Spring ball, in and of itself, was a blessing. It meant an end to winter conditioning. It also meant we got a chance to put on pads and hit people. For a guy like me, that was a treat from the Football Gods. As I told my buddy The Key Play, I wasn't much for weight lifting or running.
So, for me, spring was a true gift. No game plan, no scout team, real competition and aside from quarterbacks, no one was off limits. Those fifteen practices and the meetings that came with them were infinitely better than mat drills and hard gainer lifts and such.
We start with that point because perspective is key; the worst part of spring is still better than the best part of winter conditioning, folks. That said, there are certainly worst parts of spring ball. There are also best parts. For fans, the spring game is a favorite part because that's when they get to see whole deal. For me, the spring game was only great because my parents came, and I got to go have a good dinner after.
I'll stop short of calling the spring game the worst. It is as middling as it gets, though. A time consuming show for the masses and, if you're a middle guy like myself, a game you have to play every snap of. The starters are done with their 15-20 snaps and they are making jokes, the terrible players are looking around hoping the coach remembers they are on the team, and then there's me who is just in for a thousand snaps because coach knows I won't embarrass him by blowing a coverage.
The absolute worst part of spring are the Rudy guys. The un-invited, not preferred walk-ons that show up, try out and get so gassed up on Sean Astin that they think they have a shot. They read the school newspaper, realize there is an open tryout and then show up in their ill-fitting high school gear and think they will out work people to make a name for themselves.
These guys are not good athletes. "Stay off legs" is the mantra at football practice and these clowns are falling down all over the place. There's a reason they didn't get recruited out of high school.
The other worst part of spring is film. If you've been reading Your Best 11, then you know I love film and the teaching aspect of film. However, when you're 19 years old and the coach is watching every single step and head turn that you make on film, it can be draining.
Especially if you give up a touchdown.
"So, Felder, what happened on this play?"
"Coach, I was reading the quarterback and I just lost the tight end."
"Lost him? Look at your feet here. What are you doing?"
"Um, I don't know."
"What are you looking at? Why is your head in here? Play's going that way."
"Coach, I, um, I don't know."
Then he emphatically circles you with the laser pointer and stands up, makes some jokes about how you are out of sorts, the room laughs and he keeps going.
Unlike during the week, where time is an issue and you have to get things going for the game plan, spring gives you a chance to watch all of the tape. You can watch both corners and both safeties every step for every play. Great teaching tool when you're not in the play. Terrible buzz kill when you are the guy getting ripped apart.
Even with film as one of the worst parts, there is some good to it. Basically, anytime you make a play, then you get to watch a step by step replay of it the next day, as your entire position group gives you propers.
In football fan terms, the best part of spring is when you blow a play up, know you blew the play up and just keep it moving. A wide receiver trying to get to the void, a quarterback who thinks he's got the arm and the green light to hit; recipe for a spring success.
You get off the hash, blow him up and then look at the camera or mean mug to the sidelines and buddy, you're a legend for the day. Actually, a legend for two days, because when you walk into film the day after, coach is going to show everything you did right, and your teammates will all be patting you on the back.
The other best part of spring is the fights.
Defensive linemen versus offensive linemen. Cornerbacks versus wide receivers. Linebackers versus running backs. Safeties versus tight ends. Quarterbacks versus no one because they don't fight; I don't think they are any good at it. Seriously, I know one quarterback who can fight and he ended up getting moved to fullback.
You spend every practice hitting the same guy over and over again, and then you get sick of it and sick of each other, then you fight. And because of the way football is structured, when you start fighting everyone else fights too. None of the fights make sense. You're punching someone's helmet with your hand, and it does not hurt them. It only hurts you.
I know I cannot explain this to people, but the thrill you get from a good fight at practice is priceless. Not because you beat the heck out of someone or you do any real damage. But because the release and the jokes that come after make it golden.
You get to laugh at the guys who get beat up. You get to laugh at the guys who shy away from the fight. You get to applaud the winner. Basically, a practice fight is sketch comedy the day after.
For me, that is spring football. Bad players falling down all over the place, coaches berating you in film, blowing up plays and fighting. Mix in some installations, 7-on-7, individual drills and air horns and you have spring ball, folks.