At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

No Little People

I used to coach football...assistant coach at a school in Louisiana. I mentored the offensive linemen. If there's ever a group in a garden-variety football game that gets overlooked, it tends to be offensive linemen. They don't get on the stat sheet. They block for the running backs, protect the quarterback when passing, and...that's about it.

That doesn't mean they're unimportant. They'd better not be, because in my playing days in high school, I was an offensive lineman. [By the way, our football team plays University City in the state quarterfinals this Saturday, and our offensive line is about to show U-City what a significant five-some they really are!]

But that goes beyond the point.

This past Saturday, there was an absolute thriller of a football game in Oxford, Mississippi, as Arkansas toppled Ole Miss, 53-52, in overtime on national TV. It wasn't just the score, or the fact the two teams racked up nearly 1200 yards of offense together. It was the miraculous way Arkansas won.

Ole Miss had scored first in the overtime period, and now Arkansas struggled to move the ball, going in reverse to where they had a fourth-down-and-25 yards to go for the first down. Quarterback Brandon Allen dropped back for the Razorbacks' final desperation play and heaved the ball cross-field to wide receiver Hunter Henry, who gathered in the ball at the Rebels' 25-yard line, well short of the first down. Henry was creamed by the Rebels' defensive back and was going down for the game's clinching tackle and an Ole Miss victory when he heaved the ball backwards in desperation, hoping against hope this was not it when...

Now here I should interrupt things and let you know that something happened on September 20, 1994, which was a major event in the process of Ole Miss losing this game.

Dan Skipper was born.

Despite the fact I've titled this post "No Little People", that is meant to communicate there are no insignificant people.

Dan Skipper is not little. He is 6'10" tall and weighs 331 pounds. But he is an offensive lineman, and that means the eyes of a football crowd are not always on him.

But on September 20, 1994, Dan Skipper was born, setting in motion a chain of events which led to him playing football, which led to getting a scholarship to play football for Arkansas, which led to a starting position at right tackle...

...which led to Dan Skipper playing right tackle in overtime at the time Hunter Henry sent his Bon-Jovi-style-living-on-a-prayer lateral skyward back toward the 41-yard line, where two Ole Miss players could have plucked it out of the air...

Except that Dan Skipper reached out with his paw and barely slapped the ball aside, causing it to bounce sideways off the turf and into the waiting arms of Alex Collins, who found daylight and scampered to the 11-yard line and a first down and new life for Arkansas.

Don't believe me? Watch the replay:

A few plays later, the Razorbacks scored a touchdown. They went for the winning two-point conversion which failed, but a Rebel face-mask penalty gave them new life yet again, and then the winning convert was scored by Brandon Allen.

53-52 was the score. Allen scored the winner. Collins got the yards on the fourth down scamper.

But Dan Skipper--who didn't show up on the stat sheet--made the most important contribution of all. If Skipper doesn't bat that ball to the side, it's all for naught. And yet the announcers never mentioned his name.

Dan Skipper made the difference. 

In life, as in football, there are no little people. There are no insignificant souls. Everything we do, say, and try has value, even if no one announces it.

Even you. Especially you.

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