What Happened?

What Happened?

From A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul

What Happened?

A young man played, or I should say practiced, football at an Ivy League university. “Jerry” wasn’t skilled enough to play more than occasionally in the regular season games, but in four years this dedicated, loyal young man never missed a practice.

The coach, deeply impressed with Jerry’s loyalty and dedication to the team, also marveled at his evident devotion to his father. Several times the coach had seen Jerry and his visiting father laughing and talking as they walked arm-in-arm around the campus. But the coach had never met the father or talked with Jerry about him.

During Jerry’s senior year and a few nights before the most important game of the season—a traditional rivalry that matched Army-Navy, Georgia-Georgia Tech or Michigan-Ohio State in intensity—the coach heard a knock on his door. Opening it, he saw the young man, his face full of sadness.

“Coach, my father just died,” Jerry murmured. “Is it all right if I miss practice for a few days and go home?”

The coach said he was very sorry to hear the news and, of course, it was all right for him to go home. As Jerry murmured a “thank you” and turned to leave, the coach added, “Please don’t feel you have to return in time for next Saturday’s game. You certainly are excused from that, too.” The youth nodded and left.

But on Friday night, just hours before the big game, Jerry again stood in the coach’s doorway. “Coach, I’m back,” he said, “and I have a request. May I please start the game tomorrow?”

The coach tried to dissuade the youth from his plea in light of the importance of the game to the team. But finally he consented.

That night the coach tossed and turned. Why had he said yes to the youth? The opposing team was favored to win by three touchdowns. He needed his best players in for the entire game. Suppose the opening kickoff came to Jerry and he fumbled. Suppose he started the game and they lost by five or six touchdowns.

Obviously he could not let the youth play. It was out of the question. But he had promised.

So, as the bands played and the crowd roared, Jerry stood at the goal line awaiting the opening kickoff. The ball probably won’t go to him anyway, the coach thought to himself. Then the coach would run one series of plays, making sure the other halfback and the fullback carried the ball, and take the youth out of the game. That way he wouldn’t have to worry about a crucial fumble, and he would have kept his promise.

“Oh no!” the coach groaned as the opening kickoff floated end over end right into Jerry’s arms. But instead of fumbling, as the coach expected, Jerry hugged the ball tightly, dodged three onrushing defenders and raced to midfield before he was finally tackled.

The coach had never seen Jerry run with such agility and power, and perhaps sensing something, he had the quarterback call Jerry’s signal. The quarterback handed off, and Jerry responded by breaking tackles for a 20-yard gain. A few plays later he carried the ball over the goal line.

The favored opponents were stunned. Who was this kid? He wasn’t even in their scouting reports, for until then he had played a total of three minutes all year.

The coach left Jerry in, and he played the entire first half on both offense and defense. Tackling, intercepting and knocking down passes, blocking, running—he did it all.

At halftime the underdogs led by two touchdowns. During the second half Jerry continued to inspire the team. When the final gun sounded, his team had won.

In the locker-room bedlam reserved only for teams that have fought the impossible fight and triumphed, the coach sought out Jerry and found him sitting quietly, head in hands, in a far corner.

“Son, what happened out there?” the coach asked as he put his arm around him. “You can’t play as well as you did. You’re just not that fast, not that strong nor that skilled. What happened?”

Jerry looked up at the coach and said softly, “You see, Coach, my father was blind. This is the first game he ever saw me play.”

Author Unknown
Submitted by Chuck Dodge

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