QB1 by Frederick Foote
QB1 by Frederick Foote
He was a seventeen-year-old black as sin, boy with a smile that would light up the Coliseum. At six feet two inches and one hundred eighty pounds with exceptionally long limbs ending in oversized feet and hands, Ahmad Rollins, Jr. looked too light to fight and too thin to win.
He arrived at Dublin High School in the heart of the Texas football country in the second week of school.
After his first day of school, he ambled out to observe the Dublin Dukes football practice. Ahmad paid particular attention to the quarterbacks.
Thirty minutes of observation later, the lanky boy popped up off his bleacher seat, skipped down the steps, crossed the track, and stood next to Harley’ Red’ Larson, the second-winningest high school head coach in Texas’ history.
Coach Larson eyed the wiry Negro boy who had obviously ignored the prominent “Players only on the field” signs. Red immediately pegged the insolent boy to be a wide receiver, tight end, or defensive back who lacked discipline. Larson saw potential. The Coach was always evaluating potential and mentally fitting that promise into his game plans.
Red turned to Ahmad and snapped, “Son, can’t you read? You aren’t on this team; you have no business here. Get your ass back up in the stands.”
Ahmad didn’t jump or look frightened or impressed. The boy turned on his 1,000-watt smile and offered Coach his hand. “Coach, I’m Ahmad Rollins, Jr. I can read – defenses better than any QB on your team. I can pass better, scramble better than any QB you ever seen in your entire life. I’m your new starting QB.”
Coach started laughing, and the laughing kept building until he was sobbing and holding his sides. The practice stopped as everyone turned to see Coach, who rarely smiled, be consumed by glee.
Finally, gaining partial control of his mirth and wiping tears from his eyes, Coach responded to Ahmad. “Son, son… You, you must be from out of state. That’s Cody Smallwood. He’s the best high school QB in Texas. Shit, he has full-ride offers from a dozen schools. He will be an NFL first-round pick.” Coach paused to control another laughter spasm. “And my QB-2 is Jessy James Smith. Personally, I think Jessy might even be a better QB eventually. And—”
Ahmad smiles even brighter than Coach thought possible. “Number Three is Hunter Murphy. I seen them all play. They very good. I like them, especially Hunter. I think he’s the pick of the litter. Coach, I’m better, faster, smarter. I am your starting QB.”
Coach looked into Ahmad’s bright brown eyes and thought, This nigger is crazy. He must be on something. I need to get him the hell off my field. “Ahmad, that’s your name? Well, whatever your name is, you need to get the hell off my goddamn field right now. Get! Before I kick your ass out of here. Move goddamn it! Move!”
Ahmad shook his head as he slowly left the practice field.
Coach was unnerved by his contact with the Ahmad boy.
The second-winningest high school head coach in Texas’ history was angry at himself for losing control and bursting into laughter. Keeping control was the essential task of every leader. You can’t keep others under control if you can’t control yourself.
Another thing that bothered Coach was that the interloper had implied that Hunter, the black quarterback, was the best of the three. Now that was just not true at all. Coach had heard whispers and rumors about him holding Hunter back from being QB-1 because the boy was black. Shit. It was Smallwood’s’ turn to be QB-1. His dad and his uncle had been QB-1s. The Smallwoods put a lot of money into the Dublin High School’s football program. Hunter would just have to wait his turn. That’s the way life was sometimes. It had nothing to do with color.
The other thing that had disturbed Coach was the boy had come to the school knowing who his quarterbacks were and had seen them play and still thought he was the best. Ahmad had elephant balls. It was this arrogance, this absolute certainty that he was the better of the four quarterbacks that rocked Coach’s world. What if this boy was the best high school QB he had ever seen? What then?
Coach entered his kitchen through the garage door as his sixteen-year-old daughter, Lois, stepped into the garage with her car keys in hand.
“Where’re you going at this hour? Shouldn’t you be studying?”
“Dad, I’m going to study with Janet and Brandy. How was practice?”
“Fine. Just fine. I want you back in this house by ten. Got it?”
“Got it, Dad. Why’re you so grouchy?”
“I’m not – Before ten. I mean it, Lois.”
Coach walked into his kitchen and was greeted by his twelve-year-old daughter, Charity, dressed in cut-off jeans that exposed her buttocks and a top that exposed her midriff. As always, his youngest child had a phone to her ear.
“Charity! Get off that damn phone and put on some clothes that cover your ass. How many times do I—”
“Okay! Okay! Don’t stroke out on me.”
Charity shouted as she bounced out of the kitchen, “Mom, Dad’s losing it again.”
“I’m not losing it!” Coach grabbed a beer from the fridge and slumped into a kitchen chair. “I’m not.”
Coach’s wife, Wilhelmina, entered the kitchen wearing sky-high heels, a black dress a size too small, pearls, and a pound of makeup.
Wilhelmina waves a chiding finger at Coach, “Harley, get up off your ass. We have to be at the Smallwood’s in thirty minutes. Hit the shower, Coach.”
“What? Is that tonight? Shit. You should have reminded me, Winnie.”
“Up, up and away, Harley. No excuses. I texted you three times today about this.”
Chuck Smallwood, Cody’s dad, greeted the Larsons at the door, “Winnie, you are looking extravagantly fine as always.” Chuck hugs Winnie. “Hey, Coach, how’s it hanging? We’re going to get the state championship this year for sure, right?”
Fifteen minutes into the dinner, Coach had responded to a version of that query at least ten times.
After dinner, Chuck pulls Coach, into Chuck’s trophy-laden den and closes the door. “Coach, I tell you this in strictest confidence. The School Board wants to appoint Al Jacobs as Assistant Head Coach. Now, listen close, Harley. They need to have a black Assistant Head Coach or a black Head Coach. The black parents are pushing hard.”
“Chuck, that’s so much bullshit. It’s Lane Turner’s time. He’s been with me for seven years. He deserves his shot.”
“Lane’s a good man. I want to see him take over when you retire or move on to college coaching. I do. But now we have to deal with this black pressure thing carefully. We’re on track to make our most serious run at the state championship. We can’t muddy the waters here. We can’t have Cody’s best receivers transferring out. That would kill us. You know that.”
“That’s not going to happen. Those boys love playing with Cody.”
“Coach, they ain’t calling the shots – their parents are. The black parents and some of your players too, are pissed about Hunter Murphy not being starting QB after his heroics last year. You know that, right?”
“Cody is the best—”
“I know that, and you know that, but these black parents have a long list of grievances about you not hiring Negro coaches for over a decade. I mean, we have to give them something. I know you understand that, right?”
“Shit! Chuck, Al Jacobs, isn’t ready to be Assistant Head Coach. He’s not leadership material. He might even set us back.”
“Hey, Coach, you hired Al. You can’t turn around and say he isn’t leadership material.
“I hired him under duress. I gave in to the blacks once already. I—”
“Harley, he’s going to be your new Assistant Head Coach, or the fat’s going to be in the fire. We need this one, Coach. I don’t like it either, but we have to do what’s best for the team, right? You know, that right?”
And that was the highpoint of Coach’s evening. The catered chicken was dry, the beer was warm, Winnie flirted too much, and Coach drank too much.
The Larsons returned home at 10:40 p.m. and found Lois eating pizza in the kitchen. Winnie blew her daughter a kiss as she headed to check on Charity and to bed.
Coach stopped to talk to Lois. “Hey, how did your studying go?”
“Studying is studying. How did your party go?”
Coach grabbed a cold beer from the fridge and sat across from Lois.
“A party is a party. I’m sorry I was, was a little abrupt with you this evening. You’re a good daughter. I really appreciate that. I don’t tell you that enough.”
“Daddy, is everything okay? You look fried.”
“No, honey, everything is not okay. Shit! Look, things are changing. I mean, times are harder. You and Charity are going to have to work twice as hard as your mom, and I did to get to where we are. You can’t count on, on tradition and friendship like we used to.”
“Okay… I guess. What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s everything, a little of everything. You know I was pressured last year to hire a coach I didn’t want and didn’t need. I mean, I’m not a novice or a journeyman. I have earned the right to hire who I want. I’ve earned that.”
“Sure, Coach Jacobs, but you said Jacobs was doing great bringing in Hunter and the Sanders brothers and—”
“Yeah, yeah, he did that, but that’s recruiting. There’s a lot more to coaching—”
“I know. You said the defensive backs responded really well to him and—”
“Sure, but Jacobs didn’t understand our defensive scheme. He kept—”
“But you said the secondary was much better under—”
“That’s not the point! I had to hire him. That’s the point! And that’s not right.”
Father and daughter stared at each other across the table like they unexpectedly encountered strangers in their house.
“Dad, why isn’t Hunter QB-1? He saved our season last year. He—”
“Shit! Lois, Lois, he’s not ready. He’s got potential, but it’s Cody’s turn. Cody—”
“Cody’s good Dad, but everyone knows—”
“Knows what? What does everyone know? Does everyone know my players better than me? I win games. I win championships. Can everyone do that?”
“Dad, you always say your teams win. And, your players win.”
“Enough. Enough! I have a long day tomorrow. You have school tomorrow. Goodnight, Lois.”
Coach had a nightmare.
Ahmad was sensational. By far, the best high school QB he had ever seen.
He made the skinny kid the starting QB. The team embraced Ahmad. He made everybody better. He spread the ball around. He gave both lines and special teams credit; he lauded the defensive backs and coaches. He was warm and gracious to all, including the press.
Best of all, he won games. He won the first three games by a touchdown or more.
The students loved him. The girls couldn’t keep their hands off him or their drawers on around him, especially the white girls.
And Ahmad stopped following the plays. He started calling his own plays. He won bigger – by two touchdowns a game, but he still gave credit to the coaches.
The “Amazing” Ahmad made “suggestions” about practice or game substitutions that became gospel.
Ahmad was like a symphony conductor during the games directing his fans to incredible levels of participation.
Coach had created a monster that was getting Dublin High national attention. Coach couldn’t interfere or reveal that his superstar QB was running the team and maybe even the whole damn school.
Coach almost blew it all up when he found Lois and Ahmad going at it in her bedroom in his house. Lois and Winnie begged him not to kick that ungrateful black nigger off the team.
Damn a team! Coach wanted the black ingrate dead. Coach was going to make sure Ahmad never corrupted another good Christian girl – but 60 Minutes called for an interview.
And minutes later, the Longhorns called about a coaching position.
That’s when he woke up screaming, “Niggers! Get out! Get out of my life.”
Coach was at school at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. Waiting outside his office was Ahmad and Coach Jacobs.
Coach gritted his teeth, made fists of both hands, strutted forward to take back the authority and power that he had spent a lifetime creating. He would take no prisoners this morning. The time for appeasement was over.
Copyright Frederick Foote 2019