A Game of Inches – Part Four

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By the time the rest of the players starting reporting to campus, I was in mid-season form. Never had I been in better shape this early in a season. I instantly drew the attention of the coaching staff the first day of practice. I finished every drill first, I dominated every offensive lineman we had, I didn’t care what I had to do to win, I did it. By the end of the first week of practice, I had accomplished two things. First, I had no doubt secured my position with the first unit, no one was better. But secondly, I had isolated myself from the rest of the team. I sat alone, I ate alone, I dressed alone. It was of course, by my choice.

Although this would be my third year in college, I was still technically playing as a sophmore due to being red shirted my first year. This defense would basically stay intact for the next two years, we had only one senior who started for us. Unlike the previous two seasons, this year we were opening with a ranked opponent in their stadium. We traveled to Virginia for our first game of the season, one that would be be nationally ranked as we were. We opened the season ranked ninth, our opponent was fourteenth. For the first time since joining this team, we had a legitimate shot at a National Championship. All the pieces were in place, we had a great defense, we could run and throw the ball effectively. It would come down to a few bounces of the ball and the ability to keep players healthy.

I was taped and ready to go at least ninety minutes before the game, the locker room was unusually quiet for the first game of the season. The game was the featured game of the week, meaning it would be nationally televised. I knew a lot of people in my small town would be watching, not that I needed any motivation. By the time we hit the field, I had worked myself into a frenzy.

They received the opening kickoff and ran it back to the twenty seven yard line. Our defense took the field for the first time, lining up quickly. We moved around quick a bit pre-snap, trying to throw the opposing quarterback off, making him unsure what formation we would be in once he got the ball. This year, with the speed we had on the line and at linebacker, we would definitely see a lot of blitz packages called. As I lined up on the outside shoulder of the left tackle, I heard an audible on the very first play of the game. We sent eight men on a dog left from the opening snap, letting them know it was going to be a long night.

By halftime, we had built a 28-0 lead, completely dominating the first two quarters. Defensively we had only allowed two first downs, they had a total of seventy nine yards of offense in two quarters. I had a decent first half with three tackles, but I had been so close two or three times to making a big play, I was somewhat disappointed.

On their first possession of the second half, they attempted a wide receiver reverse, that came back to my side. Normally when the entire offense moves to your left, you follow it, you move to the motion. I don’t know why I held my ground, something seemed wrong. As the play moved away from me, I saw the one odd player coming back to the ball, I knew immediately. The receiver had just been handed the ball when I hit him between the shoulder pads at full speed. I lifted him up off of his feet, then drove him into the ground. In the process the ball squirted out, one of our defensive backs snagged it in mid-air and ran it back for a touchdown. Two quarters later, we had won our opener 42-0 in a convincing fashion. I had a good second half with five more tackles, the forced fumble and two sacks.

By the time our conference schedule began we were 3-0, had moved up the rankings to sixth, and statistically had the best defense in college football. I had accumulated six sacks, and was among the top tacklers on the defense. Everything was falling into place, except for that the fact that I was down right miserable. All I could think about was Ashley and what had happened. As much as I tried, I just couldn’t let it go.

Halfway through the season, there were only four unbeaten teams left in the country, we were ranked third. We were on a collision course with Florida, who was ranked just below us at fourth. They too were unbeaten and eyeing a National Championship. I got a call early in the week from Courtney’s Dad asking if I possibly had any extra tickets I was not using for the upcoming game. I told him as far as I knew, no one needed my tickets, he could have all four. I promised to leave them at the stadium club box office for him, the morning of the game.

The game with Florida was a sellout and again a nationally televised game on a major network. Florida was an offensive machine, a pure pro style passing offense, this would be our biggest test to date. They were averaging over thirty points a game thus far into the season. I arrived in our locker room about nine that morning and began to get taped up for the game. I had been very fortunate thus far this year, I was basically injury free, just a bump and bruise, here and there.

We opened the game with the first possession of the day on our own twenty one yard line. Two plays later we fumbled the ball, Florida recovered on our eighteen yard line. It took just one play for them to score, we were already down 7-0, with barely two minutes off the clock. Our offense came out and immediately tried to press the ball to get the points back, we threw an interception deep in our own end of the field, a few plays later it was 10-0. The entire load of this game had shifted to the defense, if we were going to come back, it was up to us to make a stand. We held them for most of the rest of the first half, they scored once, as did we, the score was 13-7 at the break.

The defense spent the entire halftime making adjustments. I was moved from my normal defensive end position, to outside linebacker on the same side. We would be rushing at least one to two extra players per down, trying to force a turnover. We definitely caught them off guard on the first series. On the second play of the half, I was able to break through and get a huge sack, a loss of fifteen yards. They were forced to punt the ball to us, we had excellent field position and scored quickly to take the lead 14-13.

From that point on, we were merciless on defense. We allowed nothing, they had to earn every yard they gained. We blew the game open in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter scoring twice giving us a 24-13 advantage. We knew that was going to force them to start to throw on just about every down. As a defense, we were going to pin our ears back and get after their quarterback. We sacked him six more times in the fourth quarter, winning the game 31-13.

From that point on, we never looked back in the rear view mirror. We finished the season unbeaten and ranked second in the country. We would play a team from Ohio the first weekend in January for the National Championship. Our coaches tried to prepare us for the hype that would surround the game, but nothing can really prepare you for a game of that magnatude, unless you have been there already.

Coach gave us ten days off for Christmas and New Years, but we had to be back on campus January 2nd to resume practice for the championship game. I was torn on what to do for those ten days, debating on whether to stay at school or go home. Since I had not been home in close to six months, I decided that maybe enough time had passed since that night with Ashley. I caught a ride with another player who had to pass within a few miles of my home town so he agreed to drop me off. I stopped in Coach Ray’s office to tell him I was leaving campus for the holidays. He asked me to sit down for a minute, he wanted to talk to me.

“Brian, as you know, we are in constant contact with pro scouts, agents and people around the pro game. Things have changed a lot in the past two decades, a lot of underclassmen are now leaving school early for the draft. I have actually been contacted by several scouts who seem very interested in you.”, he started.

“With that said, I am not a big proponent of kids leaving school early, unless the situation is completely right for them. Even though you’re technically a sophmore, I have heard talk you could be a 3rd or 4th round pick this year, if you declare early.”, he continued.

“I haven’t even thought about it Coach. I mean, I am only a sophmore. You really think someone would draft me ?”, I asked.

“Oh I am sure of it. The only question is, would you move up into the higher rounds with one or two more years playing here. Let me do some digging, we can talk when you come back.”, he ended.

I left his office in a state of disbelief, I couldn’t imagine it. To be drafted as a professional after only two seasons, it didn’t seem possible. It’s all I thought about on the ride home, there was actually a chance that I could play pro football and possibly make a great deal of money. It was around noon on December 23rd when my friend dropped me off at home. I noticed that Ashley’s SUV was not in the drive, I actually felt somewhat relieved. I went inside, unpacked my bags, starting two loads of laundry. I fixed my self a sandwich and was sitting at the kitchen table eating when Ashley came through the door.

“Hey, when did you get here ?”, she asked, sitting the grocery bags down on the counter.

“Just about thirty minutes ago, a friend dropped me off here. I have off until January 2nd.”, I answered.

“That’s nice, I was hoping to have company over the holidays.”, she told me, putting the groceries away.

While she seemed to be genuinely delighted to see me, for the first time in I can’t remember how long, she didn’t hug or kiss me. I just sat there eating as she put away the remainder of the groceries. I finished, got up and rinsed the dishes, placing them in the dishwasher. I went and laid down for a while, it had been a long trip home, I was up most of the night. I was startled from a dead sleep by the cell phone on the nightstand next to the bed. I picked the phone up, looked at the number, it looked familiar, so I answered.

“Hey Brian, how are you son ?”, came the familiar voice.

It was Mr. Timmons , Courtney’s Dad, inspite of what had happened between his daughter and I, we had become somewhat close in the past few years. It was always good to hear from him.

“Hey Mr. Timmons, I’m doing fine sir and you ?”, I asked.

“Just great Brian. Look, I am having a really big Christmas Eve party tomorrow night at my house. If you’re coming into town, I would love for you to stop in for a few minutes.”, he asked.

“I’m in town now sir. I got in last night. But I don’t know if it’s a good idea I come by, I mean I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.”, I replied.

“You won’t make anyone uncomfortable Brian. Both my wife and I would love to see you, I don’t think Courtney would mind either.”, he shot back.

“Oh, she isn’t seeing Darren anymore ?”, I inquired.

“I don’t know, I hope not, I can’t stand that asshole. Anyway, forget about that, just please stop by for a few minutes.”, he begged.

“Ok sir, I will come by for a few minutes, I promise.”, I said.

Ashley must have been in her bedroom while I was on the phone with Courtney’s Dad, she walked up to my door almost as soon as I had hung up the phone.

“Who was that ?”, she asked.

“Mr. Timmons, he asked me to stop over at his house tomorrow night for his Chrsitmas Eve party.”, I replied.

“Oh…… You’re thinking of going ?”, she inquired.

“I promised him I would stop by for a few minutes. He still calls me at least once a month at school, he has always been so nice to me. I couldn’t say no.”, I responded.

“Is Courtney going to be there ?”, she asked, in an annoyed tone.

“I have no idea Ashley, I didn’t ask.”, I answered.

She turned and walked down the hallway toward the front of the house. For the rest of the day, you could feel the tension in the house between us. I tried my best to be cordial but it was difficult to say the least. I went to bed early that night just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the situation any longer. I heard Ashley up several times during the night, I had no idea what she was doing.

I woke up early on Christmas Eve and decided to go into town and just walk around. Even though it was a very small town, everyone always went all out decorating for Christmas. I stopped in at the diner and had breakfast, a few cups of coffee, then started walking down main street. I saw several people I knew, stopping to talk to each of them for a few minutes. I window shopped for a while, then decided to go to Van Buren’s to get a haircut. Mr. V, as everyone called him, had been cutting hair in our town for over thirty years, he had cut my hair since I was a toddler. Lately he had slowed down, hiring two other barbers to help him part time. As I opened the door to walk in, I saw the place was packed. Mr. V looked up from his customer, his face lighting up upon recognizing me. He waved me to come in immediately.

“It’s ok Mr. V, I can come back when you’re not so busy.”, I said, thanking him.

“No, no Brian. You come right in, we will squeeze you in.”, he said, shaking my hand.

He turned to all of the men, their ages varied from teenager to senior citizen and addressed them as if they were all old friends.

“I think you all know who this is. If you don’t know, get out.”, he said laughing hysterically.

Everyone in the shop roared in laughter, as most of them waved a warm hello to me as I sat in the only chair open. As soon as Mr. V, finished with the customer he had in his chair, he motioned for me to come over and sit down. I tried to refuse, pointing to all of the people who had been sitting there waiting, but most of them motioned for me to go ahead. I sat down in the chair, as Mr. V quickly wrapped the white cover around me and secured it to my neck. He stepped around in front of me with clippers in his hand.

“So Brian, you didn’t see that you made the wall of fame ?”, he said, pointing to the main wall.

I scanned through the maze of pictures he had accumulated through the years, he was an avid football fan, his memorabilia collection was impressive. Finally about mid-wall I noticed a large 11 x 16 photo that had to be taken during the Virginia game. It was the hit I had made on the wide receiver reverse causing the fumble. The picture was phenomal, both of us were off the ground, the ball hovering in the air over us.

“Wow Mr. V, where did you get that ?”, I asked.

“Your old Coach brought that in for me, he had it framed as well. When you get to the pro’s, it will be one of the highlights of my collection.”, he beamed.

“Well I hope I get there Mr. V, I will try not to let you down.”, I answered.

For the next few minutes I was bombarded with questions about our team, what I thought our chances were of beating Ohio for the National Championship. Everyone was very nice and wished me luck in the big game. Mr. V had finished up, cleaned me off, and removed the wrap allowing me to stand up. I reached into my wallet and handed him a twenty dollar bill, he pushed my hand away.

“I don’t want money, I want a favor from you.”, he said.

“I’ll try Mr. V, what can I do for you ?”, I asked.

“I want you to autograph that for me.”, he said, pointing to my picture on the wall.

“No problem Mr. V, I would be happy to do it.”, I answered.

The old man bolted over to where the large photo was hanging on the wall. He snatched it down quickly, turned it over and turned the clips that held the backing in place. He fished out the photo and walked back over to me extending it proudly. One of the other barbers grabbed a black sharpie marker from the drawer and handed it to me. I stared at the photo for a second thinking of what to write. I inscribed the photo neatly, making sure not to mess it up.

To Mr. V, Thanks for everything.

Brian Stevens # 99

I handed the photo back to him, he was grinning from ear to ear. He wrapped his arms around me giving me a big hug. He started replacing the photo back into the frame. He finished, turned and hung it back in it’s place on the wall. He turned back to me as I was about to walk out and shook my hand wishing me a Merry Christmas.

I headed back towards my vehicle, then headed home. It was close to three o’clock by that time, I needed to get ready for the party. I arrived home, immediately taking a shower and getting dressed for the party. I was ready about an hour early, so I sat down and watched a bit of TV. I had always tried to bring some sort of item from the past season to Mr. Timmons, he had office in his home which was wall to wall football memorabilia, but I had forgotten to bring anything from school. Suddenly it struck me, that I had three of my first year jerseys hanging in my closet. Every year, you were given two home jerseys and two away jerseys. If they were still intact at the end of the year, you were allowed to keep them, give them away, they were yours. I went to my closet and found one of my white home jersys hanging in there. I pulled it out and placed it in a plastic bag. I watched TV for about an hour more, then left for the party.

As I turned on the block, I could see that this was not one of Mr. Timmon’s normal get togethers. There were three to four times the amount of vehicles that normally were parked in and around his home. I had to park in the block before his home and walk the rest of the way. I arrived at the front door and rang the bell, Mrs. Timmons opened it quickly.

“Hi Brian, I’m so glad you decided to come.”, she said, hugging me quickly.

She closed the door behind me and ushered me into the family room, although there were people throughout the house. It took a few minutes for me to find Mr. Timmons, he was in the kitchen icing down more beer. As I walked through the room looking for him, I could feel a lot of eyes watching me. As I stepped into the kitchen, he immediately jumped up and shook my hand.

“Brian , I am so glad to see you. Thanks so much for coming. Come on, I will introduce you everyone.”, he said.

For the next twenty minutes I followed him around the huge home as he introduced me to all of his friends, both male and female. About half of the people I met, knew who I was, several had mentioned they watched me play. We finally made our way back to the family room where I found a seat on the end of the sofa. I was just sitting there drinking a Coke when I realized I had forgotten to give Mr. Timmons his gift. By now he had once again disappeared into the crowd, I decided to stay put until I saw him again. I had been sitting there for about ten minutes, when I saw Courtney walk through the family room and into the kitchen. I know she didn’t see me through the maze of people, I slumped down a bit on the sofa, hoping she would be leaving soon.

Finally Mr. Timmons made his way back over to where I was sitting, he had two of his friends with him. He introduced me to both of them, as I stood to shake their hands. It’s tough to not be noticed in a crowd when you’re almost six foot, seven inches tall. As I stood to talk to the two men, I saw Courtney out of the corner of my eye, turn her head in my direction. I was glad to be engaged in a conversation at that point, I really didn’t want to talk with her.

“Brian, are you ready for the big game ?”, Mr.Timmons asked.

“Yes sir, I am. I just hope we play well, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”, I answered.

“Im not too sure, with the talent you guys have, you could make another run at it next year.”, he fired back.

“Maybe, but I would rather get it done this year sir.”, I replied.

The three men bust out laughing, I’m not sure why, I wasn’t trying to be funny. I know how much work, and to some degree how much luck it takes to go unbeaten in college football. It doesn’t happen every season, you have to grab the situation in hand when you can.

“Oh by the way Mr. Timmons, my coaches have told me that scouts are talking about where I would be drafted if I declared myself a hardhip this year and enter the draft.”, I stated.

“You’re kidding. That’s fabulous Brian, I always knew you would make it.”, he said, slapping my back.

“I doubt I will declare this year, my coaches think another year and I could possibly be an early second round pick. I am pretty sure I will come back at least one more season before I make my decision.”, I answered.

We talked for a few more minutes, then I remembered the jersey that I had brought him. I turned and reached down on the sofa and picked up the bag, handing it to him. I could tell once again, he was excited to see what I had brought him. He opened the bag and pulled the white jersey out of the bag. He opened it up and looked carefully at it, taking a while for it to register just what it was. After seeing the grass stains, tears and rips that had been repaired, and dried blood on the lower front, he knew what it was.

“This is your game jersey ? You wore this in the game ?”, he asked incredulously.

“Yes sir, last season.”, I answered.

For the first time since I had been introduced to Courtney’s Dad, he was at a lost for words. I could see tears well up in the older man’s eyes. He had to take a deep breathe to compose himself in front of his friends.

“Brian, I don’t know what to say. You should keep this, it could be quite valuable one day in the future.”, he said, extending the jersey back to me.

“No sir, I want you to have it. And if God is willing and I do play in the pro’s, you will get one of those as well.”, I answered.

Still quite choked up, he yelled over the top of the crowd, asking everyone to be silent for just a few seconds. He once again introduced me to everyone, then held up the jersey, explaining what it was and that I had just given it to him. With the guests whispering to each other he turned back to me, once again extending the jersey back to me.

“Would you do me the honor of signing this for me Brian. I would love to frame it and hang it in my office.”, he asked politely.

“Of course I will sir.”, I answered, taking the jersey.

As he disappeared in his office for a marker, I took the jersey over to the kitchen table and laid it out flat, with the back panel up. Mr. Timmons reappeared quickly, a black sharpie marker in his hand. I took the marker from him and bent over, trying to think of an inscription. I smiled thinking this was already twice today someone wanted my autograph, a niave kid who grew up in a small town. I placed the black sharpie inside one of the two number nine’s on the jersey. Inside the first number I wrote the inscription:

“Game Used – Florida”

Inside the second number nine , I wrote the following inscription :

To : Mr. Gerald, Thank you for the kindness & friendship –
Brian Stevens # 99

I handed the jersey back to Mr. Timmons as a few of the people in the room applauded. He once again thanked me for the generous gift telling me how much it meant to him. He told me by the time I would come back to town next summer, it would be framed hanging in his office. He walked across the kitchen to show his wife the item up close. I looked up at the clock, saw it was close to nine o’clock, I decided I would soon thank everyone and head home. I walked back to where I was sitting to wait on Mr. Timmons when Courtney cornered me, I had no place to go.

“Hey.”, she said, a weak smile on her face.

“Hi Court, how are you ?”, I asked.

“I’m ok, I guess. How about you ?”, she replied.

“Doing ok too, just really crazy up at school, with us being in the National Championship this year. I barely have time to breath right now.”, I responded.

“Yea, I can imagine. You must be excited huh ?”, she inquired.

“Yea, I am ready to play now, I wish the wait wasn’t so long.”, I laughed.

We talked for a few more minutes, mostly just things in general, I could sense maybe she had something in mind. I was extremely anxious to leave, I guess it showed.

“You have any plans for the holidays ?”, she asked, adverting my eyes.

“Nope, not at all. I have to be back at school in a little over a week for practice. I don’t plan on doing anything other than just laying around.”, I answered.

“Oh…. Ok.”, she responded, “Well if you get bored, give me a call, maybe we can do something.”

I guess the look on my face must have immediately told her what my mind was thinking, because she quickly spoke up before I could.

“Oh, I mean, you know…. Just hang out and stuff.”, she answered.

“Honestly Court, that might be nice, except I don’t need any of Darren’s bullshit while I am in town. He’s already been in my face several times in the past few years. One of these times, it might get ugly. I just don’t need the aggravation.”, I replied.

“Oh, we’re not dating anymore. We broke up a few weeks ago. He already has another girlfriend.”, she confided.

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that Court, but honestly I never understood what you saw in him anyway. Thirty years from now he will still be in this town trying to relive his high school days.”, I told her.

“I know, I know. My Dad gives me the same speech all the time. I screwed everything up, I really did.”, she said, looking down at her feet.

We talked for a few more minutes, then I wished her Merry Christmas, thanked her Mom and Dad for inviting me to the party and left quickly. It was almost eleven that night when I finally arrived back at home. The lights were all still on, there was a car in the drive I did not recognize. I parked my truck, unlocked the door and went into the kitchen. I heard Ashley immediately yell out from the family room.

“Brian, can you come here for a second ?”, she asked.

I went to my room, tossed my jacket on the bed, and walked back down the hall to the family room. Upon entering I saw Ashley was seated on the sofa with a very young, extremely attractive blonde lady, they were both drinking wine. They both stood up when I walked into the room.

“Brian, this is Stephanie Jenson, she is a new teacher at school.”, she began, “Steph, this is Brian Stevens.

The blonde woman immediately extended her tiny hand to mine, a smile crossing her face. I reached out and took her small hand in mine.

“Nice to meet you Miss Jenson.”, I said.

“Where in the heck have you been keeping him ?”, Stephanie laughed, “Oh my God, what a man.”

Both women laughed out loud, I felt really uncomfortable as they shared the moment.

“I go to school in another state, I am never here.”, I answered for Ashley quickly.

“Please tell me you’re engaged, have a steady girlfriend, hurry quick”, Stephanie said laughing.

“Actually, no mam, I am not seeing anyone, haven’t in a while.”, I answered.

“Oh my God, come sit with me honey.”, she squealed, grabbing my arm and pulling me down on the sofa.

I sat down next to her out of sheer courtesy, it was obvious both of them had been drinking for a while. While neither was drunk, they were both rather giddy, I guess you can call it. For the next few minutes I answered questions about school, football and anything else she could throw at me. It seemed she was just out of college herself, this was her first year teaching. She would be twenty four in a few months, making her barely older than me. As the conversation progressed I could sense maybe Ashley was becoming a little uneasy with her new friend. I decided to call it a night.

“Well ladies, I am exhausted, it was nice to meet you. I am going to bed.”, I stated.

It took me a while to go to sleep that night, I could hear Ashley and Stephanie laughing in the other room for quite a while. I woke the next morning about seven o’clock, Ashley’s door was still closed, she must have had a real late night. I made a pot of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table. I was on my second cup when Ashley appeared walking slowly, apparently feeling the effects of last night’s wine.

“I need coffee….. Badddd.”, she said softly.

She poured a cup of a coffee then fell into one of the chairs across the table from me. I had to grin slightly, she was a mess. I finished up my coffee, took a quick shower, then settled in on the sofa to watch TV. Since it was Christmas day, I knew everyone would be with family, there was no point in trying to go anywhere, or see anyone. Sometime right after lunch my cell phone rang, I reached over and answered it.

“Hey Brian, it’s Courtney, what are you up to ?”, she asked.

“Nothing, just watching TV with Ashley.”, I explained.

“Well, my Dad wanted me to call and ask you if you would come over tonight for dinner. That’s if….um, you don’t have any other plans.”, she said quickly.

“No, I don’t have any plans. I guess I could stop in for a little while.”, I answered.

“Ok, see you then.”, she replied, hanging up.

As I laid the phone back on the sofa, I could see Ashley giving bursa merkez escort bayan me the eye. By the look on her face, I could tell she was not happy.

“Who was that ?”, she asked.

“Courtney.”, I replied.

“You can’t be serious. You’re going out with Courtney again ?”, she hissed.

“Nope. Her Dad wants me to come to dinner tonight, that’s all.”, I answered.

I could tell Ashley was not happy with the situation and to some degree I understood why. Courtney had dumped me twice before for someone else, I mean how many times does the roof have to fall on you before you get the picture ? I went back to watching TV, falling asleep on the sofa for a few hours. I woke at about five in the evening, took a long, hot shower, then dressed in jeans and a tee shirt to go to Courtney’s. I left the house about six and drove straight to Courtney’s, I was relieved as I pulled into the driveway to see only their family vehicles there. I was not in the mood for another party. I rang the bell, Mr. Timmons answered quickly.

“Hey Brian, come on in, I am so glad you could make it.”, he said, shaking my hand.

He ushered me into the family room and I took a seat on the large sectional sofa. I heard Courtney and her Mom in the kitchen, I guessed that they were cooking. I sat with her Dad for a while and talked until the ladies announced that dinner was served. We then moved to the dining room where the four of us had dinner together. It was a really nice meal, the food was excellent and I always enjoyed being around Mr. Timmons. I guess the fact that I had lost my Dad at an early age made me gravitate towards him, perhaps as a father figure. We finished up and moved back to the family room as the ladies quickly cleared the table. Once everyone was back together, Mr. Timmons walked over to the Christmas tree and took a small package from under it, walked over and handed it to me.

“Merry Christmas Brian.”, he said handing me the item.

“You didn’t have to do this Mr. Timmons.”, I said, feeling kind of awkward, I had brought nothing.

“I know I didn’t. Now open it.”, he said sternly.

I carefully opened the small box, to find a polish walnut wood box inside. I turned the box around and opened the lid, I was stunned.
Inside of the box was a watch, but not just a watch, a stainless steel Rolex watch. I had no idea what to say, I was speechless.

“I can’t accept this Mr. Timmons, it’s just too much.”, I said looking at him.

He held his arm out, showing me a gleaming new gold Rolex President on his wrist, a grin from ear to ear.

“This is what Santa Claus brought me for Christmas this year, very nice huh ?”, he answered, “Anyway, that is my original watch that I have worn for close to ten years. I don’t have a son, but I know I want you to have it, please accept it.”

I could see by the look in his face, the emotion in his eyes, he was genuinely sincere. I closed the box softly, I was still at a loss for words.

“Sir, if you ever want this back, I will understand. Just ask.”, I said.

“I know you understand son, that’s why I am giving it to you.”, he answered, “Now before you leave, go downtown to the jewelry store and have Mr. Weinberg, size it for you. There are extra links in the box, I already paid him for the resizing.”

“Thank you, I don’t know what else to say.”, I responded.

“Now if you young people will excuse us, my wife and I are going to a friends for a few hours. We will see you guys later.”, he said, getting up and grabbing his wife’s hand.

They left several minutes later, leaving just Courtney and I in the house alone. The mood immediately went from relaxed and warm to extremely awkward. We talked for a while about nothing in particular, it seemed almost like a blind date. Finally the tension got to be a bit too much, I decided to call it a night.

“I’m going to head home Court, Ashley is alone, it’s Christmas.”, I explained.

“Oh…. Yea….. Sure, I understand.”, she replied, jumping up.

“Tell your Dad thanks again for the watch, I still can’t believe it.”, I uttered.

“My Dad loves you Brian, like you were his own son. I can’t begin to tell you about how much grief he has given to me because of how I treated you. But I deserved it, I am so sorry, I really am.”, she said softly.

“It’s ok Courtney, things happen sometimes for a reason.”, I answered, not really knowing what to say.

I left shortly there after, headed right home, there was little traffic on the road. I arrived home just a few minutes before nine. I locked up behind me, poured a glass of a ice tea, then went into the family room where Ashley was watching TV.

“Hey how was dinner ?”, she asked, without looking up from the program.

“It was very good, but… I …. I got a present from Courtney’s Dad.”, I stuttered.

“What did you get ?”, she asked, turning towards me.

I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out the shiny walnut box and handed it to her. She opened it quickly, I could tell she was as stunned as I was.

“Brian, this is a Rolex. You can’t accept this.”, she said quickly.

“I told him that Ashley. He insisted, it’s his old watch. He got a new Rolex for Christmas.”, I answered.

She closed the box shaking her head slightly, I could tell she didn’t approve. And to be fair with Ashley, I did feel really awkward taking it. I placed the box down on the coffee and sat down on the sofa for a few minutes.

“There is a movie coming on in about forty five minutes that I want to watch. I am going to take a shower before it starts.”, Ashley told me.

She left the room and headed down the hall. I looked at the cable guide to see what movie she was talking about. It was a fairly new movie that I hadn’t seen yet either. I decided to take a shower quickly as well, then see if the movie was any good.

I took a quick shower, threw on some practice shorts and a tank top, then hit my favorite spot on the sofa. Ashley was still in the shower, I could hear the water running. I was almost ready to doze off on the sofa when I heard her walking back down the hall. She walked in front of the TV and over to the lounge chair next to the sofa. She was wearing a mid-thigh tee shirt, her hair pulled back off of her neck. As she went over slightly to adjust the pillows in the chair, I could see her white laced panties under the shirt. I quickly turned my eyes back to the TV as she turned and sat down. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to concentrate on the movie with Ashley sitting so close to me, those incredible legs stretched out in front of me. On top of the visual stimulation, I could smell her bath soap and lotion from where I was sitting. Thankfully the movie was terrible, at least I thought so, I excused myself to go to bed after about twenty minutes.

Before I knew it, the holidays were over and I was unpacking my belongings back into my crowded dorm room. There was an air of electricity around campus that I had not seen since my arrival. The press were camped out all over town hoping to get interviews with players or coaches about the upcoming game. The game was going to be played in New Orleans this year, which was advantageous due to the short commute for our fans. We would definitely have the home field advantage if their was one.

We practiced all week then departed by bus to New Orleans on Friday morning, arriving in the early afternoon. We were ushered past fans and reporters camped out in fornt of our hotel, all wanting autograph’s or interviews. We had been told before arriving what our schedules would be and what was expected of us. Even though we were in one of the biggest party cities in the country, we were expected to conduct ourselves properly at all times. The game would be played on Monday Night at 7 p.m., we would have one practice Saturday, one Sunday, then a walk through on Monday. Our opponent would have the same schedule. In between there were interviews, media day and fans buzzing around trying to get photo’s or autograph’s.

We were given Saturday Night off as a team, but we had a midnight curfew scheduled. As was normal the team splintered off in their own little clique’s , offense, defense and special teams. The defensive line had decided to go down the block to a world class restaurant that had invited us to dine with them as a courtesy. I tagged along, I was looking forward to the food. We had no sooner stepped out of the hotel lobby, when we were rushed by a dozen or so fans all wearing our colors. They held jerseys, footballs, pictures, and other memorabilia out hoping to get a signature. I had to quietly laugh to myself at where this game had taken me. A big goofy kid from a small town most people had never heard of, was being asked for his autograph. The coaches had warned us about signing autographs, that most people were just there to get items signed, then they would sell them online for huge profits. Very few autographs were actually for the person asking, but I really didn’t mind. Long after the rest of the guys had left, I was still signing items. I finally finished, walked down the block and met the guys who were already seated. It was uncanny at how much attention we were getting, almost like we were bigger than life.

We finished a great meal and headed back to the hotel. It was getting close to nine o’clock, the other guys were going to a local hotspot, I decided to pass. As I was approaching the hotel entrance, an unusually attractive young blonde came up to me, her eyes bright and wide.

“Hey, will you sign my jersey ?”, she asked with a shy smile.

“That depends.”, I responded.

I saw the doorman smile after overhearing my reply to the young woman. She kind of cocked her head sideways for a second like I caught her off guard.

“Depends on what ?”, she finally asked.

“It depends on if you’re a true fan or not.”, I answered.

“Oh ……. You have no idea, I am a huge fan.”, she said, once again holding out her jersey.

“Well then, I guess I will sign ……. But, only if you know my name and jersey number…..,” I kidded her once again.

“Brian Stevens, you’re number ninety nine.”, she shot back immediately.

“Wow, I am impressed.”, I responded, signing my usual scribble quickly, followed by the # 99.

“Oh my God.”, she exclaimed, “My friends are not gonna believe this.”, she exclaimed looking at the signature, “They told me I was wasting my time. I so wish I had a camera with me, I would love to rub it in their faces. Thank you so much, Brian.”

“No problem, my pleasure.”, I answered, handing her the jersey back.

I went back inside the hotel and settled in my room for the night. Sometime about eleven the coaches did their first bed-check, I was already lights out for the night. I was at the breakfast buffet early in the morning, then went back to the room for a quick nap. Sunday morning we had our last full practice as a team, we had only the walk through tomorrow afternoon before the game. After practice, we showered and dressed then made our way to one of the huge rooms that was reserved for the media. It was their chance to get to talk to us one on one, ask questions, take photo’s.

I was amazed at the number of the local and national media that had assembled in the room. As soon as players started walking in, camera lights went on, people started shouting out questions. I was able to side step as I entered and make my way to a corner that was somewhat quiet. I had been standing there for maybe three or four minutes when a woman dressed in a business suit came up to me, introducing herself as a reporter for the local news station. She asked me all the standard questions that were expected, then thanked me for my time. During the next hour, I was interviewed twice more, once on camera, once off. I could see the coaches begin to gather us together, it was time to head back to the hotel. We climbed back on the bus and made our way back to the hotel, it was a few hours before dinner would be served. It was made clear to us that there would be no leaving the hotel tonight for any reason, bed checks would begin at ten o’clock.

We assembled as a team in the main dining hall of the hotel and was served an excellent buffet style dinner of just about every type of seafood imaginable. I definitely over ate, as did a lot of the team. We made our way back to our rooms and settled in for the night. We had team meetings in the morning, the first scheduled for nine o’clock.

The next day we had three different team meetings, lasting until close to one o’clock in the afternoon. We then climbed on the bus, made our way to the stadium, where we had our last walk through on both offense and defense. We then headed to our locker room where we would begin to get ready for tonight’s game. I quickly found my locker and was surprised to see all the gear that had been issued to us. We all had brand new jerseys, pants and helmets, along with new shoes, socks, gloves and towels. The jerseys had the National Championship Logo embroidered on the upper left front. It was about five o’clock when I finished on the trainers table, ankles, knees, wrists and thighs all taped, ready to go. I dressed quickly and at a few minutes before six, we headed back out on the floor of the stadium.

Our opponent from Ohio was already in one end zone warming up in different sections, both offense and defense. We filed into the opposite end of the field and broke off into groups as well. The stadium was maybe one third filled with fans, most milling around, taking photo’s or begging for autographs from any player who got close to the retaining walls. Sometime close to an hour before kickoff, we were ushered back to our locker room. For the next forty-five minutes our coaches implored us with every motivational tool they could think of, however we all knew what this game meant to us, the university and our fans.

We exited the tunnel at quarter after seven, the crowd erupted in at a level I had never before heard in my life. You could hear a thing, not even the person talking next to you. I looked around the stadium, I couldn’t find an empty seat anywhere. Television camera’s where everywhere, camera flash’s exploding like stars in the sky.

We won the toss and as usual elected to defer possession to the second half, letting our defense take the field first, trying to set the tone. We kicked off and they returned the ball to our twenty five yard line, the defense assembled on the field. My opponent tonight was a junior left tackle, six foot four, three hundred ten pounds and was rumored to have a real nasty streak. As he approached the offensive line for the first time, he gave me a look that I guess he thought would intimidate me, I had to laugh. As he settled into his position, I heard him grunt across the line at me.

“I’m gonna show you what’s funny boy, I’m about to get all up in your grill, bitch.”, he scowled.

I knew I had to set the tone immediately, let him know from the first snap, there was no way he was going to win this war. I decided to go left shoulder, full out, regardless that it would probably be an inside run and I would take myself out of the play. On the snap of the ball, I did just that, he was woefully not prepared. I could tell he was going to try to drive block me from the color of his fingertips, touching the ground. When all of your weight is forward, the tips of your fingers turn red with the pressure. It’s a good indication what kind of block you can expect. I left him still coming out of his stance, blew past him and assisted in the tackle several yards down field. I could tell as he came out of the huddle for the second play, there was no doubt in his mind, he was no where close to having the foot speed to stay with me, I had implanted that idea on the last play. Now as he set in his stance, I saw his fingertips had not changed color, meaning all of his weight had been shifted to his heels, trying to get a jump on my rush.

They picked up one first down, then were forced to punt after failing to convert on their second third down of the night. I found a place on the end of the bench and took in some oxygen. Our offense took the field, as I regained my breath, I settled in for what I hoped would be a long drive, giving us chance to relax. I looked the down marker, I couldn’t really see the action due to the mass of players, coaches and media on the sidelines, it read third down. Suddenly a roar exploded from the crowd, I jumped up just in time to see one of our running backs dashing down the sidelines. No one in the secondary came close to catching him, he went in for the touchdown, jogging the last five yards. We kicked the extra point and took a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.

Once again the defense took the field, again we held them, forcing a punt. I had been in on four tackles to that point, two of them solo, I was off to a decent game. Our offense took the ball once again driving down the field, settling for a field goal, extending the head to 10-0.

Right before halftime, we kicked another field goal , giving us a 13-0 lead at the half. We had played really well to this point but we knew just how explosive they were, this was far from over.

We opened the second half on offense since we had deferred on the coin toss. On third down, disaster struck as we fumbled the ball at our own twenty four yard line. Three plays later they scored a touchdown cutting our lead to 13-7. Our offense struggled the entire third quarter only picking up one first down. They scored once again , taking the lead 14-13. The defense had been on the field almost the entire third quarter, you could see some fatigue setting in. We rallied together on the sideline and decided if we were going to win this game, the defense needed a few huge plays.

On the next possession our offense drove down the field but stalled out, we had to settle for a field goal recapturing the lead, 16-14. I had played well up to this point, had several tackles, had knocked the quarterback down a few times, but had no real impact play. They started the next drive on their own thirty two yard line, we knew we needed a stop right way. They picked up a first down out to our forty five, but we held the next two plays, forcing a third and eleven. I lined up wide, on the tackle’s outside shoulder, they put a tight end on my side as well. I’m not sure what happened, but someone blew an assignment, I wasn’t touched. I rounded the corner quickly, as just as the quarterback stepped up to throw, I hurled myself into his back, taking him clean off his feet. The ball tumbled backwards down field, I never saw it, but by the time I got up, we had recovered the ball on their twenty eight yard line. Three plays later we scored on a twenty yard pass, extending our lead to 23-14. It was now a two possession game with slightly over nine minutes to play, we knew another big play would probably put the game out of reach.

They came out on the next possession, lining up in shotgun formation, they were going to try and get one score quickly. For the next few series of downs, the front line went all out, trying to get as much pressure on their quarterback as possible. On third and twelve, I leveled him again just as he threw, but he completed the pass to his receiver. I could tell as he got up off the ground, he was hurting.

With a first down at our forty and roughly seven minutes to play, Coach Ray decided to take a gamble. We ran a double cross stunt up front, and blitzed both the Will and Sam linebackers. The pressure was immediate, the quarterback had no choice but to back peddle quickly and attempt a screen pass. I read the left side of the line immediately moving that way. The quarterback lofted the ball high to his running back who never saw me bearing down on him. He had just secured the ball in his hands when I hit him head on at full speed. I felt the ball roll down my arm, I knew he had lost it. At the same time, I felt five or six bodies fall on top of us, everyone in the pile fighting for the ball. I could hear the officials above us, trying to get to the bottom of the pile, pulling players off. It took a while to get to the bottom, but we had indeed recovered the ball again. The referee gave the signal, first down, our ball.

The Coach from the opposing team was livid, screaming his running back never had possession, it was not a fumble, but an incomplete pass. One of the officials on the sidelines starting talking to the other official who called it a fumble. They decided to send the play upstairs to the booth to be reviewed. Both teams took a breather while the referee was on the headset with the officiating crew in the press box. You could tell from the length of the conversation, they were having a difficult time making a clear cut decision. That was good for us, because there has to be irrefutable video evidence to overturn the call, being it was called a fumble originally on the field. The crowd was starting to grow restless as close to five minutes passed, before the official removed the headset and trotted to the center of the field and switching on his microphone.

“After further review, the ruling on the field stands, it was a fumble.”, he stated to the crowd.

The crowd erupted in unison, as the opposing coaches went absolutely insane on the sidelines screaming at the officials. We took possession at our own thirty eight yard line with just under seven minutes to play. If our offense could pick up one or two first downs, there would not be enough time for them to get the two scores they needed. But in football as in life, things never go as planned. We failed to get a first down and punted the ball back to them with six minutes left to play. They took control on their own eighteen yard line. We knew they were going throw on every down, so we adjusted our personnel, adding six defensive backs, using one linebacker and our original front four. There was going to be no reading the offensive line, or back field motion. The four of us were simply going to pin our ears back and rush the quarterback giving him as little time to throw as possible. On first and second down he completed short passes across the middle but he was knocked down both times. I was getting close on every play, my opponent was simply exhausted.

They picked up another first down getting out to their forty four yard line. On the next play they ran a deep post pattern, the quarterback held the ball for quite a while allowing his receiver to get deep. I rounded the corner, I knew I had him. He stepped up in the pocket and had just released the ball as I smacked him down from behind driving him to the ground. As I got up, I saw the yellow penalty flag near me, I figured someone on the offense had been holding. The referee’s conferred for a second then the umpire turned his microphone on once again.

“Personal foul, unnecessary roughness on the defense, late hit number 99. Fifteen yard penalty, first down.”, he said, clicking off the microphone.

Coach Ray came across the sidelines, screaming at the official who threw the flag. There was no way I was late, he barely had released the ball. I looked up at the large video screen the in the center of the stadium, they were replaying the down. The ball was just inches out of the quarterback’s hand when I made contact, it was a bullshit call. But there was nothing we could do about it, the referee marched off the penalty to our forty one yard line. On the next play, our secondary blew a coverage package and they completed a pass and ran the ball down to our twelve yard line. I looked up at the clock, it read 4:45 minutes left to play in the game.

They lined up for the next play in an odd formation, we had not seen this look before. It was a designed roll out, the quarterback kept the ball running to one side, while all the receivers but one ran to the other. It worked perfectly, he trotted into the end zone untouched for the score. After the extra point was kicked, the score had been cut to
23-21, with just under four minutes to play.

As our kick teams gathered on the sidelines, they were discussing what our opponent would do next. Would they onside kick and try to recover the ball, or would they kick it deep and hope their defense would hold us again and force us to punt ? The conventional wisdom was that they would kick the ball deep to us, an onside kick was too dangerous. If we recovered and picked up a single first down, we would at least be able to kick a field goal, forcing them to have to get a touchdown in what few moments remained.

We sent our regular kick return unit in and they lined up in regular formation. They as well took a normal kickoff formation, we had been correct. The kicker approached the ball full speed, but then lofted an awkward high short squib of a kick that landed just behind our front line of blockers. Both teams arrived at where the ball was bouncing at the same time. It resembled a massive traffic accident as players hurled themselves at the bouncing object, bodies crashing into each other at full speed. There were at least ten players involved in the pileup, everyone pulling and fighting for the ball. It took forever for the officials to pull everyone off the ball until they could assess who had recovered the onside kick. You could hear the emotion being sucked out of our sideline as the official signaled they had indeed recovered the kick. I reached over, grabbed my helmet, and trotted back on the field. Once again, our backs were against the wall.

The ball rested on our forty seven yard line, they needed about fifteen yards to get into field goal range and tie the game sending it into overtime. I looked up at the overhead clock, there was 3:34 left to play, they had two timeouts left, that’s an eternity in football. What made it worst is that now we had to be aware of the run, they didn’t have to pass every down. You could see they broke the huddle with new hope, they could theoretically win this game.

They ran the ball the next two downs, picking up a total of six yards. It was now third and four, a huge play in the game. Surprisingly they ran the ball again, to my side this time, just off guard. I slightly over ran the play, had to dive back towards the running back as he went to my inside. I had one leg almost wrapped up, but he was able to pull away and run through the hole for a gain of seven yards and a first down. I had just missed what could have been the biggest tackle of my life, I was disgusted with myself. They now had a first down at our thirty four and within field goal range, though it would be a long attempt. Before we could huddle up, the whistle blew, they had used a time out. There was 2:01 left on the game clock as we trotted to the sidelines. Coach Ray was as emotional as I had ever seen him. He looked me right in the eye and let me have it.

“Fuck Stevens, you had him in the backfield, fucking wrap him up.”, he growled at me, “What the fuck kind of effort is that ?”

No one said a thing, we all knew what was at stake, I knew it wasn’t personal, it was the emotion of the game. Coach Ray then decided to go into a defense that we hadn’t shown all year on film, it was designed for a specific moment just like this, to perhaps confuse the defense. Basically, we lined up in a five man front, moving me over the right side, next to our right end. I would be standing until the snap count began, then I would move to the line and assume a normal stance. The linebacker on that side would get on my inside shoulder and show blitz, the other five defensive backs were responsible for anything that got through.

The offense lined up and the quarterback began his snap count. I moved forward to the line, the linebacker jumped my inside shoulder. They snapped the ball and tried to run off tackle on our side, I met the ball carrier in the hole, driving him backwards, I had been unblocked. The clock was now under two minutes and running, they had lost four yards. They quickly lined up again, ran a trap to the left and gained only two yards. It was third and twelve, this play would decided the game. Coach Ray signaled us back into our base defense, the gamble had worked for now. I moved back to the left side of their offensive line.

As the offense approached the line, our defensive backs came right up on the line of scrimmage, they were in press coverage. I moved out a little further than normal, getting outside of the left tackle’s shoulder.
The quarterback began his snap count, my eyes were glued to the ball careful of jumping offside. I looked at my opponent and I could tell from his stance and his weight shifted to his feet, they were going to try and pass. I leaned all my weight forward, getting into a standard sprinter’s position. On the snap, I came out of my stance quickly driving to my opponents outside. I had him beat right away, I put my left arm under his right and lifted him off balance, pushing him away from me. The quarterback stepped up in the pocket away from me, looking down field. I saw one of our other lineman breaking through forcing him to move quickly in my direction. He rotated his eyes across the field, apparently bursa merkez escort bayan finding another receiver open. His eyes picked me up, as soon as he started to draw the ball back to throw. He knew it was going to be close as he shifted his weight to his front foot, his arm cocked, ball up high. Just as his arm began to move forward, I got there, my left hand coming down on his throwing arm violently. I was able to pull him down from behind, but as I did I saw he did not have the ball. I rolled over and looked up just in time to see one of our cornerback’s snag the ball out of mid-air and begin down the sidelines. Apparently when I had hit his arm, the ball had went high, straight up barely clearing the line of scrimmage. I just stayed there, flat on the ground, head up watching our corner Terrell Jackson sprint down the sidelines for a touchdown, this one was over.

The stadium erupted as he crossed the goal line, I looked over at the bench as I was getting up, it was an unbelievable sight. Players and coaches hugging, jumping up and down, some on one knee, their head’s down. I was being slapped on the helmet and the back congratulated on the play. The sideline was bedlam, I had never been a part of such a huge win. The game ended shortly there after, the floor of the stadium was absolute chaos. Players, Coaches, and Media all rushing back and forth, in no real sense of purpose. I was standing near the center of the field talking to the opposing quarterback, who was offering his congratulations on our win when I was handed a baseball cap. It was a National Championship hat in our school colors with the date inscribed on it. I adjust it, placed it on my head, and began to try and work my way back to our locker room.

I had maybe went fifty feet when a reporter and cameraman approached me asking for a quick interview. I was never comfortable in front of the camera, but after this win I really didn’t care. The female announcer grabbed my arm and pulled me close to her.

“Brian, you had an outstanding game, 8 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and the last play where you caused the interception return for a touchdown. What’s going through your mind right now ?”, she asked, putting the microphone in my face.

“I’m not really sure, I mean, it really hasn’t sunk in that we are National Champions. Coach told me going in, he thought I could have a good game if the effort was there, I just went with that.”, I answered.

“Any chance you declare for the draft after tonight. I mean, you were already on a few team’s radar before tonight, but your stock had to soar after this performance.”, she inquired.

“No Mam, not really, I will talk with my coaches next week maybe, but I really intend to come back to school next year.”, I replied.

“Good luck, thank you for your time.”, she said.

Once again, I headed in the direction of the locker room, only to be stopped twice more for interviews. After basically the same questions being asked over and over, I made my way into the tunnel and down to our lockers. I began to undress, I was one of the first players to return, I guessed most were still out on the field celebrating.

It was close to two in the morning by the time the bus dropped us off back in front of the hotel. There had to be four to five dozen fans still out in front of the hotel, all trying to get autographs or pictures taken. After signing about a dozen objects, I made my way into the lobby and up to my room. I turned on the TV, got undressed and laid across the bed. I had no sooner got comfortable, when my cell phone rang. I looked the number, it was Ashley.

“Hello.”, I answered.

“Brian, oh my god, I can’t believe it, you won.”, she shouted.

“Yes, we did. I am still in shock myself.”, I answered.

“You played an incredible game, you were awesome. I am so proud of you. They had a big screen set up in the gym at school, half of the town was there. Everyone is so proud of you.”, she stated.

“Thanks Ashley.”, I responded.

“I saw the interview after the game, you’re actually considering leaving school early and go pro ?”, she asked.

“No not really, it just keeps coming up.”, I replied.

“Oh, ok. So when will you be coming home next, everyone is dying to see you. I hope it’s soon.”, she urged.

“About two month’s, during spring break, I have a few weeks off.”, I responded.

“Great, I will look forward to it.”, she answered.

The next few weeks on campus were absolutely insane. The media basically camped out for the week after the game, asking for interview’s from everyone associated with the game. Pro scouts were beginning to gather data on players for the upcoming draft which was scheduled for early April. We were measured for our National Championship rings which would be made and presented to us as soon as they were ready. The school gave us both of the jersey’s they had made for us to wear in the game. You always have a backup, in case the one you’re wearing is torn badly. Several of the sports clothing manufacturers presented us with clothing and shoes, all complimentary for winning the national title game. It seemed like there was no end to what we received for our accomplishments.

I was summoned to the coach’s office the following week to discuss my situation regarding the draft. Most of the coaches were present, including several men, whom I did not recognize. Coach Ray offered me a seat and introduced the men I didn’t know. They had either been pro scouts, or they currently worked for organizations that compiled information for pro teams.

“Brian, thank you for stopping by, I think you know why you’re here.”, Coach Ray stated.

“Yes sir, I do.”, I answered.

“Good. Now what we need to decide is what is in your best interest as a student athlete, where do you go from here. That’s why I have asked these men to join us, they have a vast knowledge of how the pro selection process is conducted, what your chances are, that type of thing. Before I turn this over to them, let me say, I absolutely want you to return and play for us next year. I think you’re the best defensive player on this team and with another year like this one, you could be a first round draft choice next year.”, he started.

“But that’s what I want, that’s what the school wants. We have to decide what’s best for you.”, he continued.

“So with that said, let me turn it over to the man who can put this all into perspective.”, he said pointing to a small man in the back of the room.

The man stood up slowly, adjusted his clothing and walked toward me extending his hand. I stood up, shook his hand, then sat back down.

“Brian, my name is Buddy Cullen, I am a consultant for several pro scouting services. I am here to possibly help you get a handle on what is the best direction for you at this time.”, he stated.

For the next twenty minutes the man laid everything out on the table. He felt that worst case scenario, I would be an early to mid second round draft choice. He told me based on my last performance in the title game, he was banking on early second round. He also explained that where you’re taken can mean the difference of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars. My head was swimming, never in a million years did I ever think I would play pro ball.

He went on to explain, that this year there was a shortage of talented defensive ends in the country, the draft was loaded with talent, but not at my position. That’s why he felt that this year, I could possibly go very high due to demand. He went on to tell me that next year, there were an abundance of prospects on defense, especially at my position.
With that said however, he still felt that next year, even with the competition, I would be a first round draft choice. The one tremendous upside I had to this point, I have never been seriously injured. In fact, since being named a starter, I had never missed a game. If I did return and play next year, a serious injury could derail everything, perhaps even end my career for good. It was something, as he said, I should give a lot of weight to. Then what were my plans after football, after the lights went off, what would I look to do ? By the time the man finished, I was more confused than when I had entered the room, he could see it as well.

“Brian, look, you don’t have to decide anything now. Here is my card, if you decide you are leaning to the draft this year, call me, I will put you in touch with an agent who can talk to you more about all of this.”, he said, extending his card.

“Thank you sir, I will.”, I answered.

I left the office, due to the fact several players were waiting for their consultations as well. I went back to my dorm room, laid around giving the situation a lot of thought. I had another fifty eight days before I had to declare if I was going to enter this year’s draft. I would be able to go home for spring break before I had to decided. I could talk with Ashley in detail about what to do.

I resumed my normal class schedule and the weeks flew by. Soon it was time to head home for spring break, I was anxious to get away from school for a while. I arrived home early in the morning, I had taken the last bus out the night before and rode all night. It was about eight in the morning when the bus pulled into the station. I knew Ashley was already in school, I could walk there it was only a few blocks away. I figured to take her car home, then go back that afternoon and pick her up. I arrived at the school at eight thirty, checked in at the office with the secretary, who told me the entire school was in general assembly in the gymnasium. I left the office and walked to the gym as I had done so many times before. It was funny how small things seemed here now, like it was a lifetime since I had walked these halls.

I quietly opened the rear door of the gymnasium and stepped in easing the door shut. The entire student body had their backs to me facing the stage, Ms. Carter as usual was addressing the students. This was an annual assembly that regarding the entire school having to take the State Standardized Testing which they administered every year. It took a couple of minutes before she realized that I was standing on the back wall, she smiled in my direction, then went back to her address to the students. By now several students had turned in my direction, whispering to their neighbors to look back. A few more minutes passed, then finally Ms. Carter finished her instructions to the students. She paused slightly, then smiled leaning forward again into the microphone.

“Before I dismiss you to your respective classes, I have to say something to all of you. We have a visitor here today, a surprise even to me, which as you know, I am never surprised.”, she stated.

“Please help me welcome a fellow student, State Football Champion and now a member of the Louisiana National Football Championship team, Mr. Brian Stevens.”, she announced, pointing in my direction.

The students applauded as Ms. Carter motioned for me to join her on stage. I wave my hand back and forth in a negative manner, I did not want to go up in front of everyone. Ms. Carter would have none of my excuses.

“Mr. Stevens, you’re in my school now, I can still give you a detention after school. Now get up here.”, she exclaimed.

The entire gymnasium exploded into laughter, heckling and hooting at her last remark. I had no choice, I was stuck. I set my two large duffle bags on the floor against the wall and made my way up the center isle. I rounded the stage and climbed the steps and met Ms. Carter halfway to the podium. I bent down and gave her the customary hug we always shared whenever we ran into each other.
Coach Mike was right behind her with his hug and congratulations on the National Championship victory, I could see he genuinely meant it.
Ms. Carter whispered to me, urging me to say a few words to the students. I tried to decline, but you couldn’t tell Ms. Carter no, she simply wouldn’t accept it. I stepped to the microphone slowly, trying to collect my thoughts.

“Thank you Ms. Carter, Coach Mike, I appreciate the way you always make me feel at home here. But I really didn’t plan on this, I just came to borrow Ash… uh…Ms. Thompson’s car so I could get home.”, I started.

The entire gym exploded into laughter, everyone looking in Ashley’s direction, whom I finally noticed was sitting on the far left middle of the gym. Ms. Carter stepped up next to me and leaned into the microphone once more.

“Brian, please tell the students how it feels to be a National Champion, how college has affected you to this point.”, she stated.

“I feel blessed, so very blessed for what I have been given both as an athlete and as a student thus far in my life. Growing up I have been so very fortunate to play football for outstanding coaches. First my Father, then Coach Mike, and lastly my college coaches.”, I started.

I turned and looked back at both Ms. Carter and Coach Mike for a moment, they were both grinning ear to ear. I turned back to the students who were eagerly listening.

“For the guys sitting in this gym right now, who are fortunate to be playing for Coach Mike, don’t take a moment of your time here for granted. I wouldn’t be where I am at today if not for Coach Mike, what he taught me, the work ethic he instilled in me. As far as college goes, being a student athlete is the hardest thing I have ever done. You never have a chance to rest, you’re either in class, studying or practicing. It’s relentless, but it’s all worth it in the end.”, I said.

I then turned again and looked in the direction of Ms. Carter, who was standing behind me with her arms folded.

“Is that enough so I avoid the detention Ms. Carter ?”, I asked.

The entire room once again exploded in laughter, everyone clapping in unison as the principle stepped over taking over the microphone from me.

“Yes Mr. Stevens, you’re excused.”, she replied.

She then quieted the students down and instructed them to go back to their respective classes, they had ten minutes to report to their teachers. I stepped off the stage as Ashley walked over and hugged me gently, giving me a kiss on the cheek.

“Hey hotshot, it’s good to see you.”, she said, stepping back quickly.

She instructed me to follow her to her classroom so she could give me her car keys. I followed Ashley out of the gymnasium and down the hall towards her class. On the way we ran into Stephanie Jenson, the new teacher at school, whom Ashley had over at our home last Christmas. Ashley once again introduced me to her, she looked even better than the last time we had met. We exchanged small talk for a second, then moved along to Ashley’s classroom. She handed me her car keys, telling me she would get a ride home with Stephanie, I didn’t need to come back to get her.

I drove home, unpacked and as usual began laundry detail. It took several hours, but I finished everything, put all the clothes away and decided to take a nap. It was close to five o’clock when I finally got up, Ashley still wasn’t home. I went to the family room, turned on the TV and began watching a movie. I guess it was about thirty minutes later, Ashley came through the back door, announcing in her sultry voice that she was home.

“Hey Brian, what do you have planned for tonight ?”, she asked.

“Nothing, I am staying home and relaxing.”, I answered.

“Oh, ok…… Well Stephanie and I are going to the movie’s and out to eat after, you want to join us ?”, she inquired.

As much as a night out with two beautiful women could be a much needed distraction from the hectic pace I had led for the past few months, I just wasn’t up to it.

“No thanks, I am going to hang out here.”, I responded.

“Ok, suit yourself.”, she said, heading for her bedroom.

I heard the water running in the back bathroom, Ashley was in the shower. I was watching TV about thirty minutes later when she walked into the family room. She looked absolutely stunning, I had to look twice. She had on a very short black skirt, a very sheer white button down the front blouse, with black high heels. When she passed close to me, I could smell her fragrance, it lingered in the air, clean, fresh and intoxicating. She sat down looking at her watch, then glancing at the TV. Maybe fifteen minutes later, Stephanie blew her horn as she pulled into the driveway. Ashley jumped up, waved a quick goodbye and rushed out of the backdoor.

I laid around for a few hours watching TV, not much was on. I was just about to call it quits, when I ran across a program on the Sports Network pertaining to this year’s draft class. I decided to watch for a while, maybe get some useful information. As is usual with programs of this nature, the glamour positions such as quarterback, running back, and wide receiver get top billing. Finally after about two hours, they got around to the defensive side of the ball. As I had been told, there was definitely a lack of pure quality pass rushers in this draft class. In fact after the top two obvious choices, they made mention of several underclassmen that might declare. I sat up startled as my name was mentioned, several highlights of the National Championship game was shown, especially the last defensive play I had made. Two of the three analysts on the show felt that if I declared, I could possibly be a late first round draft choice. They all agreed that while even young, I had a tremendous upside, and they thought I had the tools to play in the pro’s. I watched for about thirty more minutes then decided to go and take a shower.

I took about a fifteen minute, long, hot shower. The water felt really good, bringing me back to life. As I got out the shower, I noticed I had forgotten to grab a tee shirt out of my drawer. I dried off, put my shorts on, brushed my teeth and walked to the laundry room to toss in the towels and dirty clothes. I stopped in the kitchen to pour a glass of tea before heading back to my room. I had just put the pitcher back into the refrigerator, when the back door opened , both Ashley and Stephanie walking into the kitchen. There was no where to go, I was trapped, just standing there in workout shorts and no shirt.

“Jesus Christ, this boy is some kind of fine.”, giggled Stephanie, to Ashley, “Any way you can hook me up ?”

Ashley look at her friend kind of funny, grinning, but it was an uncomfortable one at best. She mumbled something back to her friend, I was not sure what she said.

“I’m sorry Ashley, I just got out of the shower, I forgot my tee shirt.”, I said, extremely embarrassed.

“Oh honey, you don’t need a shirt on my account. I could look at you all day and night. I have never seen muscles like that in person.”, laughed Stephanie.

I excused myself quickly and went into my room and grabbed a tee shirt out of the drawer. I went back towards the family room and grabbed my normal spot on the sofa. Ashley and Stephanie stayed in the kitchen whispering back and forth quietly, I couldn’t make out what they were talking about but they were obviously enjoying themselves. I decided to call it a night, turned off the TV and went to bed, it didn’t take me to long to drift off.

I woke up Saturday morning early, it was about seven o’clock, I laid in bed for a few minutes listening to see if Ashley was up but I heard nothing. I got up, dressed, then left the house and drove into town. I stopped at the local diner and had breakfast, everyone was congratulating me on the big win. I finished breakfast, drove across town to the gym and stopped in to see Carl, as I always did. As usual the gym owner was already on the floor instructing people, answering questions, making sure things ran smoothly. He smiled as soon as he saw me crossing the floor towards him, excusing himself from his student.

“Well if it isn’t one of my star pupils, great job in the big game, I saw every play.”, he said, shaking my hand.

“Thank you Carl, I really appreciate it, we were very fortunate.”, I answered.

We talked for a few more minutes, he offered me the use of his facilities while I was in town, as he always did, then excused himself back to his client. I left the gym, drove back across town to my house, it was close to ten o’clock when I got home. Ashley was up, drinking coffee in the kitchen as I walked in. She asked what my plans were for the day, although I really didn’t have any. I really only had one thing, I really wanted to do before I left town. I went back into my room and unzipped the large duffel bag I had brought home with me from school. In it was all the gear we had been given before, during and after the National Championship game. As I sorted through the many shirts, shoes and warm ups, finally coming across the items, I had been searching for. I had been issued two jersey’s for the National Championship game, I had worn one, the other was my backup. Each jersey was specifically cut for my size, my name and number embroidered on the back with the National Championship patch on the front of the jersey. I was intending to have the one I wore in the game framed and mounted for myself, the extra one I wanted to give to Mr. Timmons. Especially after he had so graciously given me his watch at Christmas time. I also had thrown a few pair of cleats in my bag, I fished out the shoes I had worn on the game, white tape still wrapped around both mid shoe areas for support. I took both the jersey and the shoes and went back into the kitchen. Ashley was still in the kitchen cleaning up as I tossed the shoes and jersey on the table. She turned and looked in my direction.

“What ya doing ?’, she asked.

“I am going to give this jersey and the shoes I wore in the National Championship game to Courtney’s Dad. Do you have a Sharpie around here anywhere ?”, I answered.

“Yes I think I do, be right back.”, she said, going back to her room.

She reappeared a minute or so later with three different colored permanent markers in her hand. She offered me all three, I chose the basic black one. I laid the jersey across the table carefully so that the number 99 was smooth and flat across the back.

“Is that a jersey from the Championship Game ?”, Ashley asked.

“Yes, it is.”, I answered.

“You don’t want to keep that for yourself ?”, she asked, rather strangely.

“It’s not the jersey I wore in the game, it was my backup, I have the game worn jersey in my room.”, I responded.

“Oh…well…. alright.”, she stated, sounding disappointed.

“Is something wrong Ashley ?”, I asked her.

“Well…. Uh…. I don’t want to…..never mind.”, she answered.

“No, tell me, what is it ?”, I inquired, once again.

“I feel terrible asking this…..but… I would really like to have one of your jerseys for myself.”, she said softly, looking down.

“Oh, well it’s ok then, you can have this one. I still have two more from the regular season in my bag, I will give him one those.”, I told her.

“No, no… I can take one of those for myself, you give him that one, it will mean a lot to him.”, she said smiling.

“You sure ? I want you to get the one you want, I really do.”, I coaxed.

“I am sure, I will, take one of the others, thank you Brian.”, she said.

I then bent over the jersey and inscribed the following words inside of the two large gold number nines on the back of the shirt.

“National Championship Game Issued – Brian Stevens #99”

I took the shoes as well and inscribed the following :

“Game Worn – National Championship – Brian Stevens #99”

I handed the marker back to Ashley and left the items to dry properly on the kitchen table, I would go see Mr. Timmons tonight if he was not busy. I would call him later in the day to see what his schedule was. I ate a small lunch then laid down to take a nap, it was about noon. I woke up sometime around three that afternoon, the house was very quiet. I got up and looked around, Ashley was out. I took a shower, got dressed then decided to call Mr. Timmons to see if he would be home later this evening. The phone rang several times before someone picked it up.

“Hello.”, said the soft voice, it was Courtney.

“Hey Court, it’s Brian, how are you ?”, I asked.

“Hi Brian, I am doing ok, how about you ?”, she answered, cheerfully.

“I’m good, thanks.”, I replied.

There was an awkward pause, the kind of one that goes on between two people who were every close at one time, now being world’s apart. I finally broke the silence.

“Is your Dad there by any chance ?”, I asked.

“Uh, no. He and my Mom are out, he will be back in a few hours.”, she answered, sounding somewhat disappointed.

“Oh alright, I just have something for him, no big deal.”, I said.

“Oh my God Brian, he watched the National Championship game over here with his buddies. They were absolutely insane, my Dad was screaming at the TV, cheering you guys on. When you made that last play, when you hit the guy’s arm, he was crying. He was so happy for you.”, she said.

“I’m glad he got to see it, I wish he could have been there.”, I replied.

“So, you coming over tonight ?”, she asked.

“Yeah, if it’s ok.”, I asked.

“Sure, I will tell him to call you later.”, she answered.

About an hour and a half later the phone rang, it was Courtney’s Dad. I asked if I could come over later, he said absolutely, he was looking forward to it. He quickly asked if he could call a couple of his buddies to come over as well, I couldn’t say no. I told him I would be by around seven o’clock in the evening and hung up.

I ate dinner with Ashley then watched a little TV before I left for Courtney’s house. I sensed Ashley wanted to say something to me but she never did. I pulled in Courtney’s driveway right after seven o’clock, there were at least a half dozen cars there. I knew I was in for a long night of questions, it always happened. I rang the bell, Courtney opened the door very quickly, almost like she had been waiting. She looked amazing, very different from the last time I had seen her. Her long hair had been cut very short and was now very blonde. She had lost a few pounds as well, her figure was incredible in her tee shirt and shorts.

“Wow, look at you. You look so different.”, I said smiling.

“Different good ? Or different , different ?”, she asked.

“Different good. Very good.”, I answered.

“Well then, come on in.”, she giggled, taking my hand.

She held on to my hand tightly as she led me towards the family room. I couldn’t help but look at her ass as she walked in those tight little shorts. She had definitely under went a serious transformation, it had to be for a guy, no doubt. As I rounded the hallway corner into the family room, Mr. Timmons was seated on the sofa with three of his friends, all of which I had met before at one time or other. He jumped up quickly when he saw me, extending his hand.

“Brian, good to see you son. Congratulations on the National Championship, you played a hell of a game.”, he said excitedly.

“I don’t know how you do it Brian, but he never jumps up that fast when I come into the room.”, Courtney whined, “You sure you’re not my brother ?”

“Uh, no.”, I said.

Every one erupted into laughter, as Mr. Timmons reached out and pulled Courtney to his chest, hugging her gently.

“Aw, sweetheart, you know I love you. You just can’t play D-Line like Brian can.”, he answered her.

Again everyone roared in laughter, Courtney pulled away from him a frown on her face. She put her hands on her hips and looked up at her Dad.

“Yeah but can he give you grandchildren like I can ?”, she said smiling.

He thought, but only for a quick second before he replied in a devilish grin.

“Oh I hope so, you two getting back together ? Please say yes.”, he said softly.

Courtney opened her mouth wide and put her hand over it in embarrassment, she was mortified, her eyes shifting to mine. I had no idea what to say, I didn’t know what the latest was on the home front. She reached out with her left hand and smacked her dad across the shoulder.

“You are an evil man, I will get you for that one.”, she said, smiling.

We all sat down on the sofa and began to catch up on what everyone had been doing, what was upcoming. Courtney was noticeably quiet, judging from what I had heard, her life lately had become quite uneventful, just working for her dad, not much else. Finally the topic of the game was brought up, it was inevitable.

“So when do you guys get your National Championship Rings ?”, one of the men asked.

“I think in a few months sir, we have already been measured for them.”, I answered.

“I hope I get to see it the next time you come home.”, he replied.

I reached over and opened the bag I had brought with me, opened it up and reached inside pulling out the items slowly, I could see the other men staring intently. I handed both the jersey and pair of shoes to Courtney’s Dad. It took him a second of reading the inscriptions before he realized just altıparmak escort exactly what he had.

“This is from the game ? You wore these ?”, he asked in amazement.

“Yes, those are the shoes I wore in the game, that is the jersey I practiced in before the game, it was my backup.”, I answered.

All of the other men just stared at the items in a sense of disbelief. To be honest, I had never understood the fascination of collecting sports memorabilia like these men did. The price for the real authentic items was astronomical to say the least. Unless you got something right from the source, you always had to question it’s origin.

“Brian, I don’t know what to say. This is….. I mean these could eventually be very valuable.”, he said.

“Well look at it this way sir, if they ever become really valuable, that means I am playing in the pro’s and I get paid really well, so I don’t mind.”, I answered.

“Great, more items for the Wall of Fame at the office.”, Courtney laughed.

We sat there talking for a while, after about an hour, I think I had relived every single play of the last game, at least it felt like it. The other three men all left about nine o’clock, Courtney’s Dad excused himself from the room for a few moments just Court and I alone together. Again that awkwardness set in, it happened every time.

“Uh, so what are your plans for the next few weeks ?”, Courtney asked.

“Nothing really, just hanging out, relaxing, trying to figure out what I am going to do about the draft.”, I answered.

“You’re thinking about leaving school early ?”, she inquired.

“Yes, I am. I have been told it might be better for me this year, than waiting until next.”, I replied.

“Wow, I had no idea, my Dad never said anything to me.”, she stated.

“I haven’t told him yet, I am still running it around in my head.”, I answered back, “So how about you, what have you been up to ?”

“Me ? Nothing much, just working full time, saving money, I hope to get my own place in a year or so. My Dad said he would help.”, she answered.

“Somewhere around here ?”, I inquired.

“Yes, my Dad wants me to eventually take over his company, so I will have to be close to this area.”, she stated.

“That makes sense.”, I answered.

“So how about we get together before you head back up to school, just hangout or something ?”, Courtney asked.

I didn’t want to be obvious and come right out and ask what had happened, but the last thing I needed was to get caught up in any drama. I know Courtney’s dating life had been less than stellar, although perhaps a lot of it had been my fault. Maybe had I been more possessive, things would be different.

“That’s ok I guess, I mean as long as it doesn’t cause any problems with anyone.”, I answered.

“No problems, I am unattached, haven’t been out in close to seven months, how about you ?”, she shot back.

“Nope, no one.”, I answered.

We talked for a while longer, I told her I would call next week, maybe we could go out for dinner, a movie, something like that. She answered that she would be looking forward to it. I left shortly there after and headed straight home.

The weekend passed quickly, Ashley went back to school on Monday she still had four days left before her break would come. I went to the gym every morning and worked out, laid around the house most of the rest of the time. It was always good to be home, taking the time to wind down from school and football. I had went out during the early evening on Thursday, I was dying for a burger and fries. The diner wasn’t very busy yet, so I sat in a booth in the back corner. I had just received my food and was preparing to eat when I heard a familiar voice behind me.

“Well look who it is, eating all alone. We can’t let that happen.”, the soft female voice said.

I turned around to see Stephanie, Ashley’s co-worker from school standing there with a huge grin. I had no choice but to offer her the opportunity to sit down. She slid in the booth across from me right away. She called the waitress over and placed her order immediately.
A few short minutes later she received her food, and settled in.

“So what are you up to Brian ?”, she asked softly, wiping her moist lips with the napkin.

“Nothing much, just felt like a burger and fries, they monitor so much of our diet at school, it gets old.”, I answered.

“By the way, I wanted to ask you, do you have a girlfriend up at school ?”, she inquired without hesitation.

“No, I don’t. I keep real busy with football and class work. I barely have any free time.”, I replied.

“You have to be kidding me, I can’t believe you’re unattached. Well good then, how about before you go back to school, we go out on the town ?”, she asked, smiling.

This girl didn’t waste anytime, she got right to it, I thought to myself. I mean how could I possibly date a teacher from my old high school, much less a close friend of Ashley’s. True, she was barely two years my senior, but it was still small town America, this would be gossip for sure.

“Oh wow, um… I don’t think that would be a real good idea, I mean I know you’re new in town, but people get real vicious with gossip. You and I out on a date would give them material to use for months. It would probably hurt you at school as well.”, I answered.

“Really ?”, she asked.

“Really. You have no idea.”, I answered.

“Well then, just come to my place one night, we don’t have to leave. No one will see us there.”, she said, winking at me.

“I don’t know, this town, it’s just really weird.”, I told her.

Before I left she had me give her my cell phone number just in case, she said she would call me later on. As I drove home, I couldn’t help but laugh at how the town would react to this. I got home that evening, Ashley was already home, her vacation starting for spring break. She was on the sofa reading some papers as I got in, I sat down in the chair across from her. I wondered if I should say anything about Stephanie, they were friends after all. I decided not to, there was no way I was going to see Stephanie anyway, why cause trouble ?

Courtney called me around noon on Friday, asked me what I thought about doing something later that evening. By now I was pretty bored of sitting around, so it sounded good. I told her I would come pick her up after six or so, she agreed that would be fine. Later that evening, I took a shower and was dressing as Ashley knocked on my door. I opened it and she stepped in, a puzzled look on her face.

“You going out ?”, she asked.

“Yes, for a while.”, I answered.

“With who ?”, she countered.

“Courtney.”, I replied.

“Brian, you have got to be kidding, after all she has did to you, you’re going back for more ?”, she asked, sternly.

“It’s not a date, we are just going to hang out for a few hours.”, I said, trying to defend myself.

She just turned and walked out without saying another word. I knew this was going to happen, I know that after the first time Courtney had dumped me for Darren, Ashley had wrote her off permanently. And I guess after it happened twice, I should have too. But odd as it was, I still felt something for Courtney. I couldn’t explain it, it was just there.
I finished dressing and headed for the kitchen door, I could see Ashley on the sofa watching TV.

I picked up Courtney, we decided to go to the movies, then we grabbed a late meal at the dinner. I dropped her off about ten thirty that evening, we had a nice time. There was absolutely no physical contact of any kind, it was almost like two friends just hanging out. I drove off and headed straight home, walking in just about eleven o’clock. As I made my way to my bedroom, I heard the shower running in Ashley’s room, then I heard the water stop. I leaned my head into her bedroom, letting her know I was home.

“Hey Ashley, I’m home. Gonna hit the shower.”, I yelled.

“Ok.”, I heard her yell back.

I grabbed some clothes, took a nice hot shower, took the dirty things put them in the laundry basket, and went into my room. I could hear the TV on in the family room, I figured Ashley was watching something. I decided it was much easier to just go to sleep, then sit there feeling uncomfortable.

I woke up early Saturday morning and went straight to the gym getting in an early workout. I took a shower at the gym then headed straight home. It was about nine thirty when I entered through the rear kitchen door, Ashley was drinking coffee at the table.

“Hey, been to the gym already ?”, she asked.

“Yes, I woke up early.”, I answered, pouring me a cup of coffee.

“Say, I have to ask you something. Did Stephanie really ask you out on a date ?”, Ashley pondered.

“Who told you that.”, I answered.

“Uh….. She did.”, Ashley replied.

“Oh, well not really a date. She wants to go over to her place one night.”, I stated.

“Oh, does she ?”, Ashley snapped, “And I hope you know why she wants you over there ?”

“I can only guess.”, I answered.

“I can’t believe her, I mean…dang.”, Ashley replied, shaking her head.

“Look Ash, I know how this town works, trust me. There is no way in hell, I would go over there, morning, noon or night. I know better.”, I shot back.

That seemed to calm her down for the moment, although really, if you thought about it, it wasn’t that far fetched that Stephanie and I could date. We were a mere few years apart, not really that big of a deal. I was just about finished my first cup of coffee when my cell phone rang. It was Courtney, she wanted me to take a ride with her to a town about two hours away from ours to pick up some work related material for her Dad. She didn’t feel like the long drive alone, she wanted company. Since I could tell Ashley was in less than great spirits, I decided to tag along.

She picked me up a few minutes later, I met her out at the car. We drove over to the town, picked up her Dad’s things then drove back. On the ride we talked about everything in general, nothing specific. It seemed though that the more time I spent with Courtney, the more I noticed a subtle change in her. She seemed more independent, more mature, she was less clingy than she had been in the past. We decided to go out again one night during the week before I went back to school.

I guess it was three thirty in the afternoon when I got home, Ashley’s was not there. I made something to eat, cleaned the kitchen, then laid on the sofa for a few hours. I fell asleep, waking when I heard Ashley in the kitchen. I got up, walked into the kitchen to see she had been at the grocery store. I helped her put away the groceries, took out the trash, then went back to the TV. Ashley came in the room about thirty minutes later, sitting down in her usual spot in the chair.

“I feel like going to a movie tonight, maybe grab something to eat, I checked TV, nothing much is on. You wanna go with me ?”, Ashley asked, her eyes on the TV.

“I dunno, what do you want to see ?”, I asked, trying to give myself some time to think.

“Let me see what’s playing.”, she answered, heading to the kitchen to get the newspaper.

While she was gone, I was twisting things around in my head. Maybe if we went out, spent some time together, we could discuss the situation here at home. It had been pretty awkward lately, maybe a night out would ease tensions a bit. By the time she had come back, I had decided I would go.

“There’s nothing much playing here in town, but Midway has two good shows playing, both starting at seven.”, she informed me.

Midway was the next town over, it took about thirty minutes to get there. Obviously she was planning to make a night of it, judging by the time.

“I guess so, nothing much else to do.”, I answered.

We both showered and changed, I was out and sitting on the sofa long before Ashley appeared. When she finally came out, it was apparent why she had took so long. She looked absolutely ravishing, beyond normal “Ashley Hot”. She was wearing a short jean skirt, a tight white knit top, sneakers with long white socks pushed down around her ankles. Her hair was in a ponytail, her makeup was impeccable. She actually looked like a high school cheerleader, rather than a teacher.

We took her SUV rather my old truck, but she wanted me to drive. As soon as we were both inside of the vehicle, her incredible scent filled the air. She smelled clean, fresh, almost like a new born baby smell.
It was extremely hard trying to concentrate on the road with her short skirt high on her thighs, her scent filling my head. We arrived at the theatre about thirty minutes early, there was a short line for tickets. As I stood in line with Ashley, I could see every guy eyeing her up from head to toe. They would then look at me and try and figure the situation out, I guess. I let Ashley pick the movie she wanted, she paid for the tickets, we went inside. She wanted to go get our seats first, making sure we had good ones. We entered the theatre and I followed her as she climbed the stairs to the last row against the back wall. She entered the aisle and moved exactly to the middle of the row, we were right below the opening when the projector was. We sat there for a while, then I went to the concession stand and got a large popcorn and two Coke’s, returning just minutes before the show was scheduled to start.

The room was maybe half full at best, there was no one else on the aisle where we were sitting. I pushed my seat back and settled in for the show. The movie was maybe ten minutes old when I figured out this was definitely a chick flick, there was nothing here for me. I pretended to be interested for Ashley’s sake, truthfully I could have taken a nap. At a point maybe halfway through the movie, Ashley placed her arm on top of mine, which was resting on the arm of the seat between us. Her hand immediately came down upon mine, causing me to basically freeze in place. I had no idea what this was about, I decided to just act as casual as I could. Her hand had been there for maybe a minute when I felt her fingers pushed down between mine, our hands were now intertwined. She was moving her thumb back and forth across the side of my hand closest to me, she was sending chills up my spine. I had a lump in my throat and one forming much, much lower.

I took my thumb and began to slowly stroke her little finger, very gently up and down. I wanted to make sure, this was, what I thought maybe it was. She didn’t pull away, instead I felt her gently squeeze my hand once, then resume her thumb movement’s. We sat just like that for the remainder of the movie, our hands entwined, staring straight ahead. Once back at the car, I really expected her to say something, but she acted very casually as we discussed where we would eat dinner. We decided to try an Italian restaurant that was located just a few blocks away, it was supposed to be very good.
We arrived within a few minutes, the place was very crowded, we had to wait about twenty minutes for a table. We were finally seated at the left front side of the room, our table was against the wall. We sat down, opened the menu’s and starting talking about what to order. The waiter returned and we placed our order’s, he wrote quickly then turned back towards the kitchen. We had been sitting there for maybe ten minutes when I noticed several people kept glancing in our direction, some of them whispering to each other. Ashley and I were making no physical contact so I had no clue why we were drawing such interest. As we sitting there talking a young boy in his early teens at best came up and stood right next to our table. We both turned in his direction, you could sense he was nervous.

“Um…. Are you that # 99 guy, Stevens ?”, he asked, very gingerly.

“Yep, I’m that #99 guy.”, I laughed.

“Oh wow, I thought it was you. Could I have your autograph ?”, he asked, very excited.

I glanced down at his hands they were empty, no pen, no paper nothing. I once again laughed and looked at the young boy.

“Sure I guess so, what do you want me to sign ?”, I asked.

Suddenly it dawned on him, he was woefully unprepared. He got a puzzled look on his face, then turned back toward the table where his parents were sitting. He mumbled something about being right back, then turned quickly and moved to his table. His Mom fumbled through her purse and fished out a magic marker, handing it to him. The boy quickly made his way back to our table extending the marker to me.

“Please sign my shirt.”, he asked.

He was wearing a white plain cotton tee shirt, with jeans and sneakers. I looked over at his Mother and motioned to her that he wanted me to sign his shirt, making sure she was ok with that. She smiled and nodded her agreement, so I turned back to him.

“What’s your name ?”, I asked.

“Danny Miller.”, he said quickly.

“Well Danny Miller, do you play football ?”, I asked.

“Yes sir, at my playground. I play defense, just like you.”, he said proudly.

I placed my hand on his shoulder and turned him around so that his back was facing me. I began to inscribe the shirt just behind his left shoulder. Everyone in the restaurant was now watching, I guess a few might understand what was going on, the rest had to be wondering who the hell I was. I took my time and finished up on the back of the young boy’s shirt.

“ To Danny Miller – Keep Hitting Hard – Brian Stevens # 99”

I handed him the marker back and he thanked me, running back to his table to show his parents his shirt. His Mom whispered the words Thank You” to me, something you always appreciated in fans. Before I could settle back in, several other people came up with various objects, holding them out for me. This was the first time I had been out in public without the team, where anyone asked for a signature.
It took maybe five minutes to take care of everyone who had been standing there. Just as I was finishing up the last one, our waiter appeared with our food. He had a really strange look on his face as he watched me sign the last two objects. He set the plates down, wiped his hands on his apron, then stepped back quickly.

“Are you somebody famous or something ?”, he asked me.

Both Ashley and I laughed at the same time, making his smile somewhat, but still with a strange look on his face.

“No, I’m not famous, it’s a football thing. No big deal.”, I answered him.

He nodded like he understood, then disappeared back into the kitchen to tend to his duties. The meal was excellent, it lived up to it’s billing. Our waiter returned with the check which we paid immediately, then exited the restaurant without any further fanfare. We made our way across the parking lot, got into the SUV, and was soon on the highway heading home. I knew it was going to be a long ride home, especially after what had happened in the movie theatre. I settled in the seat, leaning my arm on the center console of the SUV, my eyes glancing at Ashely every now and then. She was seated next to me, her short skirt riding high up her thighs, giving me an excellent view of her long, firm legs. I noticed her shift her weight in the seat, leaning her body against the center console, her arm right next to mine. I made no attempt to make any contact, I just kept my eyes on the road, pretending not to notice. We were maybe about half way home, when I felt her hand cover mine for the first time. I simply opened my hand, allowing her to slip her small hand inside of mine, then placing my fingers between hers. She lifted her palm from mine gently,her thumb beginning to rub across my open palm very lightly. I felt chills running up my spine, my cock was now rock hard, straining against my jeans. All during this strange encounter, not a word was spoken between us, we just sat there, both staring straight ahead.

I pulled into the driveway shortly after midnight , turned off the vehicle, following Ashley into the house. Again I felt at a crossroads, what was going to happen. Should I pursue her, should I wait for her to make the next move ? I had no idea whatsoever, I decided on the latter. I closed the kitchen door behind me, turning the lock for the night. I opened the refrigerator, poured a glass of iced tea, then made my way to the family room. I turned on the TV, sat on the sofa, pretending to be interested in watching something. I noticed that Ashley had disappeared into her room, closing the door behind her.

I had been sitting there for a few minutes beginning to think Ashley had perhaps decided to call it a night. Just as I was starting to think it was time to get ready for bed, her door opened and she entered the family room. She walked past the chair that she normally sat in, instead selecting to sit at the opposite end of the sofa from me. Once again, it seemed that perhaps she was having second thoughts. I continued watching TV as if nothing were wrong, even though I was dying to move over and take her in my arms. I guess about five minutes passed before she finally spoke.

“Brian, can I ask you a question ?”, She said softly.

“I guess so Ashley, what is it ?”, I answered.

“I …. uh…. God this sounds so bad, I know. Remember when we had that conversation a while back about helping each other relieve some of these intense feelings ?”, she asked.

“Yes, I remember that.”, I replied.

It was apparent Ashley was struggling trying to get up the courage to tell me what she was thinking. Her face was flushed, her eyes refusing to look directly into mine, her voice shaky, cracking between words.

“Well then…… how would you feel about…..maybe just both of us like… I mean I stay over here……. You stay over there but we …….”, she stopped once again, trying to find the words.

“You want me to watch you…. You know……. from over here ?”, I asked incredulously.

“Uh Huh.”, she answered hoarsely , nodding her head.

I know I just sat there, kinda stunned, this was not what I had thought might happen. Although the sight of this gorgeous creature with her fingers buried in her pussy was immensely erotic to say the least. Before I could respond, one way or another, she spoke up again.

“But, there is a catch.”, she whispered, “If I do this for you, you have to do the same for me.”

“So after you know, you’re done, you want to watch me ?”, I asked.

“No, I want us to do it at the same time, watch each other .”, she answered.

“Ashley, are you sure about this ? I mean, I just don’t want anything to get weird between us. I care so much about you, I just don’t want to ruin anything, you know ?”, I responded.

“I know what you mean. I am sure, if you are.”, she said.

By this time my cock was rock hard straining against my pants, aching to stroked. Whether or not I wanted this, I knew I needed this.
I simply nodded my head in acceptance of her offer. I could see her exhale deeply, perhaps a sigh of relief, the weight of this conversation being lifted off of her shoulders. She turned and swung her legs up on the sofa so that she was facing me, her back against the arm rest.

“I am really nervous Brian, just please have patience with me.”, she asked.

She relaxed a bit, reached down to the hem of her short skirt, pulling it up to her hips exposing a pair of powder blue, lacey panties underneath. Her eyes were locked on mine, almost as if she were waiting for a reaction from me before proceeding.

She slowly opened her legs exposing her silk covered pussy to me, her hands traveling to the inside of her thighs. Her eyes were still riveted to mine, watching my every move. Slowly she slid her right hand up her thigh, until her fingers came to rest between her legs. She spread her legs just a bit further, exposing the entire crotch of her panties to me, her fingers began gently rubbing the fabric covering her pussy, very slowly. I could see the light blue material begin to change color, darkening as her juices soaked into them. I looked up at her to see she had never taken her gaze off of me.

“Well….. You gonna just sit there…or you gonna start too ?”, she asked.

I guess all the blood must have rushed to my face, obviously I turned beet red, I could see a smile slowly cross her face. I slowly turned on the sofa, throwing one leg up on it, the other still resting on the floor.
I reached down unbuckled my belt, then gingerly unbuttoned my jeans, then looked up over at Ashley. Her eyes were glued to what my hands were doing, her fingers moving slightly faster as they pressed into her pussy with more urgency. The entire crotch of her panties had turned dark blue , her fluids had soaked them.

I looked back down and found my zipper, slowly pulling it down until my cock sprang up, finally released from the confines of it’s denim prison. I was wearing black thin boxers, it was immediate that I had a raging hard cock. I looked back up at Ashley, her eyes were wide, her face flushed as she watched every move I was making. At this point, I was not sure just how far she was willing to go, so I decided to basically follow her lead, wrapping my right hand around my cock, through my shorts.

“Does that feel good ?”, she asked softly, her words dripping with sex.

“I can’t even begin to explain just how good.”, I answered.

“I want to show you something Brian. Something I have wanted to show you for a while now.”, she said.

With that she reached between her legs with her left hand, reaching two fingers inside the leg band of her panties, pulling them to the side. For the first time I was gazing on Ashley’s pussy, a sight I would never forget. She was shaved completely smooth, her lips were full and puffy, her opening bright pink, glistening in her own secretions. She extended one finger and slowly slid it between her lips, then slowly back out again. She then raised the finger to her lips, sucking it deep into her mouth, the sight was absolutely incredible.

“Now your turn.”, she said, her fingers resuming their movements between her legs.

I took a deep breath and swallowed hard, this was it. I reached up and slowly pulled the front of my boxers down until my entire cock was exposed to her. I placed my other hand around my shaft, just under the head and began a slow rhythmic up and down motion as I once again looked up at her. Her eyes were glued to my cock, her fingers stroking her pussy in short rapid movements back and forth.

“Oh my God, your cock is gorgeous, so full and thick.”, she exclaimed, “God I love to watch you stroke it.”

We just sat there for several minutes, watching each other, slowly the tension and lust building, moment by moment. I made sure I kept my stroke steady and slow, I didn’t want to cum too quickly, I didn’t want this moment to end. But somewhere deep in the back of mind, I wanted more, so much more.

I had noticed Ashley’s hips had began a gentle but slow rocking motion, she was now using only one finger that had definitely quickened it’s pace on her clit. She leaned back into the arm rest a little further, her legs opening wide, giving me a full view, as she continued to stroke herself with urgency.

“Brian, I am not going to be able to hold back much longer, I need to cum bad.”, she panted.

“I feel the same way, I’m ready to cum too, Ash.”, I replied.

She sat up a bit, leaned her body forward towards me, as her fingers continued their magic on her clit.

“Brian, will you cum first for me ? “, she asked, almost begging.

I nodded my agreement, lifted my hips off the sofa, pushing my pants and boxers all the way down my thighs. I sat back down, leaned against the armrest and wrapped my right hand firmly around my cock. I began to quickly pull my throbbing cock up and down, my eyes locking back on Ashley. I knew it was not gonna take very long at this rate.

“Oh God yes Brian. That’s it, jerk off for me.”, she urged.

I continued pumping my cock with no restraint, I was past modesty, I just wanted to please this beautiful woman. She continued to urge me on, her words dripping with lust, hurtling me towards an orgasm. At the same time, her finger was now flying across her clit, I knew she was getting close as well.

“Let me see that cum Brian. Cum for me, nowww.”, she begged.

I squeezed my cock tightly, pounding it up and down rapidly my eyes locked on her pussy. I felt the cum racing up my shaft, It was time.

“Oh God Ash, here it comes.”, I grunted.

The first rope of cum shot from my cock landing high on my chest. Three more quick blasts covered my stomach as I cried out as wave after wave of intense sensation swept through my body. Cum was still flowing from my cock, dripping across my hand, my fingers covered in hot thick fluid. Just as my orgasm was subsiding, I heard Ashley moan once, softly.

“Oh shit, God damn………,”, she cried.

She leaned back and exploded violently on her hand, her hips bucking back and forth, her mouth open in pure pleasure. Her index finger was almost a blur as it buzzed back and forth against her throbbing clit. She rode the intense pleasure for at least thirty seconds before her body began to relax, her tense muscles easing back down on the sofa. Her eyes were closed, her breathing returning to normal, her finger now just gently tickling her clit. She finally opened her eyes, looking across at me, a warm glow on her face.

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