When I played quarterback for the Minnesota Gophers in the 1950s, we had to play both offense and defense. After WW II, unlimited substitution was allowed as many more veterans returned to college, but for a limited time thereafter it was done away with, and we all had to play sixty minutes.
The NCAA realized the hardship this put on players so it determined that if you were hurt and missed a game you would get a one-time extension on your eligibility, two weeks for every game you missed.
(NCAA Rule 17A: Section 207: Deferred Eligibility 1958)
Hear me out: Since I broke my hand in practice during my senior year and missed two games, I now find myself with four weeks of eligibility remaining. The only caveat is the extension expires after fifty-nine years. Tick-Tock.
My legs, which Sports Illustrated pointed out in 1958 made me “not much of a running threat” have atrophied to the point that rolling out the garbage cans weekly feels like a quarterback sneak on third-and-one gone terribly wrong.
Playing safety is out as well seeing I needed so much help covering deep routes on those long ago autumn days of football.
But my arm is a different story. I can still, at 83, throw twenty-yard strikes matching a Koufax fastball, with just enough spinning spiral to reach the back of the end zone in a blur.
In 1956, when we won at Michigan Stadium in one of the greatest comebacks in Gopher football history, there were five-thousand fans cheering our arrival back at the Minneapolis airport. It was a thrill when I had been put into that game late, sternly instructed to adhere to the Hippocratic Oath of physicians and mop-up quarterbacks, i.e., “Do no harm!”
Two years later, in 1958, in one of the most spirited Little Brown Jug battles in that wonderful Minnesota-Michigan rivalry, I had the opportunity to bring the Jug back to Minneapolis again–all I needed to do was complete a late-game two-point conversion to go up by 21-20 to grab the win. Alas, my pass tipped off the hands of my receiver deep in the end zone and we lost, only a few sad fans greeting us at the airport upon our return.
I have three weeks to prepare to go back to Michigan Stadium once again to claim my own field of dreams.
I am working on my foot work to pick up blitzing linebackers or evade the backside rush should my blind side tackle miss his block. I’ll leave my cane in the locker room.
All I need is a small window of opportunity to achieve the goal I thought lost those many years ago.
So imbued am I with this redemptive opportunity, I have moved my cataract operation up by two weeks to be at my optical best, nailing that open receiver this time in that fabled football gridiron galaxy, far, far, away.
Hut one, Hut two.