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The Backyard Gridiron FOOTBALL MEMORIES WITH MY FAVORITE COACH W hen you’re a kid, every game of backyard football feels like Super Bowl Sunday. You break right, dive for the end zone, and celebrate your victory against the neighborhood kids you’ve always played with on your parents’ turf. The grass stains and breathless breakaways might as well be done under the lights of a big dome while a rousing crowd cheers you on.
been a fan of the local teams, and like all backyard football players, I had dreams of someday playing professionally. When you grow older, you realize that’s a pipe dream for most people, but it’s exciting to see the players who could make it. When the Georgia Dome first opened, my dad took me to see the Falcons take on the San Francisco 49ers. As a young football fan, my dad knew it would be the opportune moment for me to see these Hall of Famers grind it out locally. For the life of me, I cannot remember which legendary quarterback the 49ers had or even what the score was, but it’s a memory of my dad that I cherish. To this day, I still support my Georgia teams, including the collegiate ones. Though, I’m also a big fan of my alma mater, Ole Miss. Like any Atlanta fan will know, some years are better than others. The good part about being so low on the totem pole for so long is that you get the top pick in the following drafts. Despite heartbreaking Super Bowl appearances and lackluster recent seasons, the Falcons had some great seasons, and they will have more again. But that’s the allure of football. There’s something special about putting all your faith in a team the same way you trusted your dad to sling bombs to you down the yard. I guess the magic of backyard football never loses its appeal. Why else would grown men still try to recreate it on the professional field? -William F. “Trey” Underwood, III
The playbook for our regular neighborhood games had maybe three plays consisting of buttonhooks and Hail Marys. My father orchestrated them all as the quarterback for both teams, and he also thought of himself as quite the amateur coach. I remember one particular time a small neighbor kid, Josh, was complaining about having to go up against Charlie, another neighbor who is pretty well-known for his great athleticism. In fact, Charlie went on to get recruited by a few college football teams. In hindsight, my dad’s response to Josh may not have been the most sound advice in today’s football world. He said, “Go low.” The next play, Charlie ran his route, gunning for a pass. When the blur that was Josh came whizzing over, Josh grabbed Charlie by the ankles and dropped him. With Charlie on the ground, Josh boasted his pride. In the backyard, anything was possible. My dad was the first one to introduce me to football by playing catch with me when I was just 4 years old. I even had a brief stint in organized football, donning the youth uniform as a fullback. As short-lived as my football career was, I’ve always
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