Practice for Colton was challenging over the next couple of days but he
performed well in spite of the group of Michael supporters who continued
to purposely let defenders come through unblocked or barely blocked.
Colton learned which linemen were doing this and adjusted his play. On
one play, his right guard Tyrone Barnes made this too obvious when he
let a linebacker through to blindside Colton after an attempted pass.
The offensive coach pulled Tyrone to the side and yelled at him.
“What’s wrong with you boy? You know how to block the linebacker.
If you do that again I am going to replace you and you will be riding
Colton stepped in.
“Coach, coach….it wasn’t all Tyrone’s fault.”
Both the coach and Tyrone looked at Colton surprised.
“It was probably me. I wasn’t clear on the snap count and I
disrupted the play from the beginning.”
Colton hadn’t done it but he covered for Tyrone.
They coach looked at Colton and then to Tyrone. Tyrone was still
stunned. He knew that was true. He had clearly heard the snap count
yet Colton was taking the blame for the busted play.
“Why did he do that? He had no reason to take the blame.” He
thought to himself.
Tyrone also heard the threat of the coach about benching him. He
didn’t need to lose his job. He was a senior and didn’t want to
risk not playing.
In the huddle, Colton called the play.
“Okay, let’s go with fake 31 drive, 96 pass on two. On TWO.
Everyone got it?”
Colton swatted Tyrone lightly on his helmet.
In unison they clapped and yelled: “Break”
On the snap, Colton faked to the left to the fullback and backed up to
pass. Tyrone took care of his assignment and blocked the linebacker.
He not only blocked him but flattened him. Colton looked downfield and
found Harvey Lee with a direct strike. Harvey Lee hauled in the pass
and outran the defense for a touchdown.
The coaches were ecstatic.
“That’s right! That’s right! That’s the way it oughtta be!”
Yelled Coach Turner.
Harvey Lee high fived Colton when he got back to the group.
“Nice throw cornflake!” He said.
“It’s nice when you got guys blocking for you. It makes my job a
lot easier.” Colton said.
Tyrone looked over at Michael. Michael shook his head in disgust. He
was disappointed in Tyrone and he showed it by turning his back.
Tyrone looked back at the other linemen. They were pumped at the good
play. Tyrone smiled and joined in with them.
There were a lot of other good plays like that with Colton behind
center. Michael was so distracted that other players seemed to be
caving in to the pressure that he didn’t function so well on his times
under the center.
“What’s wrong with you Mike?” Coaches yelled at him.
He was all flustered and everyone could see it.
After practice he let everyone know about it in the locker room.
“You all are chicken white boy lovers that’s all I gotta say about
today! You want to make HIM look good and sell out your team. This
ain’t what Westside football is all about.”
Nobody looked at him or even acknowledged that they heard him.
Colton heard him. Every word. He hesitated about responding to
Michael’s obvious comments but now he thought it was the right time as
long as he did it with a cool head.
“Michael, if we won the state championship would it matter to you if
you had a white boy blocking for you or catching the winning touchdown
The locker room got quiet. No one moved.
“Man you ain’t nothing. What choo talking about?” Michael
“Hey I know you don’t like me come in here trying out for
quarterback. That’s no secret to me but why hold back the team from
seeing how good we could be by playing together regardless of what color
Michael shrugged his shoulders and waved him off as he walked away.
“White boy you don’t know what you think you know.”
Harvey Lee flicked Colton lightly with a towel and gave him a nod up.
Apparently Harvey Lee approved.
Tyrone gave Colton the thumbs up.
Colton went back to changing out of his uniform and putting up his
equipment. He felt a change in the atmosphere in the locker room. He
didn’t have to do anything big. All he had to do with just be himself
and be consistent. He had done that. The team saw that and was
responding. He still might not become the starting quarterback but they
recognized a leader although they were still a long way from admitting
Colton was whistling a tune when both his mom and dad picked him up from
“It must have gone well today,” his dad commented on the obvious.
“It is getting better. It was a good day today,” he answered.
As they drove off he was reminded of another harsh reality by the school
sign board. School starts on Monday. Was he ready for that?
Practice went well the next two days as everyone got into the routine
and coaches continued to shift players to several positions. Michael
started focusing more on his game rather than stirred up players for a
mutiny. Michael was more athletic and quicker on his feet than Colton
but Colton was a more accurate passer. Since the locker room exchange,
it became more competition on the field rather than in the locker room.
Of the three quarterbacks vying for the position it was clear that the
competition was between Colton and Michael. They each possessed their
own talents and skills to claim the starting job. Michael was pumped
when he would make a good play and his teammates cheered him on. There
was no way the coaches wouldn’t start him ahead of Colton. This was
Westside High School, not the country bumpkin school where Colton came
from. He felt confident that the coaches wouldn’t go against the
tradition or “culture” of the school. Even with all that in the
unspoken air of practice, Colton still did his job and played the best
of his ability without regard to who was or was not in Michael’s camp.
Excerpted from "Passing Toward The Prize" by Milton Hooper. Copyright © 2017 by Milton Hooper. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.