Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spare me the loyalty speech

Spare me the loyalty speech
By Aaron M. Smith
Don't blame Albert Pujols for heading to Anaheim

A young reporter at a small community newspaper sits at his desk, taking calls from little league baseball coaches, and writes the names of the ten "Stars of the Game." He better include little Johnny, too, even though he hasn't had a hit all season. His parents may call. The writer has been doing this for two years now, sometimes writing features on flower gardens in the community or covering Grand Opening ceremonies of local sports apparel businesses or new coffee shops.

The phone rings again. This time it's an editor at a large metropolitan newspaper. They have received the reporter's resume and would like to interview him for a job as sports editor. He accepts their invitation, goes to the interview, and wows the editors with his writing samples and energy for the job. The editors offer the job to the reporter on the spot. He accepts. He puts in his two-week notice and leaves the community paper for a higher paying, higher circulated newspaper. Everyone understands and congratulates him for this great opportunity.

No one, however, questions his loyalty. No one writes into the paper and hopes this reporter fails at his next job. No one calls in to curse him out and no one threatens this reporter's life.

It's ridiculous to think this would happen in any profession ... medicine, the law, or corporate. So why is it OK and justified in the sports world?

Today, Albert Pujols signed a 10-year contract worth around $250 million with the California Los Angeles Angels of Southern California More Specifically Anaheim. Immediately, comments rushed into sports websites calling Pujols a traitor. People said he wasn't loyal to the Cardinals and "turned his back on us." Never mind the last decade Pujols gave to the city. Pujols is arguably the best player to ever play the game. He gave a decade to the Cardinals, leading them to two World Series titles. St. Louis was a contender in most years he was there. Not good enough? Please. Not loyal? Enough already.

The Cardinals didn't want to pay Pujols that kind of money for 10 years when it's obvious what happens to even the best of players from age 30-40. He's already given the Cardinals the best of his career. Cardinals fans should be thrilled. They don't have to mortgage their team's future for what Pujols gave the team in the past. That's baseball. Pujols saw that he could make more money in a bigger market and took the opportunity. Good for him. Who wouldn't take that? I bet all the people screaming "he ain't loyal!" would take that in a heart beat.

Pujols isn't the only professional sports player that hears that criticism when he or she leaves the city that drafted them. LeBron James can't step foot in Cleveland without his life on the line. Now, before I go any further, how LeBron handled his free agency with the whole "The Decision" debacle on ESPN was ridiculous. He should be criticized for that. However, he should not be ridiculed for leaving Cleveland. Loyalty has nothing to do with it. He saw a better opportunity with Miami and took it. Whether you agree or not has nothing to do with it. People leave jobs and careers all the time without ridicule. Why can't professional athletes?

How about coaches? When Brian Kelly left the Cincinnati Bearcats to coach Notre Dame, people were in hysterics here in Cincinnati. They held up signs at games with "Kelly who?" or "Good Riddance." Why? Because he took his dream job at Notre Dame for a mountain of cash more than what Cincinnati could pay him? How could he? C'mon people. Fire your criticism off somewhere else. Before Kelly was coach at Cincinnati, the Bearcats had no history of winning. None. And now they are on the map. Fans should have thanked Kelly for that. But instead, there are people around here who hope Notre Dame loses more than they hope Cincinnati wins. That's just nuts.

So basically, what I am saying is, spare me the loyalty speech. These athletes and coaches have every right to leave his current situation for better opportunities. I don't need to hear that LeBron owes Cleveland or that Albert should have stayed in St. Louis or that Brian Kelly didn't earn the right to leave for greener pastures. So keep that to yourself. Unless of course, you pass up every promotion or better job opportunity that comes your way because you want to be loyal to Sid, the guy who gave you your first job mowing his grass and cleaning out his garage. When that happens, you can complain all you want.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making Sense of this Penn State Mess

Making Sense of this Penn State Mess
By Aaron M. Smith

This past Saturday, I read the grand jury report about the Penn State mess involving Jerry Sandusky et. al. I haven't been the same since and I can't even imagine how the last decade has gone for the young boys most directly affected. It has sickened me and has made me question the current state of our society. It has made me loathe the college football machine, the greed, the power that has seemingly -- and unfortunately -- taken a seat at the top of our collective priorities. There is too much to talk about with this horrific and outrageous story, but I wanted to bring up a couple of questions that I can't seemingly wrap my brain around.

On Graduate Assistant Mike McQueary
USA Today photo of McQueary and Paterno
Mike McQueary then a 28-year old MAN, walked into the locker room and heard what he said sounded like sexual actions coming from the shower. He walked into the shower and saw Jerry Sundusky raping a defenseless boy who, McQueary said, looked to be about 10 years old. McQueary walked out of the locker room distraught and called his father. His father and he then went to Joe Paterno's house the following morning to talk about what he saw.

Let me stop right there for a moment. McQueary witnessed a vile criminal act and didn't think to call the police? How is that possible? Secondly, McQueary, a big man and former football player, left the 10-year old boy to fend for himself. He left the locker room without trying to save the child or find out who he was and how he could help. That is the most dispicable thing in this. He walked out on this kid without helping him. He let this child alone with Sandusky after witnessing Sandusky raping him. There is absolutely no excuse for that. None! This is a quote from McQueary's father:

"He's a good kid and tough kid. He did what he was supposed to do, and all of this has been very hard on him. Everything from this and about this (case) has been difficult for him, but he's a strong person and will be OK."

Wrong. On so many levels. First, he wasn't a kid. He was a 28-year old man. Let's be clear on that. He was a 28-year old man who knows the difference between right or wrong. Secondly, he did not do what he was supposed to do. He saw a horrendous crime being committed against a young boy and did nothing to stop it nor did he call the police to report what he saw. He did NOT do what he should have done. And to the father, neither did you. How can you hear that account from your son and not call the authorities? Not only did your son not do what was right, neither did you.

Then there are reports that Sandusky has been a part of the football program for the last decade, often working with players and running a youth football program. I simply do not understand how McQueary could see Sandusky commit such a vile act and then see him working with young boys and not do anything about it. It says a lot about what kind of person McQueary is. And judging by the act of his father, it's easy to see where he got it.

On Joe Paterno
Joe Paterno is the Godfather of college football. At Penn State, he is simply a god. He ran the program and for all intents and purposes, the entire university. He was the equivalent of a CEO for a Fortune 500 company (Penn State makes a $50 million profit each football season). Someone comes to him and tells him that his assistant coach was doing something "of a sexual nature" to a young child. Whether he understood that it was a full-on rape or not, he has an obligation to get the police involved immediately. Take the football out of this. A CEO knows an employee of his has sexually assaulted a child in his office building and then does nothing is usually arrested and charged with some sort of obstruction of justice. That hasn't happened. JoePa is a legend. He's a football coach. He didn't get the police involved at all. And there is no defense for that. All Paterno had to do was make a phone call after hearing about Victim 2. And because he didn't, there are now 20 victims with horrific tales about Sandusky.

I'm tired of hearing about Paterno the Legend. His football accomplishments pale in comparison to the unbelievable lack of humanity in this situation. How you could know what happened and let that man on your campus and in your locker room and a part of your university is beyond me. How you could know Sandusky was raping a child and then see him running his youth camp is disgusting. Paterno, you had an obligation to this child, and you failed miserably. I feel no sympathy for you -- only for the 18 (at least) boys that became victims after you failed to stop Sandusky in his tracks.

On the state of our society
I've heard so many times in the past four days, "As a father of two, I'm outraged ..." or "Being a parent, this sickens me."

How about "As a human being ..."

Why do you only understand how horrendous this crime was if you have children of your own? People are saying that the media is making Joe Paterno a scapegoat. Seriously? Read the grand jury report and I'm sure you'll have another perspective on the matter.

Last night when Penn State officially fired Joe Paterno, students from the university rioted and screamed "We want Joe!" They overturned media vans and set things on fire.

Where was this outrage for the victims?

On college football
College football has gotten too big. There is so much power and money and greed and the people in charge have lost all perspective. It has become "Protect the Program" first and everything else a distance second. Unfortunately, because of this greed, this dedication to the program, sexually abused and assaulted children finished a distant second. Let me say that again. It was the Penn State football program first ... then the kids. Sickening.

When a university puts its football team above all else, this happens. In my opinion, if Penn State feels this strongly about its football program, so strongly that abused children where never even tried to be identified and helped, then maybe it shouldn't even have a football program. Seriously. If a football program is too important to even reach out to help sexually abused children, there should be no football program.

On Jerry Sandusky
I can't even think about what to write about this monster. He is a despicable excuse for a human being. He is the true monster. He is the villain. He is the person who ruined the Penn State name. He is the person that ruined the lives of so many.

But we as a society also failed miserably here. What kind of world do we live in where something like this could happen? People are rioting in favor of a coach instead of picketing and demanding justice for children. This is a horrific failure on our part.

As a human being, I'm appalled by all of this. By Sandusky. By Paterno. By McQueary. By the school president. By the rioters on campus. No one involved has any dignity left. And no on-field accomplishments or budget reports should make anyone think otherwise.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Open Letter to the Cleveland Browns

An Open Letter to the Cleveland Browns
By Aaron M. Smith

Dear Cleveland Browns,

Back when Browns football meant something.
Twenty-three years ago, I stood in the pouring snow in raucous Cleveland Municipal Stadium, a wide-eyed nine-year-old, as the Cleveland Browns overcame a seemingly insurmountable deficit to stun the Houston Oilers and clinch a spot in the playoffs on the last game of the 1988 campaign. The Browns were without starting quarterback Bernie Kosar. They were without backup quarterback Mike Pagel. They were without third string quarterback Gary Danielson. They were without starting fullback Kevin Mack. Yet the backups fought with a passion for the game that I can't honestly say I've seen since, well, Art Modell decided to move the team to Baltimore following the 1995 season.

That was 16 years ago. And that is sad.

I am now 32 years old and have just finished watching one of the most lackluster performances by the Browns since they returned to the field in 1999 as an expansion team (and that is saying something). This team may play in Cleveland and don the brown and orange of the original franchise, but they have lacked the soul of the Cleveland Browns and the heart of Paul Brown and Jim Brown since they returned to the league.

Hillis making his statement.
For more than a decade, I have watched the Browns field weak rosters with guys who were more interested in payday than game day. The most recent player is Peyton Hillis. Last season he arrived in Cleveland via trade with a chip on his shoulder the size of Shaker Heights. He worked his butt off, plowing over defenders, and earning respect as a blue-collar bruiser that so represented the heart and soul of Cleveland. But that one year got into his head. He know thinks he is bigger than game. He showed up in less than stellar shape. He has not taken care of his injuries. He left the team to get married in mid-week. He let his agent talk him into sitting out with strep throat in order to make a statement about getting a monster contract extension. Meanwhile Tony Romo -- you can say what you want about him -- was suiting up and playing for the Cowboys with two cracked ribs and a punctured lung. That's heart. What Hillis has shown is selfishness and greed.

Since 1999 the Browns have had guys named Palmer and Butch and Romeo and Man-Genius and Shurmer running the team. Every other year the Browns get a new quarterback and then a new offensive system and then a new head coach and then another system and so on and so forth. It's not hard to see why this team has been the most offensively challenged team in the last decade. The Browns have had new general managers and new philosophies and nothing has worked. Nothing. Some 12 seasons after the Browns came back, I still see confusion from the players, blank looks from head coaches, and absentee owners and general managers. Nothing has changed. This endless cycle of ineptitude is embarrassing.

The scouting program in this franchise has got to be one of the worst in the league. How can the Browns have top-10 picks year in and year out and still put one of the weakest rosters on the field? This current team has so little talent, I doubt it could compete with the best in college football. Seriously. Josh Cribbs was a good find and is THE soul of this team. Too bad there is only a handful of players like him on the entire Browns roster. I just don't understand how after a decade of getting the top choice of the best players in college football, the Browns have an obvious lack of talent compared to other NFL teams. Detroit has finally figured out how to draft well. The Bengals seem to know that they're doing these days. These were two inept franchises that figured it out. The Browns are still wallowing in their own ineptitude. 

Yet with all of this dysfunction, the Cleveland Browns have no problem charging insane money for PSLs and season tickets. Single game tickets are ridiculously pricey as well. You can't take a family to see the team play -- not that anyone would want to these days -- because it would cost a month's salary for most just to get in the gates. Not to mention, the seats would have to be a mile away because the corporations and businesses and millionaires get the good seats.

I grew up the biggest of Cleveland Browns fans. I was inspired by Bernie Kosar and Hanford Dixon and Big Daddy Hairston. I loved Clay Matthews and Frank Minnifield and Kevin Mack. But the players that put on the uniform these days don't even come close to the guys that once represented this once-proud franchise. Not being a good player is one thing, but the lack of passion that I've witnessed, the lack of intelligence on the field for the last decade is inexcusable. Football is their chosen profession, yet being stuck in this quagmire of mediocrity seems to be just fine to those in charge of this organization. In any other profession, this level of failure would not be tolerated.

Have some pride in what you do. Understand that you represent not just that franchise that once was, but that you represent a city that has defended your ineptitude the entire way. It's time to start paying back the fans for years of sold out stadiums and around-the-world fan clubs. It's time to give the fans something to cheer about again. Sooner or later, the Browns won't just  have lost games to worry about. They'll have to worry about lost fans. And I would think that would mean something to those in charge.

There is no ultimatum here. I'm not threatening never to go to a game again. I'm not saying I'm not a Browns fan, because in all seriously, I don't think that would really mean anything to the franchise. Just know that one of your biggest fans can't even watch you play on Sundays anymore. I would hope that would mean something, anything to such a fledgeling franchise.

Aaron M. Smith
Browns fan since 1985

And to show I'm not alone, here is a link to someone who feels about the same:


Friday, October 28, 2011

A Grand Series

A Grand Series
By Aaron M. Smith

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. ... And summer is gone.
-- Bart Giamatti

Moments after Boston's Carlton Fisk smacked his epic homerun that just did stay fair, Cincinnati's Pete Rose turned to his manager Sparky Anderson.

"Wow," he said with a smile. "What a game."

Sparky, naturally, was too distraught to soak in the majesty of the scintillating game, but Rose understood that although the Reds let one get away, they still had another chance.

"Don't worry, Spark," Rose said. "We'll get Game Seven."

And Cincinnati did. But ask 100 baseball fans who won the 1975 World Series, I bet half will say Boston, citing Fisk's dramatic walk-off home run.

Fast forward to October 27, 2011. Game Six of the World Series. It was one of the most incredible, unforgettable finishes in World Series history. And that is no hyperbole. The Texas Rangers, looking for its first World Series title, were one strike away from a series win ... twice. In back-to-back innings. Leading 7-5 in the 9th inning with two outs, David Freese drilled a triple with two runners on to tie it. After the Rangers went ahead 9-7 on a mammoth 2-run homer by Josh Hamilton, they seemingly had their long-awaited title. But yet again, the Cardinals scored two runs in the 10th to send it to the 11th inning. The Rangers had nothing left.

And in the bottom of the 11th, Freese led off the inning with a 3-2 blast to center that was as epic as Fisk's. As incredible as Kirby Puckett's Game 6 bomb that had Jack Buck screaming, "And we'll see you tomorrow night!" As Freese's homer cleared the fence, Jack's son Joe Buck, calling the game on FOX, echoed his father's closing ... "And we'll see you tomorrow night!"


This series is nearly a mirror of the '75 series. If the Rangers win, people outside of Texas will most likely remember the series for Freese's heroics. And why not? It was unforgettable. If the Cardinals win, it could go down as one of the all-time best World Series. This series has had it all from great pitching, clutch hitting, brilliant strategy, incredible goofs (bullpen phone-gate).  All of this, including the gaffes, have made this one entertaining finale to the baseball season.

Baseball can be beautiful. And even with five errors and a handful of wild pitches, last night's game was beautiful. Being a Cincinnati Reds fan, I have a certain dislike for the Cardinals. But how you can not respect the way they fought to the end in Game Six? It was incredible. Inspiring. Unbelievable. You name it. I cannot wait for tonight's Game Seven. The two greatest words in sports. Game Seven.

With no pitchers left with any stamina, the pressure of an elimination game, and temperatures dipping into the low 40s, tonight promises to be a thrilling free-for-all for the World Series title.

You can't ask for anything more than that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Super Bowl

The Super Bowl
Excerpt from Odyssey -- Chapter IX
By Aaron M. Smith

The Super Bowl

Cheryl Carey walked through the doors of the Super Dome. She strolled in its underbelly and then could see a swath of green through an open stairwell. She walked through the stairwell and the inside of the dome opened up to reveal a stunning setting for football’s grandest moment. The green carpet sparkled like an emerald island while fans began to pack the tens-of-thousands of multi-colored seats in preparation for the night’s main event. She could hardly believe her nephew would be playing on that field in just a few hours.
Like she did in a Wal-Mart near South Bend while looking for bed sheets some years ago, Cheryl broke down in tears.
“Nothing seemed to faze me back then, but I remember walking into that stadium,” she said. “I just began to cry. It was unbelievable to be there, knowing Marc was going to be playing. He had accomplished his goal. He worked so hard and he was getting his reward.”
Darsi was equally emotional. Her daughters watched from home with her mother and she stared out over the dome with her brother and her father. Tears didn’t fall from her eyes, but her stomach was in knots.
“It was amazing,” she said. “Never in your life do you expect to be at a Super Bowl, let alone being there to watch your significant other. I was nervous for him. Very, very nervous.”
Marc’s mother-in-law Joyce would have been there with Darsi and Darrel, but the fear of jinxing the Patriots kept her at home with her granddaughters, recovering from an operation.
In May of that year, Joyce had been going through health concerns that ultimately would require surgery. Her doctor wanted to operate in August. Joyce refused to have the operation because Darsi, Marc, and their girls would be staying with the Millers at their new house all summer. She didn’t want to be preparing for and recovering from an operation while the house was filled with family. She instead took shots every month to hold off the operation until January when, she assumed, New England’s season would be over.
“Who knew at that time that the Patriots were going to do anything,” Joyce said laughing. “No one predicted them to go to the Super Bowl.”
As the Patriots made their run at the end of the season, it became apparent that something special was happening. Darrel wanted Joyce to postpone the surgery until after the Super Bowl, just in case, but Joyce was uneasy with rescheduling.
“I told him, ‘No, this is how it is supposed to happen. I’m not going to jinx the Patriots by rescheduling,’” Joyce said.
So Joyce had the operation prior to the AFC Championship game and rested at home with her grandchildren. She had help from her mother and a family friend as they all piled in front of the television to watch Marc play in the Super Bowl. They, too, were on pins and needles.
Marc, on the other hand, wasn’t nervous. He was more anxious to end the waiting.
His week started immediately following the victory over the Steelers.
“We got back from Pittsburgh Sunday night at 7 p.m. or so, had a quick minute to celebrate, and then next morning at 8 a.m., we’re packed and ready to go to New Orleans,” he said.
Monday night in New Orleans was the only night the coaching staff gave to the Patriots free of curfew. Some took advantage of it; others relaxed with family, made phone calls to friends back home, or just quietly imagined what Sunday would be like. Marc went out with “the boys” that night and soaked in all that The Big Easy had to offer.
Tuesday morning was spent answering legitimate questions about the upcoming Super Bowl as well as personal questions, irrelevant questions, and questions simply asked in order to get a chuckle – and a highlight on SportsCenter. Media Day is a spectacle where all players and coaches are required to be present and at the ready for large news publications as well as youth reporters from various children programming outlets. Basically, it’s a circus.
The rest of the week was spent behind locked doors watching hours of film or running through the game plan on the practice field. Curfew was enforced each night as the teams tried to eliminate any distractions – there certainly were many temptations in The Big Easy.
Marc woke up on Sunday morning and it was hard for him to truly realize that later that day, he would be suiting up to start in a Super Bowl. More than 800 miles away in Norwood, Marc’s family and friends woke up in preparation for Super Bowl parties. Some were nervous; all were excited.
Matt Ventura, Marc’s teammate in high school, said he spent most of Super Sunday in awe of his friend.
“I got DIRECTV because of Marc,” Ventura said. “I got it so that I could watch every NFL game he played in, no matter what team he was playing for. To be getting ready to watch your friend play in the Super Bowl is awesome. We were just in disbelief all day.”
J.D. Myers, Marc’s little brother from the Big Brother Foundation in South Bend, was also gearing up for a big Super Bowl party. He had posters, football cards, and other Marc Edwards memorabilia all over his room waiting for the kickoff that seemingly never came.
“It was a great day,” Myers said. “Marc meant so much to me; we became great friends. He was more than just a mentor in the Big Brother program. He made such a huge impact on me and my family. He could have easily quit hanging out with me once he was drafted (into the NFL), but he kept in touch throughout. I couldn’t believe I would be watching my friend play in the Super Bowl.”
When the players arrived for a full day of preparation and waiting and even more waiting, the Patriots got the bulletin board material they didn’t necessarily need, but would certainly find interesting.
Coach Weis strolled into the locker room casually and had something to show the players as they unwound before getting dressed for the game.
“This is what the Rams think of you,” Weis said as he passed around a sheet of paper he had printed from the St. Louis web site.
The printed piece of paper was an order form for St. Louis Rams Super Bowl Champions hats and t-shirts already on sale to fans.
“This is what they think of you,” Weis repeated.
“Weis was always good with motivational stuff like that,” Marc said. “The Rams just felt the same way everyone else did about that game. Everyone thought they were going to blow us out.”
Including Las Vegas.
The odds-makers placed St. Louis as 14-point favorites – the largest margin for a favored team in Super Bowl history. No one gave the Patriots a chance to stay close to the Greatest Show on Turf – on the Astroturf of The Louisiana Super Dome. Earlier in the season in New England, the Rams upended the Patriots, 24-17, on Monday Night Football.
Like Marc, most of the Patriots’ entire roster had never experienced a Super Bowl before, other than watching from their home televisions. Belichick and Weis had both been to a Super Bowl as assistant coaches under Bill Parcels with the New York Giants. They tried to help everyone keep their nerves on ice during the pre-game waiting.
“Charlie and Bill had been there before and they kept telling us that we had to maintain our emotion all day and not get too excited too early,” Marc said. “It’s a hurry-up-and-wait situation. You have to have patience during the day. They preach that all day long. It was a lot of rest.”
When it was time to emerge from the tunnel amid a sea of flashbulbs, pyrotechnics, and frothing fans, the Patriots gathered together and watched as the Rams’ offense was introduced one-by-one.
Then it was New England’s turn.
“Choosing to be introduced as a team, the AFC Champion New England Patriots,” announced Pat Summerall over the dome’s loudspeaker.
Instead of individuals dancing their way down a tunnel of players, the Patriots emerged, arm-in-arm, as a team. It was the first time a team was introduced as one unit – fitting for a team without a real superstar.
“We were announced as a team, which I thought was cool,” Marc said. “You saw the stuff like (Baltimore’s) Ray Lewis doing his dance the year before. That made me want to puke. It was disgusting.
“This team had adopted a philosophy that it was team first as opposed to me first,” Marc continued. “That’s the reason we did go out as a team. St. Louis was introduced and they did their dances around the Lombardi (trophy) blow-up balloon. We just came out with our hard hats and lunch buckets ready to go to work.”
The dome was splashed with red, white, and blue banners and posters. The Super Bowl XXXVI logo had been changed from a New Orleans-themed print to an American-flag inspired picture of the contiguous United States to honor those who lost their lives in the September 11 tragedy. There was a patriotic feel to the pre-game ceremonies, too; former presidents read excerpts from Abraham Lincoln speeches, ex-NFL players read parts of the Declaration of Independence, and Mariah Carey, accompanied by the Boston Pops Orchestra, performed a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
St. Louis may have been the heavy favorites, but these Patriots certainly seemed to have most of the world behind them.
With President George W. Bush and former Navy and Dallas great Roger Staubach – also from the Cincinnati area (Silverton) – nearly the entire Patriots team joined their captains at midfield for the coin flip.
With the crowd rising in anticipation and folks back home excitedly settling into their seats, Marc looked around at the flashbulbs and could hardly believe where he was standing.
“You’ve really got to stay on an even keel all day long,” he said. “It’s the hardest thing to do because it’s the biggest game you’ve ever played in.”
But once the ball was kicked off, it was just football again. The Rams took the ball first and the Patriots immediately went to work on their defensive game plan.
The Patriots’ philosophy was to take All-Pro running back Marshall Faulk out of the game. Whichever way Faulk went, the Patriots had a player hit him or tackle him to the ground. When he was standing still, someone from New England punished him. When he was in the play, the Patriots pounded him. If Faulk wasn’t even looking, the Patriots defense knocked him to the turf. Every time Faulk touched the ball, he was pummeled.
The Rams managed to score first, but the Patriots kept them out of the end zone. With 5:05 left in the first quarter, Jeff Wilkins capped a 10-play, 48-yard drive with a 50-yard field goal to give his squad an early 3-0 advantage.
The Patriots’ offense was playing a conservative, time-eating, field-position game. They understood they couldn’t defeat the Rams in a high-scoring flurry of points; they just could not keep up with their speed. The best offense was keeping St. Louis’s offense on the sideline. It was an offense perfect for Marc. He carried the ball a few times and caught the ball out of the backfield a few times, but spent the majority of the game blasting linebackers to open up holes for Antawn Smith.
New England’s defense got the Patriots on the board first, giving them a thrilling early lead. With 8:49 remaining in the second quarter, Ty Law intercepted a Kurt Warner pass intended for Dane Looker and returned the ball 47 yards for the touchdown. It was a shocking turn of events and the Patriots owned a 7-3 lead.
“We get that pick-six and then we’re thinking, ‘Hey, we’re in this thing,’” Marc said. “The ice was broken and we started doing our thing.”
The Patriots’ defense came through again with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. Warner completed a pass to receiver Ricky Proehl at the Patriots 40-yard line, but New England defensive back Antwan Harris forced a fumble while tackling him. Defensive back Terrell Buckley recovered and gave Tom Brady a chance at a two-minute drill of his own. Brady’s ankle was well-enough for him to play and Belichick had no problem naming him the starter instead of Drew Bledsoe.
Brady and the offense responded with their best drive of the contest. With 31 seconds to play, Brady dropped back to pass and lofted a beautiful throw to David Patten who came down with the ball in the back of the end zone. An incredible catch gave the Patriots a shocking 14-3 lead that they took into the half-time locker room. It was the first time the Rams trailed by more than eight points the entire season.
Marc and the Patriots were 30 minutes from being crowned world champions.
“We were cautiously optimistic in the locker room,” Marc said. “We were excited, some of us were yelling. We were excited, fired up, but we still knew who we were playing. We knew this could still be a blowout.”
The Patriots received the kickoff in the third quarter and continued to play conservatively. After all, they did possess an 11-point lead. Late in the third quarter, the defense came through yet again. Otis Smith intercepted Warner and returned the ball 30 yards to the St. Louis 33-yard line. The offensive drive stalled, but Vinatieri tacked on three points with a 37-yard field goal that extended the Patriots advantage to 17-3. They would take that lead into the final quarter.
The Rams needed to respond with the high-powered offense that got them to the biggest stage in football. Warner finally began playing like an MVP. St. Louis drove the length of the field, but it faced a fourth-and-goal from the Patriots three-yard line. Warner took the snap and attempted to score, but he was drilled by Roman Phifer. The quarterback fumbled and New England’s Tebucky Jones scooped up the ball and sprinted 97 yards for what appeared to be the game-clinching score.
“We’re all thinking that the game’s over,” Marc said. “Then we see that yellow flag. Willie McGinest gets flagged for basically tackling Marshall Faulk and not allowing him to be a receiver. What had helped us all game hurt us on that play.”
With new life, Warner ran the ball in for a touchdown to cut the Patriots’ lead to 17-10 with 6:47 to play.
With 1:51 remaining in the game, following stalled drives by both teams, the Rams had one final chance to tie the game.
“We’re thinking that our defense has been a stud all game,” Marc said. “We’re thinking that we’re a couple of minutes from being Super Bowl champions.”
But “The Greatest Show on Turf” was ready to take flight.
Warner fired an 18-yard pass to Az-Zahir Hakim.
First down.
Warner drilled an 11-yard completion to Yo Murphy.
First down.
Warner completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Proehl.
In just 21 seconds, the Rams had gone 55 yards in three plays to tie the Super Bowl at 17-17.
With 1:30 to play in the game, the Patriots had an opportunity to win, but did not have a timeout to burn.
Up in the FOX television booth, color commentator John Madden said that the Patriots should play for overtime because trying to drive down the field would be too risky.
On the New England sideline, however, the thought process was drastically different.
“If we go into overtime, we lose the game,” Marc said. “Plain and simple.”
He said that Weis and Belichick didn’t really give the decision to try and win a second thought.
“Settling for overtime may have been floated out there, but it was squashed immediately,” Marc said. “Maybe, if Brady doesn’t get things going early in the drive, we settle for overtime. But I don’t think there was even a question of whether or not to go for the win right then.”
Brady opened the drive with three completions to running back J.R. Redmond, which moved the ball to their 41-yard line with 33 seconds left. After an incomplete pass, Brady completed a 23-yard pass to wide receiver Troy Brown, and followed it up with a six-yard completion to tight end Jermaine Wiggins to advance to the Rams' 30-yard line.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Marc said. “My heart’s pounding. I’m thinking, ‘Holy crap, we’re in business!’ After struggling to move the ball all game, we were doing everything we had to do. If one of those guys doesn’t get out of bounds, we go to overtime. Everything happened the way it needed to for us to have a chance at a game-winning kick.”
With seven ticks on the clock, Brady spiked the ball, setting up a 48-yard field goal attempt.
Vinatieri had kicked two field goals in blinding snow and wind, but could he handle the weight of a world championship resting on one kick?
“I did not think there was any way he would miss it,” Marc said. “It’s 48 yards, indoors. There’s no way he could miss it after what he did two weeks ago. I’m not holding hands with anybody. I’m standing there watching.”
The snap went back and Vinatieri approached the ball. His leg fired forward and struck the ball perfectly. The seconds ticked away on the clock as the ball sailed through the air.
Vinatieri knew first. He knew the Patriots were world champions before anyone else in the building did as he jumped high in the air pumping his fists.
“As soon as it left his foot, I said ‘It’s good!’” Marc said. “I took off down the field, confetti is shooting out, and I find myself running by the goal line. ‘Why the hell am I down here?’ I ran back out to the middle of the field and just started yelling. I didn’t know how to celebrate. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. It was so surreal.”
Sitting in his chair watching his former teammate and friend, Ken Carter was overwhelmed by the moment.
“I cried like a baby,” Carter said. “I mean, I’m sitting there watching and all the sparkles and confetti are falling on him. I call him up right then and I leave him a message on his phone. I said, ‘I’m looking at you on TV; I’m proud of you. I wish I could be there, but I’m there in spirit.’ I was so proud of what he accomplished. I knew where he came from and to see him standing there with the Lombardi Trophy, I couldn’t have been happier. It’s one of my best memories.”
For Marc, he had reached the pinnacle. From Blue Collar, Ohio to Super Bowl Champion. The confetti fell all around him like snow on a cold Norwood night as Brady answered interview questions and teammates cried, laughed, and shook their heads in utter disbelief.
That night, after going out with his wife and family, Marc lay in bed and kept repeating the same sentence out loud.
“We just won the Super Bowl,” Marc said.
“We just won the Super Bowl.”
Darsi turned to her husband.
“Yeah, you did,” she said. “You’ve said that about 20 times. But can we talk about it in the morning? I need my sleep.”
“Just hearing yourself say it,” Marc said, “just ‘wow.’ This is something I dreamed about but never thought it would happen. I tried to talk myself into believing this actually happened.”
Marc wouldn’t need to talk himself into believing he was a champion. It was written on every newspaper for days. Marc even found his own smiling face on the cover of The Sporting News as he lifted the Lombardi Trophy high over his head. The highlights were on every news and sports channel on television. The Patriots were the most unlikely Super Bowl champions in the history of the game. Some called the win the biggest upset in sports history.
“Some people say that we were the worst team to ever win a Super Bowl,” Marc said. “But to go through what we did, to go through the injury to Drew, 9/11, starting the year 1-3, the snow game, beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and then beating the Rams on artificial turf, how could you say that? We were exactly what a good team was supposed to be.”
            Critics will always say what they want, believe what they want, but Marc and the 2001 Patriots will always have that coveted ring to prove any critic otherwise.
To purchase Odyssey: From Blue Collar, Ohio to Super Bowl Champion, visit the following on-line retailers.
Barnes and Noble

Friday, August 26, 2011

To pay or not to pay

To pay or not to pay
By Aaron M. Smith

Student A: This student was no Einstein in high school. He worked hard, however, earning a 3.5 GPA during the course of his high school years. He played basketball, but not very well. He once earned a state science fair award for cloning alfalfa (yet to this day cannot describe how he did it). He was a member of the National Honor Society. He was never arrested and only had one beer while in high school. He went to the principal's office twice in his four years of high school -- once for depancing his friend in gym class and once to receive information on being named Student of the Month (not the same month as the prior incident). He graduated in the top 5 percent of his class. He went to an instate university with $0 scholarship money and a good work ethic. He worked three jobs every year to make ends meet. He earned a degree and graduated with a mountain of debt and a job that paid just $20,000 a year.

Student B: This student came from a poor family. No one in his family had ever gone to college. His dad wasn't around and only sometimes sent checks. His mom wanted him to work at a construction company with his uncle even though he'd rather teach and coach football. His GPA during high school was 2.5. His high school counselor told him college prep wasn't for him; he knew he wouldn't be able to afford college anyway. He played football successfully, but not well enough for colleges to come calling. He once was suspended for drinking beer on school property. He worked during that week off and made enough money to go on spring break. He graduated in the top half of his class. He did not attend college, but earned a decent living working for his uncle in the construction business. He still lives at home and hates his job, wishing he could have gone to college.

Reggie Bush surely struggled to get by at USC.
Student C: This student was remarkable on the football field and on the basketball court. His quarterback rating far surpassed his GPA, which was a lazy 1.5. He probably could have done better, but his teachers (and family) never held him accountable. He passed and got whatever grades would allow him to suit up on Friday nights. He should have been arrested for stealing but the officer that caught him with the six pack used to go to his high school and wanted his team to win on Friday. He got a slap on the wrist. He graduated in the bottom 15 percent of his class (which was a gift from the school) and was recruited to play football at one of the most prestigious private universities in the country. He attended the school despite his very low SAT scores, but started every game as a freshman, leading his team to a conference title and a bowl victory. Over the course of his three years in college (to no one's surprise, he left school as early as he could to play in the NFL) he never paid a cent for tuition, room, or board. He left school with zero debt, a ton of exposure, and a new multimillion dollar contract to play football.

Now, one of those students is suing the NCAA while his handlers are crying foul because he wasn't allowed to earn money as a college student. Never mind the new condo his parents were given by a school booster. This student claimed that he was "like a slave" because he didn't get paid for the work he did while in college. He calls himself a poor college student. He talks of struggling to get by.

Sadly, that student is Student C. And sadly, there are a lot of media members and college athletics groupies who are screaming from their pulpits demanding that college athletes get paid.

I am Student A, and I find that appalling.

Student C received a scholarship that totaled more than $100,000. He "earned" that by not doing any homework. He "earned" that by disrespecting the law. He "earned" that by convincing teachers to let him slide by. Some may call me bitter. Some may call me jealous. That's fine. I really don't care. All I'm saying is that for someone to get free tuition to a stellar university, a free place to live, and free food all the while complaining because he feels like a "slave" or that he "is being used" is utterly ridiculous, not to mention offensive. No you should not be paid; you are already getting free education (which apparently you are not using -- look up slavery and maybe you'll change your tune).

No you should not be paid; you are already getting free tattoos, or $100 handshakes from obsessive boosters, or a different sports car every new season. I drove an old Dodge Neon that broke down often. I had to pick up a third job bagging groceries at Kroger just to make enough money to get it fixed so that I could work at my other two jobs. No, I didn't have to walk uphill both ways to work, but you get the point ... hopefully.

And now I have to listen to Student C complain about how he had to scrape by? Please. Don't waste my time. Some people, like Student B, cannot even afford college. The way tuition is rising, even those who want to go will have to settle for something they do not really want to do. College is a pipe dream for some -- not because they can't hack it, but rather the amount of money it takes to go anymore is unbelievably high. And far too many students who made it to college through hard work are still paying off their college debts 10 years later. College isn't free (for most), so when I hear people calling themselves slaves while shrugging off the six figures they are receiving for going to college, I tend to get a little annoyed.

Now, not all college athletes are like Student C. Many work extremely hard in the classroom and earn their degrees while excelling on the court or field. Those students are admirable and will go on to be successful whether in sports or in something else. But that doesn't change my view on the hot topic of whether or not collegiate athletes should be paid -- because they already are getting paid.

It's called a scholarship.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Unquestionable Leader

Marc Edwards/Photo By Brian Bahr/Allsport
Unquestionable Leader
Excerpt from Odyssey -- Chapter VII
By Aaron M. Smith

Marc Edwards and his teammates had little time to celebrate. Revenge was on their minds.
After dismantling the USC Trojans, Notre Dame welcomed Boston College to South Bend and it didn’t necessarily plan on being a good host. The Eagles had ended Notre Dame’s title hopes two years prior and then in 1994, Boston College simply overmatched the vengeful Irish. After a highly-hyped rivalry match-up with USC, the Irish had to re-energize themselves and prepare for yet another emotional game. Coach Holtz, though, was not worried about whether his guys would be ready for another game of such magnitude.
“Sixty-percent of all the games we played at Notre Dame were against top-20 teams,” Holtz said. “We played Michigan, Michigan State, Texas, Ohio State, teams like Alabama and Florida State. We just beat USC, good for us. Now we’ve got to go out the next week and beat someone else. It just happened to be Boston College.”
All week long, the Irish players tried to downplay the talk of revenge.
“At Notre Dame, we never really talked outwardly about revenge,” Powlus said. “But that is exactly what it was. To Boston College’s credit, they did a great job against us the previous two years and we wanted to change that trend. We were a focused bunch, playing for the guys that had to suffer losses the past two years.”
The Notre Dame fans felt it was time for some old-fashioned revenge, too. In the so-called “Holy War,” Boston College had taken the last two important battles. And under a cold, dark sky, many in the stands held up local newspapers emblazoned with the headline: Payback Time.
Riding his domination from a week prior against USC, Marc showed the Eagles that they were in for a long, exhausting day.
On the first play from scrimmage, Marc took the handoff from Powlus and rumbled 19 yards. If Boston College didn’t get the message, it certainly did on Marc’s second carry. Powlus turned and gave to Marc and he blasted 28 more yards to the Boston College 22-yard line.
Marc Edwards scores again.
“We started treating Marc like we did Jerome Bettis,” Holtz said. “We’d move him to tailback a little and we’d have him line up at fullback and we’d have him come out of the backfield to catch passes. He was tough to stop.”
After another carry added one yard to his total – he had 48 yards rushing on the opening drive – Marc put his pass catching skills on display. On third-and-four from the Boston College 17-yard line, Powlus dropped back to set up a screen pass. Marc slipped out of the backfield into the middle of the field, caught the pass and sprinted untouched into the end zone, giving Notre Dame a quick and easy 7-0 advantage.
Notre Dame’s second drive ended with a Powlus fumble on a fourth-and-15 play, but Marc added 27 more yards to his rushing total – 17 coming on a burst up the middle. He may not have had style, but he was chopping down the Boston College defense.
The Eagles took a page out of Notre Dame’s playbook, going on a long, hard-fought drive of their own. Omari Walker capped the epic drive with a two-yard burst to tie the score with 11:16 remaining in the second quarter.
Marc again was the main cog in the machine-like Notre Dame offense in its fourth drive of the game. On the Irish’s third offensive possession of the game, Marc got no touches and the team punted. That wasn’t going to happen again.
Marc pounded the ball through the line of scrimmage five times for 34 yards en route to leading the Irish to a 22-yard field goal, which gave Notre Dame a 10-7 lead at the break. Having never rushed over the century mark in his college career, Marc sat near his locker at halftime with 109 yards already to his credit.
Notre Dame’s first drive of the second half was nearly a carbon copy of its first possession of the game. And just like in that first drive, Marc was the workhorse. He rushed four times, picking up 14 yards. The final two yards came on a powerful touchdown run in which Boston College defenders could only wave their arms, slapping at the ball as he blasted through their resistance. The touchdown gave Notre Dame a 17-7 advantage with 5:10 to play in the third quarter.
Boston College whittled the lead to just seven points with a 41-yard field goal with 1:34 to play in the third. They were in striking distance. The Eagles’ defense made a huge stand in the waning seconds of the third quarter, forcing the Irish into a three-and-out. Boston College took control of the ball early in the fourth quarter and the Notre Dame fans feared the worst. They had been there before.
The anxiety in the crowded stadium could be felt throughout the state of Indiana as Boston College drove down the field. But the pent-up frustration and apprehension of the crowd erupted in a volcano of cheers when Lyron Cobbins intercepted a pass at the Notre Dame 10-yard line, ending the Boston College scoring threat.
What happened next was one of the most awe-inspiring performances of Marc’s football career.
“We had a play, kind of like an off-tackle dive,” he said. “Just give me the ball, and the offensive line just went after BC with their mano a mano blocking. It was an offset of an option play.”
It was a play that Boston College had seen before. And when the day ended, they hoped to never see it again.
Marc had destroyed the Eagles during the first three quarters. Holtz was going to shut the door on this victory with more of the same.
Marc opened the drive with a punishing run up the middle for four yards. Powlus then ran for nine yards to the 23-yard line. Marc got the call again for six more yards. After a pitch to Denson that went for a couple yards, Marc blasted for 10 yards on a third-and-three play that kept the drive alive. Another Marc Edwards carry was followed by a 22-yard pass play that caught the Boston College defense looking for the run. Denson took the next play to the Boston College 28-yard line and then Marc simply took over.
Marc up the middle: three yards.
Marc up the middle: five yards and a first down.
Marc up the middle: four yards.
Holtz, still sitting in the press box while recovering from spinal surgery, pounded his fist on the table as Marc tore through the BC defense and shouted, “Again! Again!”
Marc up the middle: three yards.
Marc up the middle: two yards.
“It was just physical domination out there,” Marc said. “We just kept pounding it and pounding it. They couldn’t stop us. Our offensive line was just awesome. I didn’t feel anything. I felt like a machine out there.”
But it was fourth-and-one from the Boston College nine-yard line. A field goal would more than likely wrap up the contest, but Marc and the offense had a different idea.
The “right” thing to do would have been to kick the field goal and make it a two-score game. But Marc and a couple offensive linemen jogged over to the sideline and stopped in front of offensive coordinator Dave Roberts.
“We’re going for it. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Roberts looked at his determined offensive unit and shook his head in disbelief at his upcoming decision.
“Shit,” Roberts said, just shaking his head. “Go out there and go for it then!”
There was no doubt about who was going to get the ball. Marc took the handoff from Powlus again and leapt to the Boston College six-yard line for another first down as the clock continued to wind down on the Eagles.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Powlus said. “I can remember in the huddle thinking ‘give it to him again’ and, obviously, that was the same thought from Coach Holtz. Marc and the offensive line were totally in control. When you have a situation like that you take advantage of it.”
On first down, Marc rushed for another hard-earned yard. It was his seventh consecutive carry on a drive that had already burned more than nine minutes off of the clock. The drive eventually stalled inside the five-yard line and Notre Dame elected to kick the field goal with 2:42 to play to make it a 20-10 game. But the damage was done and the clock had all but evaporated into the cold northern Indiana sky.
On that final drive, Marc amassed 45 yards on an astonishing 12 carries in an effort that simply sickened the Boston College defense. He finished with a career-high 167 yards on 28 carries and scored the only two touchdowns of the day for the Irish. For the second week in a row and third time in four games, Marc was named the Player of the Game by NBC. In his last two games, Marc had totaled five touchdowns, a pair of two-point conversions, 249 brutal yards on the ground, and 47 more through the air.
“I was in a zone,” Marc said. “Everything felt good. I was having a lot of fun and we were just rolling.”
            Nothing seemingly could stop the Irish. They only had to stay out of their own way.
To purchase Odyssey: From Blue Collar, Ohio to Super Bowl Champion, visit the following on-line retailers.
Barnes and Noble

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mission Possible

Marc Edwards
Mission Possible
Excerpt from Odyssey -- Chapter III
By Aaron M. Smith

“Football is an honest game. It's true to life. It's a game about sharing. Football is a team game. So is life.”  Joe Namath
       Summer in southwestern Ohio can even make visiting Floridians complain about the heat. The mercury has no trouble finding the 90-degree mark and the humidity makes one feel like pneumonia has taken over the lungs. The best place to be on a July afternoon in Cincinnati is poolside and that is where a lot of the Norwood Indian football players relaxed in the summer of 1991 during the final days of vacation before the first practice.
“I hung out by the pool outside our stadium a lot,” said Norwood fullback Ken Carter. “We all spent a lot of time out there.”
One person, though, was usually missing from the poolside fun.
Over on the track inside Shea Stadium, heat waves rose from the rubber surface blurring all that was above it. Carter looked over and saw Marc Edwards by himself in shorts and a cut-off t-shirt. In the agonizingly brutal summer sun, the junior tailback was running sprints. He was leaping up and down on one leg and then the other, working on strength and balance. And he would take conditioning laps all in preparation for his upcoming season. As sweat poured from his face, he didn’t once glance over at the relief where his teammates relaxed.
“I remember looking down at him and thinking to myself, ‘Damn, that kid is dedicated. This guy is going to be someone,’” Carter said. “I could have worked hard like that – we all could have. But he was the one working down there on that hot track all by himself.”
It was all a part of Marc’s mental checklist. In his mind, had he dipped even a toe in that refreshing swimming pool, he would have been doing himself a disservice. He would not have been doing what he needed to do to make it to the NFL. When you want something enough, maturity can blossom.
That maturity made Marc wise beyond his years. He was aware that college football was a long shot and that the only sure bet was an education. Late nights when classmates were out with friends, Marc was figuring out why a2 + b2 = c2 or how to save a particular participle from dangling. Figuring out the intricacies of algebra and grammar helped Marc to achieve induction into the National Honor Society.
Marc wanted to go to college. Whether he played football or not was another issue. But college was the next step. If college was in his future, he would be the first in his family to accomplish the feat.
The more opportunities Marc surrounded himself with, the better chance he had at getting to college. He understood that there would be no NFL without college. And, more importantly, he understood that there would be no college football if he couldn’t cut it in the college classroom. To make sure he was wanted by academic types as well as football coaches, Marc had to diversify. He couldn’t just be a football player. He needed to get involved with other extracurricular activities.
A blue-collar kid with a nose for flattening linebackers succeeding in the classroom was one crack in the stereotype, but Marc took it one step further. On some nights, instead of strapping on a helmet, shoulder pads, and a mesh jersey, Marc would button up his tuxedo, fasten his classic black bowtie, and throw on a silk top hat. Instead of blasting through a defender’s arm tackle, he would belt out a show tune as a member of Norwood High School’s The Silhouettes.
The Silhouettes are a singing and dancing troupe at Norwood High School that still performs at the high school today. They put on performances throughout the community and at school functions. They also participate in competitions throughout the year.
“Marc was a terrible singer, but he loved going up there and singing,” said long-time friend and former high school teammate Matt Ventura.
Marc said that being able to perform on the stage was a completely different side of him that people really didn’t expect. But he felt it was necessary to accomplish his goals.
“It was great because I had a whole different set of friends, not just meathead football players,” Marc said smiling. “I gave it my all; I wasn’t the best, but I gave it everything I had. At the competitions, I’d get a rush right before we went on. It was different, but it made a big difference. It gave me perspective.”
Ken Carter said Marc would get good-natured ribbings from time to time or get snickers when he would dress up in his tuxedo, but that it didn’t matter to him. Marc had a good time and he made himself a better person.
“When you’re in high school, being a Silhouette isn’t exactly the coolest thing,” Carter said. “But he was a part of it and that’s all he cared about. He put his heart into it just as much as he did with football. I can’t remember ever seeing him put his mind to something and not accomplish it.”

(As a senior, Marc would even be cast as Conrad Birdie, the lead role in Norwood’s production of the musical, Bye Bye Birdie.)
But as much as Marc diversified, he knew his junior season on the gridiron could go a long way in breaking down barriers. In 1991, the city of Norwood also needed Marc and the Indians to have a great year. They needed a shot of success to divert their minds from the economic disaster that was taking hold of their community the way a vine strangles a flower.
Nearly four years earlier in the summer of 1987, the city’s largest employer – the General Motors automobile plant – shut down operations and effectively cut more than 4,200 jobs and shattered the financial stability of many in the community. Since the final car – a $22,000 cherry red Camaro – rolled off of the assembly line at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 26, families in Norwood had been dealing with an abundance of stress and fractured dreams. Feature articles about Norwood’s fate appeared in local publications as well as in national newspapers such as the New York Times. Unemployment skyrocketed, houses foreclosed, families broke apart.
According to the New York Times, General Motors generated more than $2.6 million in payroll tax revenue a year for Norwood, which equated to about 28 percent of the city's budget. Then Mayor Joe Sanker called the closing of the plant “terribly devastating” to the residents of Norwood.
Norwood faced a $1.8 million deficit and 26 municipal workers were laid off while 22 others were not replaced. In addition, Norwood was forced to cut salaries, halt spending on improvements such as sidewalk repairs, and it proposed a tax increase, according to the New York Times. Any possible growth of the community or improvements to what it already had were simply put on hold or halted all together.
“During those years in the post-GM shutdown, it was pretty dark in Norwood,” Carter said. “It was so hard for people to find jobs. It was really hard on families. It was kind of neat that it was then that our team started to get really good and that a lot of positive attention was given to that team and to Marc. It helped us have a little more pride in our town. I think it helped people forget about the problems they had at home.”
Norwood residents were desperate for something positive. They would not have to wait much longer. A diversion was coming.

Marc with his "Grandma Dot
Quest for 2,000
Local newspapers gave Norwood positive press in the preseason, picking the Indians to finish second behind rival Harrison in the Queen City Conference – National Division. It had been a while since Norwood was looked at as a contender for the division throne. No one had any gauge on just how successful Marc would be in his junior season, the newspapers saying he was “a proven ground gainer.” They stopped short of calling him the best running back in Ohio or even in Cincinnati, however, even after he led the city in rushing as a sophomore. One question mark in the vaunted Indian offense would be at the quarterback position. Scott Marcum had graduated and was suiting up for Georgetown College in Kentucky. Junior Eric Ragle would be the new leader of the Indian attack.
Traditionally, seniors would serve as team captains, but Jim Barre recognized Marc’s leadership capabilities and named him one of the captains for the 1991 season.
Marc was not shy. When he spoke, people had no choice but to listen. If someone messed up, Marc was certain to let them know about it. Early on, there was some jealousy because Marc received all of the newspaper print. Some thought Marc was simply handed the captainship as a junior. But it was hard to deny that Marc backed up his words with actions. He could tell someone to work harder because he had already put in the effort. He could tell a player to focus because he had already studied the game plan himself. Marc had credibility. Any jealousy quickly turned to respect.
“He was a great leader,” Barre said. “His attitude and work ethic rubbed off on our team. It didn’t take long to get everyone on board.”
Marc said Barre was the one who taught him how to be a leader in addition to a great football player. Barre made sure Marc ate well. He made sure Marc helped to motivate everyone on the team to participate during off-season work.
“He was my coach, my adviser, and my friend,” Marc said about Barre. “He looked out for me and he was always there for me. Obviously, I was very motivated on my own, but Coach Barre was always there encouraging me, pushing me, forcing me to do things the right way.”
When Marc was named captain, he basically did for the other players what Barre had done for him. He led by example, first, and with words when needed.
“He was amazing,” Carter said. “He was always pumped up. If somebody had their head down, he’d get in their face and build them up. He would also call someone out if they were slacking. You knew Marc was never going to be slacking and he made sure we were giving the same effort.”
The lofty expectations and thoughts of a special season, however, took a right hook to the jaw in the form of a methodical beat down at the hands of Mariemont in the season opener. The Warriors scored on a 45-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, a three-yard score in each the second and third quarters, and finally a 15-yard touchdown run to cap the dominating win in the fourth quarter. Norwood scored late in the game on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Ragle and a two-point conversion run by Marc, who rushed for 130 yards in the loss.
“It feels like we always lost to Mariemont to start our seasons, but then we’d get rolling,” Carter said.
In week two, “rolling” doesn’t begin to describe the onslaught the Indian offense deployed in their home opener.
Behind Marc’s staggering 272 rushing yards on 33 carries, three touchdowns, and six extra points – Marc was the kicker, too – Norwood amassed 529 yards of total offense en route to a 36-19 drubbing of Glen Este. Marc’s performance was a sign that being a “proven ground gainer” was about as big an understatement as saying the General Sherman in Sequoyah National Park is a big tree.
Marc’s abilities stunned his coach. Marc wasn’t just bowling over smaller players; he was outrunning them, too.
Barre always had conversations with his assistants about what an NFL player would look like. He had figured that the player would have to be extremely gifted physically and have a work ethic second to none.
“That was Marc,” Barre said. “Marc had both.”
A few days before Norwood traveled to Amelia for the Indians’ next game, Marc’s temperature rose higher than an Arizona afternoon. Sitting on his doctor’s table with a 103-degree fever and a pain ripping at his throat, Marc bawled – not because of the pain, but because he thought he would have to miss time on the football field.
Dr. Frank Perrino, Norwood’s team doctor and the Edwards’s family doctor, administered him a shot and Marc finally settled down after repeatedly saying, “I’m not going to miss the game Friday. I’m going to play. I’m going to play.”
According to Cheryl, Perrino was another “behind-the-scenes” benefactor for the family. He would always find a way to see the boys when they were sick or injured. It didn’t matter if Cheryl’s lack of medical insurance became an obstacle, Perrino made sure the family was taken care of. Whether it was writing off debts or finding specialists to help the family, Perrino went above and beyond his day-to-day responsibilities as the family’s physician.
“He was another one of those unsung heroes in Marc’s life,” Cheryl said. “I’ve told him that no one really knows all the things he did for this family, to get Marc to where he’s at. He is a special person.”
Norwood’s workhorse was still weak at kickoff time with what was diagnosed as strep throat and he struggled to sustain his energy. Several players were ill entering the game, but all felt a little better at halftime after earning a 21-6 advantage at the break.
The Indians went on to topple Amelia, 28-6, behind the all-around efforts of Mike Carmack and Ragle. The victory set up a battle with undefeated and high-scoring Anderson in week four. The Redskins were averaging 41 points per contest, leading all Cincinnati squads. In three games, Anderson had outscored its opponents 123-14.
If ever there was a time for a statement, for a signature win, that game provided the opportunity for Norwood.
The newspapers had picked Anderson – it had beaten Norwood in each of the last two years and the Redskins were clearly one of the top teams in the city in 1991. Anderson running back Jason Druso led area running backs with 13.7 yards per carry and, along with fellow running back Lou Andreadis, had totaled more than 500 yards on the ground in three games.
Marc entered the game still in recovery from strep throat, but he had 411 rushing yards to his credit, which put him at fifth in the city rankings. The big running back needed 210 yards to break the school rushing record and Barre predicted that if he accomplished the feat, Norwood would send Anderson home a loser for the first time that year.
In order to compete against the Redskins, Barre had to unleash his offense and flush any conservative notions down the drain. After the Indian defense shut down Anderson on its first drive, Norwood’s offense popped the Redskins in their mouth. On the first play from scrimmage, Ragle dropped back and uncorked a 69-yard bomb to Steve Berling, placing the Indians at the Anderson 10-yard line. On play two, Marc grabbed the handoff from Ragle and blasted through a gaping hole at the line of scrimmage and punched it into the end zone. The running back added the extra point and Norwood led early, 7-0.
Norwood’s score kick-started a circus-like back-and-forth affair. Anderson tied the game with about four minutes to play in the first quarter, but the Indians responded with fireworks again. This time, a 42-yard touchdown pass from Ragle to Carmack gave the Indians a 14-7 lead after the opening quarter. The game would slow down a bit in the second quarter as neither team scored. Anderson threatened twice, but both times, Marc forced fumbles with crushing collisions from his middle linebacker position.
Late in the third quarter, Anderson ended the scoring drought and tied the score at 14, but the Norwood defense took over from there. Anderson was poised to take the lead early in the fourth quarter, but Carmack picked off an errant Jason Bell pass and raced 70 yards for the score, giving the Indians a 21-14 advantage.
But back came the Anderson Redskins on a monumental drive of their own. The game was like a heavyweight fight; both teams swinging and landing solid jabs and occasionally uppercuts. The Redskins drove all the way to the Norwood nine-yard line in just seven plays. On fourth and one, Andreadis took the handoff but was stopped at the line of scrimmage, turning the ball over to the Indians.
During a timeout, Barre gathered his players together in the huddle.
“All right guys,” he shouted. “Let’s put together a nice long five-minute drive and close this damn game out!”
Ragle called out the first play – a tailback run up the middle – and the team broke the huddle and jogged to the line of scrimmage. With the crowds from both teams on their feet and screaming cheers into the night sky, Ragle barked the cadence. The ball was snapped and Ragle turned and handed the ball to Marc, who was charging at full speed.
The big junior cut to his left, plowed through a hole in the line and rumbled like a runaway locomotive for 91 yards and the game-clinching touchdown. The play took barely 10 seconds from handoff to score. After adding the extra point, Norwood led 28-14. When Marc got to the sideline, his coach smiled and shook his head.
“Dammit Marc, I wanted you to score, but you could have taken some time off the clock. Nice five-minute drive.”
Anderson still hung on to a thread of hope, but that thread snapped when Jimmie Cobb intercepted Bell and returned the ball 36 yards for another touchdown – Norwood’s third score in less than four minutes. Anderson managed a touchdown late in the game, but the damage had already been done. Norwood held on for a stunning 34-20 victory in front of the home crowd. Marc finished with 202 yards rushing – eight shy of the record – but Barre’s prediction still came to fruition.
The win over Anderson (Anderson’s only loss that year) got people talking. Norwood had basically handled what was considered to be one of the best teams in the city. After falling in the opener, Norwood had just ripped off three dominating victories. It was then that the excitement really started to blossom for the Indian football team.
“The fans were really starting to get excited,” Ken Carter said. “Each week, more and more people came. Coming from a small blue-collar town, this was as close to royalty as we could get.”
Even the non-typical fans started showing up across the stadium by the railroad tracks to see what all the fuss was about.
“You’d see these guys, the Metallica t-shirt wearing guys with long hair, over there on the train tracks drinking six-packs,” Carter recalled. “They never went to our games before, but now they were. Everyone was getting caught up in it.”
The win over Anderson – the Indians’ third over a Division I school – put Norwood atop the Division II, Region 8 point standings. The top four schools from each region in the state qualified for the Ohio High School playoffs. With three games remaining against Division I schools, Barre felt his team had a good chance of earning a playoff berth for the first time in school history.
In week five of the season, Norwood got no resistance from Division II and conference foe Hughes. The Indians roared to a 35-0 shutout behind Marc’s 201 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Marc’s total gave him the Norwood career rushing record over Mike Pinson, who rushed for 2,541 yards from 1986-88. Marc had amassed the record yardage in just 25 career games. In only five games during his junior season, Marc had rushed for 813 yards.
Against 3-2 Winton Woods in week six, Marc raised eyebrows all over the Midwest and had everyone talking about the 2,000 yard plateau. In a 20-7 victory over Winton Woods, Marc scored all of the team’s points by rushing for three touchdowns. But his scoring was eclipsed by the sheer quantity of real estate he covered with the pigskin in his tree trunk arms. Marc carried the ball 29 times and amassed 343 rushing yards, which put another school record under Marc’s name in the Norwood record book. He had 146 yards at the intermission and, in the fourth quarter, rumbled for 113 more yards.
While Marc was getting all the press for his astronomical statistics, his teammates often found themselves draped by his huge shadow. They didn’t complain, though, and went about their work. Marc recognized this and made sure to mention his teammates’ names, especially the offensive linemen, when speaking to reporters after games.
Norwood coaches handed out hatchet stickers to deserving players. The stickers would then be placed on their helmet as a reward. Marc certainly got his share.
“Marc got so many of those stickers,” Carter remembered. “He’d get so many that his helmet was so damn full of them. So he’d give us his extra hatchet stickers and tell us that they were because we blocked so well for him. He was so good about stuff like that.”
Walnut Hills was next on Norwood’s hit list and for the second week in a row, Marc scored all of the team’s points in a 14-0 shutout win. He ran all over the field for 177 more rushing yards. It was the sixth straight victory for the high-flying Indians and the victory put Norwood in a tie for first place in the QCCN with rival Harrison and a ninth-place ranking in the city standings.
Week eight featured the game of the year in the Queen City Conference: a tilt between Norwood and Harrison. This game would effectively decide the division champion. It was a game that would certainly surpass the pre-game hype.
The euphoria of six straight Indian victories soon melted into a quagmire of shock and disappointment. In front of a fired-up home crowd, Norwood watched as visiting Harrison took control of the game in the first half. Harrison scored on a 22-yard run in the first quarter and then took a 14-0 lead in the second period. But it was the third touchdown of the half that ripped the hearts out of Norwood fans, players, and coaches. Harrison had the ball at the close of the first half and set up a pass on the final play. The ball was tipped way incomplete, but in came a fluttering yellow flag.
Holding on the defense.
The penalty gave Harrison one final shot from the Norwood 20-yard line with no time on the clock. Quarterback Mike Huff dropped back in the pocket to pass and then sailed the ball toward the end zone. The ball was tipped by a Harrison receiver and fell into the waiting hands of Scott Johnson for a stunning and back-breaking score.
As the Indians sauntered toward their locker room under the cloud of a 21-point deficit, taunts rained down on the city’s leading rusher from the visitors section in the stands. Marc turned to the Harrison faithful and smiled a knowing smirk, much to the chagrin of Coach Barre.
“Marc!” Barre screamed. “What the hell are you smiling about? You haven’t done a damn thing out there and you’re laughing?”
Marc’s smile disappeared when he got into the locker room and saw his dejected teammates. He glanced over and saw 6-foot-4-inch, 255 pound lineman Dave Hubbard with his head buried in his hands. Marc snapped.
“Dave was the biggest, meanest son of a gun,” Marc said. “He was in there with his head down and he was normally one of the most intense people out there. I just went off on him. I was pissed. I got him fired up and we all went out for the second half with a purpose.”
When the Indians reached the field, Marc looked over and saw the Harrison players dancing on the sidelines. They had the game won, in their minds.
“Harrison was a bunch of …” Marc stopped in mid thought. “They were tough. Seeing them dancing over there, I thought that was classless. That just motivated us, especially in front of our home fans.”
Norwood quickly got on the board in the second half behind Marc’s ground attack. He plowed into the end zone from two yards out to cut the deficit to 21-6. He missed the extra point, though, making the mountain that much harder to ascend.
Late in the third quarter, Norwood got closer. Ragle found J.R. Farrell for a 22-yard touchdown strike as the crowd began to get back into the game. Marc could not convert the two-point try, leaving the Indians still two scores down.
As the Norwood defense continued to shut down the Harrison attack, the intensity of the game grew as the seconds tick, tick, ticked off the clock. Time was becoming an enemy of the Indians.
Late in the fourth quarter, Norwood methodically pounded its way down the gridiron. Needing two scores, the Indians also needed a miracle. With about 42 seconds remaining in the game, Marc took a handoff and squirted his way into the end zone. Barre called for the extra point try and Marc nailed the kick to cut the deficit to 21-19 in favor of Harrison.
Everyone in the stadium knew what had to happen as Norwood lined up for the on-side kick. Marc was the kicker and Barre lined up two of his biggest guys on either side of Marc. The 210-pound All-Everything tapped the ball with his foot and trailed behind as his two buddies plowed through any Harrison player with aspirations of recovering the loose football. After the ball went the required 10 yards, Marc pounced onto the ground and quickly became part of a pile of limbs and cleats. He grappled with anyone who tried to reach for the ball. When the referees pulled body after body off of the pile, Marc stood and raised one arm. In his hand was the football.
“The place was just going absolutely nuts,” Marc said. “It was incredible to be a part of. After the terrible first half we played, we now had a chance to win the darn thing.”
Barre calmly called in the offensive plays and Norwood executed them to perfection, one of which was a 20-yard catch and run by Marc. The Indians managed to move the ball to the Harrison 17-yard line with just two seconds on the clock. Instead of trying for a desperation touchdown attempt, Barre put the game on Marc’s shoulders, or rather on the toe of his huge cleat. His junior captain had already carried the team this far. Now a 34-yard field goal was the difference between a crushing loss and a thrilling come-from-behind victory.
The field goal unit took the field as Marc lined up behind the ball. He had never made an attempt this far before, but he was confident. Barre stood on the sidelines with his hands on his knees, trying to get the best angle. Fans stood quietly in the stands, some with hands over their eyes, some literally out of breath.
The ball was snapped and Marc approached the ball. His big right leg cut through the air and struck the ball with great speed. The ball sailed into the night sky and drifted toward the goal posts. As the ball crossed the posts, the Norwood manager jumped into the air with his hands high. Barre stood tall and gasped. Marc was ready to release in a primal celebration until he saw the referees waiving their arms and signaling that the ball had sailed wide to the left.
Marc’s heart fluttered and sank as he crumbled to the cold grass and mud. Harrison’s players rushed the field to celebrate the crucial conference victory as Barre still stood in utter disbelief.
“To this day, I swear to God he made that field goal,” Barre said. “Our manager saw it go through; I thought it was good, but the official said he missed it. I guess it was wide left.”
The game still causes Marc grief.
“I kicked the ball well,” he said. “It would have been good from 60 yards. I thought it went through; I just destroyed the ball. Every angle, it looked good, I guess except from where the officials were standing. That one still burns me. That’s a game we should have had.”
It was one of the more remarkable performances in his career and one that his teammates will always remember.
“He was amazing,” Ken Carter said. “He was so determined to win that game. We were getting our butts kicked the first half and then Marc led a great comeback. I was proud to be a part of that game. We almost got the win. I hate to use the word ‘almost.’ In our hearts, we know we won that game.”
As it stood, Harrison earned the important victory and improved to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the QCCN. Norwood dropped to 6-2, 3-1 respectively. The Indians were still in good shape to qualify for the state playoffs, but they needed help to win a share of the conference. Norwood had to defeat Northwest the following week and Harrison had to lose to Winton Woods.
Only one of those requirements was met in week nine. Behind Marc’s astonishing 310 rushing yards and three touchdowns, Norwood outraced Northwest, 32-26. But Harrison took the QCCN crown with a victory over Winton Woods.
Attention quickly turned from trying to win a conference crown to earning a playoff berth for the Indians. Another milestone also came within reach for Marc. After his 310 yard output against Northwest, Marc was 232 yards away from reaching 2,000 yards during the season. The last player to rush for 2,000 yards was Carlos Snow, who played at the Cincinnati Academy of Physical Education (CAPE) – which was dubbed Jock Tech by some critics of the school’s practices. Snow, who went on to play college football at Ohio State, had rushed for 2,336 yards in 1985 and 2,489 in 1986, but never did he rush for 2,000 yards during the regular season. It took him four post-season games in each season to amass his record yardage.
Going into the final game against Roger Bacon, Marc led the area in rushing by 293 yards; his second Cincinnati-area rushing title had been all but locked up.
There would be no drama on the final Friday night of the regular season as Marc carried the ball 37 times for 306 yards and four touchdowns, capping an incredible season. Marc’s total not only finished off a city rushing title for the second year in a row, it gave him more rushing yards – 2,074 – than any running back in the entire state of Ohio that year.
The Indians destroyed Roger Bacon 40-16, but more importantly, they most likely secured a spot in the post-season for the first time in school history – they only had to wait for the computers to do their thing and for a call from the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock, the players pumped their fists and milled around the field not wanting the night to end. Usually, the season closed its doors on that final Friday night, but 1991 was different. Norwood attendance more than tripled from a year prior and it seemed as if each fan didn’t want the night to end either. But no matter how long the fans and players patrolled the cold grass that night, they’d have to go to bed eventually. They would have to wonder if they did enough to earn a playoff berth.
The waiting was the only painful part about that night.

Saturday came and went and still no one from Norwood had been notified with the official announcement of a play-off berth. On Sunday afternoon at precisely 3:15, the telephone rang. Coach Barre answered the phone and heard the sweet news the city of Norwood had been expecting.
“Congratulations,” the voice said. “You’ve qualified for the playoffs. You’ll be playing Dayton Dunbar next Friday at Centerville. Best of luck to you.”
The roar of the players and boosters that gathered for the phone call that cold November day could be heard from corner to corner in the streets of Norwood.
On Monday morning, residents of Norwood picked up newspapers off of wet, frosty grass or off of sticky tables at breakfast haunts throughout the community. What they read were headlines never before written about their beloved Indians:

Norwood Playoff Bound: Boosters, players alike caught up in school ‘first’

It was celebrity time for Marc and the rest of the Norwood football team. Everyone in the community was relishing their moment.
“Norwood needed something like this,” Ken Carter said. “People looked at Norwood like it was a hick town and that it was not a nice place to live. Norwood needed that team. They needed that success.”
Everyone wanted a piece of that team. They were getting police escorts and churches would have the team over for dinner banquets. Never mind the dismal state of the local economy, Norwood was going to the playoffs.
Some people still didn’t look at the Norwood team as that impressive, however. Dunbar coach Tom Montgomery was quoted in the Dayton Daily News as saying Norwood quarterback Eric Ragle was just an “average” quarterback despite his more than 1,100 yards through the air. Marc Edwards was the only one they needed to worry about, the coach implied. Montgomery also looked past the Indians to a possible rematch with St. Mary’s Memorial, which had toppled Dunbar in the 1990 Regional Final. And most of the newspapers agreed with Montgomery, picking Dunbar to advance and Norwood to wilt under the spotlight of its first post-season experience.
Riding in chartered buses, the Norwood football team arrived in style at Centerville High School. The 42-mile trek ended in the stadium parking lot and the masses of red-and-blue-clad Indian fans cheered as Marc and his teammates exited the bus into the frigid Ohio air. The game was a pseudo home game for Dunbar, which was only 13 miles away, but looking at the fans who packed the stadium, it was hard to tell which school was closer.
Norwood is a close-knit, everybody-knows-everybody town. When people succeed, the town celebrates. When people fail, you can rest assured most Norwood residents will find out about it before the week’s end.
Norwood’s football program didn’t have the best winning tradition, but everyone in that town was taking full advantage of that fantastic moment in its history. They knew it was a season that people would talk about for a lifetime. And on that night, there was no doubt which team was the “home” team. All you had to do was look up at the throng of standing Norwood fans screaming while a near-empty section of Dunbar fans silently sat.
Norwood and Dunbar were a contrast of styles. Dunbar was a high-flying, big-play type of team while Norwood was perfectly happy grinding out chunks of gridiron on the back of its stud running back. Norwood was big and strong. Dunbar was sleek and fast. Dunbar had been there before. Norwood had not.
And so, on a frigid Friday night that would make Green Bay fans shiver, the contrasting styles met on a frozen tundra of their own in west-central Ohio.
“During warm-ups, I was kicking footballs and they felt like damn bricks,” Marc said. “It was horrible. So damn cold.”
Norwood received the ball first and immediately looked like the playoff veterans. In a seven-play, 53-yard opening drive, the Indians pounded the ball up the middle and ran misdirections to keep the quick Wolverines from attacking. Ragle capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Mike Carmack – the beginning of a stat-stuffing day for Carmack, who had spent the majority of the season as an understudy to Marc’s leading role.
After the opening score, Dunbar used its speed to run away from the seemingly overmatched Indians. The Wolverines scored on a 25-yard run in the first quarter and then again on a 17-yard pass in the second quarter to take a 14-7 lead at the intermission. They pushed their lead to 20-7 in the third quarter after a 34-yard touchdown pass.
Fans in the stands may have been hushed, but the Norwood players knew they weren’t dead yet.
“I wasn’t worried,” Marc said. “I knew they would get tired.”
As the third quarter wore on, Marc’s prediction came true. Marc battered the Dunbar defense with power runs and when the Wolverines were beaten from trying to tackle the big running back, Carmack used his quickness to torch the secondary.
Late in the third quarter, Carmack began the comeback.
On a field goal attempt that could cut the lead to 20-10, Carmack, the holder, took the snap and stood tall looking for an open receiver. He did not find one so he began to run. He skittered to the left and then to the right and finally heaved the ball downfield. All alone in the end zone was Ken Carter who snagged the ball for a touchdown in a momentum-changing shocker. The game was not over, much to the chagrin of Montgomery and his Wolverines. Their rematch with St. Mary’s Memorial would have to wait as Norwood crept to within six at 20-14.
The Indian defense turned stout, stopping the faster Wolverines on their ensuing possession. After Dunbar punted, Norwood found itself 73 yards away from its goal. Five plays later, Carmack raced around the left end for a shocking 20-yard touchdown run. Again, it was Marc who set ’em up, and Carmack who knocked ’em down.
Tied at 20 apiece, Marc lined up for the go-ahead extra point. The ball was snapped and Marc swung his leg at the ball. It lifted off of the ground, but was immediately swatted out of the air. The huge block by the Dunbar defense kept the score knotted at 20 late in the fourth quarter.
On its responding possession, Dunbar was shocked by the quickness of one of Norwood’s biggest players. The Wolverines were driving and were near mid-field. Highly touted quarterback Latrell Turner dropped back to pass and the Norwood coaches knew what was coming and began screaming, “Screen! Screen!” Defensive tackle Dave Hubbard stood his ground and stepped between Turner and his intended receiver. The big tackle clawed at the ball and intercepted the pass. He rumbled to the Wolverines’ 28-yard line, giving the Indians a golden chance to put the finishing touches on a stunning second-half comeback.
On first down, the ball went to Marc who galloped 24 yards to the four-yard line as the large Norwood contingent screamed as their breath lofted into the sky as puffy white clouds. Carmack’s number was called next and he responded with the game-winning touchdown as Centerville High School became Norwood High School North.
Defensive back Steve Cole wrapped up the 27-20 victory by recovering a fumble on Dunbar’s final drive.
The final gun sounded and hysteria hit the thrilled Norwood fans and the players who fought for 48 minutes under the frigid late autumn sky. People raced up and down the field, congratulating anyone in a white Norwood uniform. The Indians had just taken their first playoff appearance and found a way to turn it into an improbable, thrilling first playoff victory.
“When the game ended, it was just crazy,” Marc said. “Everyone was screaming and running on the field. It was awesome. Then the local access channel comes up to interview me and my mouth is frozen. No one could understand a word I said.”
Teachers would play that video the next week in class to share a laugh with Marc and the students of Norwood High School. It was, after all, still football season in Norwood.
Marc didn’t make it into the end zone that night, but his presence was most definitely felt by the Dunbar defensive unit. He amassed 184 yards rushing on 41 bruising carries and, on defense, he led the Norwood squad in tackles.
“I could see that Dunbar was getting tired in the third period,” Barre said after the game. “No one wanted to tackle Marc near the end. Their kids were falling all over the field in the fourth period.”
As for Montgomery, he found out that Norwood was more than a one-man team. He had his hands full with Marc, but the speed of Carmack and accuracy of Ragle were more than the Wolverines could handle. Had Dunbar won, Montgomery wouldn’t have gotten his wish of a rematch with St. Mary’s Memorial because it, too, was upset in its playoff opener by Marysville, setting up an unlikely Regional Final between the No. 4 Monarchs and the No. 3 Indians.
Again, a large contingent of Norwood supporters made the trek, this time to the University of Dayton’s Welcome Stadium. But after a close game dominated by the defenses, Norwood’s season came to a depressing end in a 14-0 shutout – the second straight shutout for the Marysville defense. Barre’s pre-game fears of Marysville’s hard-hitting 4-4 defense came true as the Monarchs throttled Marc and Norwood’s high-scoring offensive unit. Marc finished with only 84 yards while the team, as a whole, could only muster 183 total yards.
In just a few years, though, Norwood had improved from 0-10 to 9-3 with a couple of playoff games under its belt. With Marc coming back as a senior with seemingly unlimited potential, the Indians were nearly a lock to make a repeat appearance in the post-season.
"I figured we'd be back," Marc said. "We had a great year and I had no doubt we'd do it again."
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