I woke up this morning wondering what it must feel like to be Jared Abbrederis. My thoughts scattered after a restless night, my body still running on adrenaline. With sore eyes I sit up in my bed, images sporadically flashing through my mind. It comes back to be slowly, piecing its way together like a puzzle.
The lights of the Rose Bowl brighten the Pasadena sky before a frenzied mirage of green and red. We’re down by a touchdown, but we’re still o.k. Russell’s led us back before and I know he will — we will — do it again. On a 2nd and 6 I’m off with a dash, exploding off the line and into the second level. Somewhere, high above the field in the broadcast booth, Kirk Herbstreit is probably making a comment about how “surprising” my speed is. Figures they’d say that about a white guy from Wisconsin. Figures, but it doesn’t bother me.
In no time at all I’m behind the linebackers. The zone is soft, just as you’d expect. Russell’s ball is tight and on the money as always. As if guided by a GPS it falls into my hands, leading me on a half-turn up the field. Now the fun starts.
They’re all around me now, the Oregon defenders. My God those uniforms are ugly says some kid watching thousands of miles away. I could care less, there’s an endzone in front of me somewhere, and I’m getting there. I’m getting there.
I don’t know what happens next. Sure, I remember, but I don’t know what happens. The ball loose, my shoulder pads slamming to the ground. The unlikely and untimely physics of a football dying in the grass, its enticing shape welcoming Michael Clay like an Easter egg enticing a child after church. How it happened I don’t know. But it happened. It’s over now.
I shake my head and stand up slowly. Maybe they’ll say I should have went out-of-bounds. Maybe they’ll say that an extra yard wasn’t worth the risk of trying to plow through two defenders. They’ll say these things, I’m sure. They’ve always said them.
Just like they always said I could never play Big Ten football. Just like they said I’d never earn the scholarship — the one that finally comes next semester — or that I’d lead a nationally-ranked team in receiving yards and average. But I did, and I’ll do it again. Just like I told the media after the game. “I Can’t dwell on this. I have to move forward and look towards next year. We’re all human. This will make me better.”
I shake my head again and step away from the thought. It’s not mine, because I’m not Jared Abbrederis. As I, Adam Nettina, walk to the bathroom to get ready for just another day, the thought hits me that almost nobody in their right mind would want to be Jared Abbrederis on a day like today. And before letting the thought slip away completely, it hits me that that’s a damn shame, because if we could all have the kind of attitude he has, being Jared Abbrederis would do a lot of us a lot of good.