevens. He is survived by his beloved wife of forty two years, Alexis Clarke Stevens, his daughter Tabitha Stevens and one son, Brian Stevens Jr. His daughter Tabitha Stevens is currently a student of the University of Southern California and a member of their Womens Volleyball Team. His son Brian Stevens Jr. is a graduate of the University of Texas and is currently a defensive end for the New Orleans franchise of the professional football league.
During his later years, Mr. Stevens worked tirelessly with his foundation, in both a fund raising and administrative capacity. He spent four years as representative for the players union as a collective bargaining specialist. The burial service will be held privately for family and close friends next week. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Courtney’s Kids, c/o Brian Stevens Sr.
Mr. Stevens was always known for his passion and love of the game he played so well. His touchdown celebration ritual was a welcomed icon in the city of San Diego for years. He always had that smile on his face, no matter what the situation. He play the game the only way he knew how, with a desire to quite simply, be the best. I was blessed during my career to interview Mr. Stevens on several occasions as a sports columnist for this paper. He always left me while a smile, his fire for the game was always evident. Whether on the field himself or in the stands cheering for his son, football, was his passion, his reason for living. This community is a lesser place to live this day due to his death. But I know he would not want us to grieve the fact that he is gone, he would implore us to celebrate the time he was with us. There are two dates engraved on your tombstone, the day you are born and the day you pass on. But the only one that truly matters is the dash that is between them. What you do during that dash is how your legacy will be measured. No one has carved a deeper dash than Mr. Stevens. When I think about him I start to feel sorry for myself, but then I start to think about all of the people who had never met him, then I start to feel sorry for them.
By the time Bryan finished the article there were tears in his eyes, an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. Brian Stevens had been such an instrumental part of his young life, both on and off the field. Even as Bryan had grown into a teenager and young adult, number 89 had kept in constant contact with him, being present at both his high school and college graduations, and numerous affairs in between. He got up and walked over to the mantle in his den, lifting the top off the clear acrylic case setting it down. He took the long deflated football from its cradle and read the words that have been inscribed to him so long ago.
“THE CATCH - SAN DIEGO 17 KANSAS CITY 16”
TO MY FIRST REAL FAN - BRYAN BUTLER
WHO TAUGHT ME WHAT THE WORDS
COURAGE AND WARRIOR MEAN
He had been offered quite a great deal of money for the ball several times since it had been in his possession, but never ever considered selling it once. It was still considered one of the finest catches Brian Stevens had ever made, sometimes he felt guilty that the ball was in his possession and not the families. A small voice from behind him brought him back to reality, as he turned to see both of his grandchildren standing beside him.
“Paw Paw, why are you crying ? What’s wrong ?”, Amy asked.
Bryan carefully placed the ball back on it’s stand and covered it with the square plastic case. He turned, bent over and picked up his small granddaughter.
“Sometimes people cry when they are happy baby. Paw Paw is happy because one of his friends is with God now.”, he replied.
Alexis Clarke parked her car in her usual spot , got out and took the long walk up the concrete path between the row of beautifully manicured palm trees that lined the route. She took a left at the first major crosswalk then walked four aisles over to her destination. With a smile on her face, she softly kissed her fingers, then touched them to cold granite face plate of the huge tomb.
“Hey baby, how are you ?”, she whispered softly, tears in her eyes.
This had become her Sunday ritual, her way of coping with the loss of her husband. Out here alone, nothing but the silence of the dead, she knew he could hear her words.
“The nights are the always the hardest my love. And no matter how many times I hear that time will heal all wounds, the truth is, I will never be healed until my heart stops and my last breath is taken. At that time I will be with you again my love, for the rest of eternity.”, she continued, the tears running down her face.
“Tabitha is doing well, her grades are excellent and she will start at outside hitter next year. You know she is the strong one, the one who never shows emotion, but I see it in her eyes, she misses you. Then theres Brian Jr., I see so much of you in that boy. He’s starting after only his second year in New Orleans, he plays with the passion and drive that you instilled him. He still wears your number on his arm every game, he plays so much like you.”, she finished.
“You know, just the other night I finally realized, I would never get another hello or goodbye. Never have a phone conversation with you again, never share another memory with you. I miss you so much, I just do not know what to do here without you.”, she said softly.
By now she was crying uncontrollably, it always happened, no matter how much she tried not to. It took a few minutes for the anguish to subside enough for her to be able to bring herself to say goodbye. As she always did, she leaned over and softly kissed the granite stone, her lips resting there for several seconds. She then stepped back and looked down on the beautiful large black granite stone that she had been standing on. She bent over and whisked some small debris from the stone, reading the words softly to herself.
If you must go,
Then I wish you love,
You’ll never walk alone,
Take care my love,
I’ll miss you love.
So many times she had been asked the meaning of the words, or the name of the person whose initals were on the stone. She extended her finger and traced the intials C and T very slowly, a smile coming to her face.
“Hey Court, hold him tight, keep him warm until I get there.”, she whispered.
Alexis turned slowly and began to walk away. This was always the hardest part, it was like saying goodbye all over again. As she walked away a sudden breeze blew over her back, a chill ran up her spine. She turned and looked back at the tomb, the evening sun was shining off of the granite.
“You always have to get the last word in, don’t you baby ?”, she whispered softly.
FROM THE AUTHOR : I want to personally thank everyone for their wonderful support during the writing of
of this story. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing
it. I have learned so much from all of you during this project, I thank you so much
for all of your wonderful comments. I have also learned that I must write the story
as I want it to turn out, as much as the reader's beg for different endings. I thank e
everyone for the personal emails, I tried to answer each one personally. Take care
and be safe my friends, until I start my next project, I bid you happy reading.
Well developed characters that were plausible as were the situations.
The only negative for me was that I feel it could have gone on for longer - just seemed to get finished up too quick.
Overall 10 out of 10 for me though.
The last part at the graveyard & particularly the paragraph "You know, just the other night I finally realised, I would never get another hello or goodbye. Never have a phone conversation with you again, never share another memory with you. I miss you so much, I just do not know what to do here without you.” really struck at my heart as I lost my wife of 40 years 6 months ago & haven't managed to grieve properly since. I've been looking for something that summed up my loss & your paragraph did it perfectly. It made me burst into tears but I've not done that since she died. Thank you.