On every football team the younger guys pay their dues by playing on a practice squad that gets beat around all week running the opposing team’s offense and defense against the starting varsity players (the hardos).

Scout team is blue collar, sucky and awesome, all at the same time.

For the guys on the scout team, it’s all about facing goliaths day after day for 4 months. The varsity guys are 3-4 years older than you, hit way harder than you do, and can bat you around like a cat toy if you let them.

There is no doubt that scout team CAN make you a better football player but you have to have the nuggets to go 100% on a Tuesday afternoon when the varsity hardos are going ¾ thud.

It’s peer pressure (sometimes literally) “on steroids”.

Going 100% on a Tuesday, that kind of behavior will earn you the label “scout team hero”. It’s a message from the big guys that they think you suck really bad.

It was freshman year at Shippensburg University and I was on offensive scout team. We were a bunch of 18 year olds and one 23 year old freshman, a running back and Army Ranger named Chris that talked crap 24-7.

Chris was big for a running back at 220 pounds, was loud and had a heavy southern accent. Chris wasn’t impressed by the starters and he loved to tell them allllllllll about it.

Chris got the ball and it was my job to sprint right and kick out big Walt Davis, the starting defensive end, while Chris ran behind my block.

It’s a trap and the trick is stay low and get there fast enough so he won’t see you coming until WHAM, lights out!

Now Walt D was happy and good times off the field, but on the field, Mr. Walter Davis was a monster.

As a freshman, I was only 220 pounds of “cornfed” from Bucks County PA but I managed to surprise Walt, delivered him a good pounding this time and opened up a hole for Chris to run through.

Chris runs 8 yards deep into the starting defense and gets up talking smack… “c’mon red, C’MON RED!”

We’re all high fivin’ and on-the-hop back to the huddle, “HUDDLE up!”

Linebacker coach was pissed. “EFF ME DEFENSE!”, but like in A Christmas Story, he didn’t say fudge.

Hearing coach added to the party in our huddle. ”Ha ha ha” we all laughed and bumped around. Suckers

Then coach yelled “RUN IT AGAIN!”

Wait WHAT????

Our huddle was silent.

Defensive end, Mr. Walter Davis was 275 lbs, mostly in his legs and butt, wicked fast, with a head hard as a truck bumper. The only chance I had against Mr. Davis was to surprise him. This time he knew I was coming and I wasn’t comfortable with that.

Chris the Army Ranger didn’t care. He never stopped talking crap, not even once. “Here we come red… BUNCH OF SCRUBS RUNNIN’ ON THE STARTIN’ DEFENSE!”

Everyone’s like “for the love CHRIS, SHUT UP!”

I pull down the line and Walt delivers a skull splitter to me that stopped me in my tracks. I saw white and we’ll leave it there.

Chris still manages to get 3 yards before getting lit up by Dave, the varsity linebacker with the tied up jersey and red doo rag.

“THAT AIN’T SHIT RED!” Chris yells at the sky, flat on his back with Dave the varsity linebacker, missionary on top of him.

“EFF ME, RUN IT AGAIN” coach screams!

I’m like “WHAT???” still gathering my wits after that skull splitter and possibly even peeing a little.

Mister Walter Davis was off his chain by now and had two things on his immediate agenda. One was to silence Chris, the crap talking Army Ranger, but just before that he had a butt whoopin’ he prepared special, just for me.

So I knew it was coming and that was the worst part. Juuuuust waiting to break the huddle and get my butt STOMPED.

I took my whoopin from Walt and Chris got his as well, 8 yards deep in OUR backfield this time.

“THERE YA GO REEEEAAAAADDD” Chris the running back yells, grass sticking out his facemask.

Walt walks back to the defensive huddle and flashed a smile my way… “Yeeaaaa baby” he said in a slow deep voice.  I smiled a stupid freshman smile, just happy not to be dead.

There were lessons on both sides of the ball that day, taught the only way they could be learned and we were all a little better for it.

That year our defense rocked the PSAC, Shippensburg won the west, and we were scout team heroes until the very last practice.