Looking straight into his eyes, I saw that he was getting the ball. From my free safety position, I knew that if he went to my right I was to be the only thing between him and the end zone. He seemed to know it too, and that frightened me. I wondered if he saw that fear in my eyes.
The quarterback stepped under center and went through his cadence. Please do not go to my right. Please do not go to my right. The thought pounded in my head over and over like a CD jumping around from to many scratches. What if he goes to my right? The ball was hiked and the quarterback pivoted and pitched the ball to him. Sure enough, he was going to my right and our crappy defensive linebackers were already on the ground. It was just us.
I started taking a wide angle to try to stretch the play out a bit and allow some help to get there. No dice. He cut straight up the field and headed straight to me. I could see that he wanted to plow me over. I could see that he wanted to take off my head as he sauntered into the end zone with me dragging along holding his tree trunk leg. I could not let that happen.
John Pitt was the best running back in the state, and he had legs that seemed like they were at least the size of a small dinosaur. They held up a man that could not have been more than 5’5″. In spite of his small height, he was a stout 200 pounds of muscle and meanness, and I had been his victim before. It was not a fun place to be.
John made one cut and headed straight at me. I could see that he was not intending on faking me out. He was going to go right through me. I could see my Coach wincing even before Pitt got there. He had to have known that Pitt was going to kill me.
At the moment of impact I remember seeing his face mask with that dark visor right in front of me like Darth Vader. I remember that I was on the five yard line and the end zone was right behind me. When I woke up, I was out of the back of the end zone with all of my teammates screaming and jumping around me. They seemed….happy?
What the hell?
After several minutes of trying to figure out what planet I was on, they all picked me up and started congratulating me. They wanted to know how in the heck I stopped John Pitt one on one like that. I wanted to know too though I never said so.
As it turns out, Pitt had slammed into me and fell down just short of the goal line as time expired. We had won the game because of my “game saving tackle” and I was a hero for a time. Years later, people still ask me how I was able to bring down the best running back our state had ever seen.
The truth is that I did not bring down John Pitt that day. I could not get the hell out of his way.