Right Tackle Todd
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“What do you want? Paper? Wait, there’s some here somewhere.” Mr. Cade started to rise but Jim had found what he was after. He always carried three or four old letters or similar documents and now he selected one and pulled out his fountain pen.
“This will do, sir,” he said. “Maybe if I can see that plan a minute – ” Mr. Cade handed it to him and he made a hurried copy of it on the back of a folded letter. Then he began again, clearing his throat portentously. “You move your right guard and tackle to the other side, sir, and bring your left end over. That gives you two ends on the right of your line.” Mr. Cade nodded thoughtfully. “Your left half-back – or whoever stands behind the center – gets the ball on a direct pass and – Hold on, though, I forgot. First, this fellow here – ”
“Let’s call them by name, Todd. Here’s Kinsey at the left, here’s Frost at the right, this is Tennyson behind Frost, and this is Whittier directly back of the center. All right. Now you were going to say that Tennyson – what?”
“He starts before the ball, sir, running to the left. That – that’s all right, isn’t it?”
“Absolutely, as long as he runs toward his goal-line as well as to the left. That is, a back may be moving when the ball is put in play so long as he is taking a course which at some time or other would cause him to intersect an extension of his own goal-line. Not very lucid, but go on.”
“Well, he runs to the left, passing behind Whittier and going over here.”
“Where is ‘over here,’ Todd?”
“I don’t know exactly, sir. I suppose about twelve yards back of the scrimmage line and maybe about five yards outside the end.” He looked questioningly across and the coach nodded again.
“Something that can be best determined by experiment, I fancy. Then what?”
“Center passes to Whittier and Whittier holds the ball as if to throw it, but he goes back and to the left until he gets here, about half-way between where he was and where Tennyson is. Then he makes a short pass, a sort of a toss – ”
“Which must be on-side,” interpolated the coach.
“Yes, sir, not a forward-pass. He tosses the ball to Tennyson. I forgot to say, though, that he ought to be always facing to the left after he gets the ball from center, sort of making like he means to pass to the left across the end of the line.”
“Why?” demanded Mr. Cade.
“So as to make the other fellows, the other team, move that way. You see, sir, the idea is to draw the other players to their right.”
“I see, but if Whittier emphasizes the intention to throw to his left, won’t the opponents argue that his real intention is a heave in the other direction?”
Jim studied a moment. “Well, maybe they would, sir,” he said finally. “Maybe he’d better not do that.”
“I don’t think he should overdo it, anyway, Todd. He might defeat his own ends and make the opposing backs cover the left side of their territory. Anyway, the real deception comes when he passes to Tennyson.That makes it look like an end-run for the moment. Now go on.”
“Well, then, Tennyson passes to the right, just about over the center of the line, to the right end.”
Mr. Cade frowned over the diagram in his hand. “How does that end get into position, Todd?”
“He blocks the opposing end until Whittier has the ball and has started back with it. Then he lets the end through and goes on down about ten yards and pretty well over toward the side.”
“Question is whether Frost couldn’t do that part better, Todd. You’re counting on the opposing backs swinging to their right and not coming around our right end, but I don’t believe you can do that. Wouldn’t the end be in better position than Frost to put out a back coming around? But never mind that for the moment. What’s Kinsey’s duty?”
“I thought he’d block off the outside back on our left until Tennyson made the throw. Then Whittier, after he has passed to Tennyson, guards him on the inside in case one of the other side gets through. And I’d figured it that the right end would just block long enough to keep the opposing end, or, maybe, a tackle, from spoiling the play and then he’d go down for the catch. He’d sort of take it easy, too, like the play wasn’t on his side and he was out of it. Then Frost there would take care of a back in case one tried to slip around that side.”
“Sounds fairly reasonable, too,” mused the coach. “One thing, though, won’t do, Todd. You’ve got all your heavy men on the left of center and both ends on the right. Now ends mean speed, and when the opponents see two ends on one side they’re going to smell a mouse. They’re going to suspect the play, whatever it is, is coming on that side, and they’re going to stick around a while. Of course you need the strong side of the line in front of the play, but perhaps you don’t need all the strength you’ve put there. You could leave a tackle and end on the right, or even a guard and end, I fancy, which wouldn’t cause so much suspicion on the part of the enemy. Or – ” Mr. Cade stopped, thrust out a lower lip and lifted a speculative glance to Jim. “Or, much better yet, Todd, you could simply move your end to the other side.”
“Then who would take the pass, sir? You mean let Frost get it?”
“Not necessarily. The last man on that side of the line would be eligible.”
“Well, but – but you’ve got to have a fellow who can catch forward-passes, Mr. Cade,” said Jim earnestly. “That’s a long pass, nearly forty-five yards, maybe, and it would need a mighty good fellow to catch it. That’s why I thought it ought to be Jake Borden.”
“Yes, Borden’s pretty good,” agreed the coach. “But that’s another part that can be decided later. The first thing we’ve got to do is try this out in actual play and see whether it goes the way it looks on paper. It ought to, but you can’t tell. If it ever did get pulled off just right in a game, Todd, it would be a whaling ground-gainer. The start of this play ought to draw the whole opposing team to our left, and once there they’d never get back again to the other side of the field to prevent a catch. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if the man who received that ball found a clear path to the goal-line. In any case he’d be certain of ten yards, even if he didn’t stir after the catch. By Jingo, Todd, I like the thing, I honestly do!”
“I wish it would go like I – like it looks like – ” Jim got tangled there, and before he could get straightened out and go on Mr. Cade was speaking again.
“Of course the play has its limitation, Todd. As, for instance, it couldn’t be used if the ball was very close to either side-line. Wait, though! That’s wrong. It could be pulled off all right pretty close to the right side of the field, couldn’t it? Todd, I’m going to sit up with this thing to-night and figure it out!” He was staring at the diagram again. Then: “Thunder, here’s another bad feature! Look here, Todd. About the time when Tennyson gets set to make that forty or forty-five yard heave he’s going to have in the neighborhood of sixteen men dodging around between him and the receiver. Well, that means that it’s going to be mighty hard for him to sight his man. Of course he can throw the ball to a certain specified spot across the field, trusting Borden or some one to be there – That reminds me.” Mr. Cade added another memorandum to those he had already jotted on the side of the paper he held. “It might be possible to make this a two-man pass. How about Frost? I wonder if we could fix it so as to put him over there with Borden in time to make the catch or to interfere.”
Jim studied his plan and looked dubious. “I don’t believe so, sir. Besides, wouldn’t it be sort of a give-away if two fellows went over there? One might look like an accident, but two – ”
“I fancy you’re right. Well, we’ll see.” Mr. Cade laid the diagram aside and picked up his pipe. “I wish you’d tell me something, Todd,” he said. “You started out like a comer and I had great hopes of you. You went finely until a week or so ago, two weeks, perhaps; then you laid down on us. What’s the matter?”
“I – I don’t know, Mr. Cade,” answered Jim. “I guess there isn’t anything the matter. I mean I don’t know why I can’t seem to play like I used to.”
Jim hesitated. “N-no, sir, not exactly.”
“That means you have. Why? Feeling all right?”
“Yes, sir, fine.”
“Anything worrying you?”
Jim started to shake his head, but stopped, his eyes falling before the coach’s steady look. For the first time he realized what his trouble was. After a moment he answered: “Maybe, sir, a little.”
“That’s it then. Well, I won’t ask you what it is that’s bothering you, Todd. It’s none of my business. But I am going to ask you to put it out of your mind, whatever it is, for the next fortnight. I can use you, my boy, if you’ll let me. As long ago as the fourth or fifth day of the season I assigned you a distinct and important place in the scheme of winning the Kenly game. I didn’t take you into my confidence for a very good reason. You had a lot to learn about the game, about the very beginning of football, and I didn’t want you to get it into your head that you were a specialist and neglect the essentials. The only kind of a specialist I want around me is the man who knows every department of the game and then can do one thing better than any one else. That’s why I’ve let you go your own gait, in a way, and that’s why I’m not telling you even now what’s been in my mind. For that matter, I haven’t told any one. Just now it doesn’t look as though I’d have to, Todd. But if you can just manage to snap out of the doldrums and get back to where you were a week or ten days back, why, that’ll be different. Just show me that you’re on your toes again, keen and anxious and chock-full of fight and I’ll show you how you can help me and the team and the School to a victory a week from next Saturday. Now do you think you can do that, Todd?”
“I’ll try awful hard, sir,” answered Jim earnestly. “I guess if I knew that – that it really mattered, Mr. Cade, I could do a heap better.”
“Matters! Great Scott, of course it matters! You ought to know that without being told, Todd. The fact that you were kept on the squad when twenty or thirty other chaps, some of whom were showing more football than you were, were let go should have proved to you that you were valuable; or, anyway, that we thought you valuable. Every man on the squad, Todd, is supposed to do his level best, his very utmost, every minute of every day while the season lasts. He mustn’t expect the coach to pat him on the back or thank him after every practice, my boy. You went bad on us last year, you know, and I’d have had a very good excuse for keeping you out of the squad this fall if I’d wanted one. Now it looks as though you were working yourself into the same attitude of mind again, Todd. It’s all wrong, though. When we pick a man out of sixty or seventy others we do it not only because he shows football ability – football ability alone never won a game – but because we say to ourselves, ‘There’s a man who has the right stuff in him: loyalty, obedience, courage, determination, in short, the qualities that win battles whether in war or in football.’ Do you get the idea, Todd?”
“Yes, sir.” Jim looked troubled. “I’m sorry, but no one ever said it was like that. You see, Mr. Cade, I never saw much football till last fall, and I never knew much about – about schools and how fellows feel about them. Maybe I ain’t making myself clear – ”
“I understand, my boy. Well, don’t you feel somewhat about this school, your school, as you’ve discovered that other chaps feel? You understand, don’t you, why a fellow will work and drudge and take hard knocks for two long months with no hope of glory, no expectation of getting into the limelight, as those fellows on the second team are doing?”
“Yes, sir, I understand that. Only – ”
Jim smiled apologetically. “It never seemed that anything I could do would – would make much difference, sir. I just ain’t much of a hero, I guess.”
“Well, you’ve got the wrong slant, Todd. Heroes don’t all win the Croix de Guerre. A lot of them just eat mud and never get their names on a citation. Modesty is all right, too, Todd, but too much of it is worse than too little sometimes. Perhaps what you need is a little praise.” He leaned forward and laid a hand on Jim’s knee. “So I’ll tell you this, and you can believe every word of it. You’re a natural-born football player, Todd. If you were going to be here one more year I’d turn you into as pretty a tackle as this school ever saw; and I’m not forgetting men like Martin Proctor, either. Even now, as inexperienced as you are, I’d back you against a lot of the fellows who have played your position on Alton Field this fall. Now does that help any?”
Jim shook his head, supremely embarrassed. “I don’t know, Mr. Cade. If you say so I guess I’ve got to believe it, but, gee, I ain’t – I can’t – ”
Mr. Cade slapped the knee under his hand and sat back with a laugh. “Todd, you’re hopeless,” he said. “You’ve got a bad case of ingrowing modesty; what the psychologists call an inferiority complex, I suppose. But never mind. You start in to-morrow and show me that you mean business, and about the middle of the week I’ll tell you what I want you to do to help win the Kenly game. The best thing about it, too, is that you can do it – if you will.”
“I’ll try mighty hard – Gee, that’s ten o’clock.” At sound of the strokes Jim jumped to his feet in dismay. “I’ll get the dickens for being out of hall!”
“Perhaps I can fix that. Who’s in charge of your hall?”
The coach rummaged about the table and finally uncovered a writing pad. When the four lines were finished he tore off the sheet and handed it to Jim. “I fancy that will pacify him,” he said.
“Dear Mr. Tarbot: (Jim read) This is my fault. Todd has been detained by me at my room on a matter concerning the football team. Inter arma silent leges! Cordially, John Cade.” Jim grinned as he folded the paper once and thrust it into a pocket.
“Thank you, sir,” he said gratefully. “I guess that will fix him.”
“I hope so. Thanks for coming over, Todd, and – Wait just a minute. Stand where you are, please, and put your hand up. Away up. That’s it. Fine!” Mr. Cade stared across the room a moment while Jim, perplexed, stood by the door with one hand – that, as it chanced, of which two fingers were bound with an already soiled white bandage – extended almost to the ceiling. Then: “All right, Todd. Much obliged. Good night!”
“Now,” Jim asked himself as he let himself out and took long strides across Academy street, “I wonder what that was for!”
Mr. Tarbot, looking as Jim thought a whole lot like a spider awaiting the unsuspecting fly, sat in view of the corridor as Jim entered the dormitory.
“Ah, Todd,” he began blandly. But Jim presented his note before the instructor got further. Mr. Tarbot read it, smiled faintly and laid it aside. “A football coach who quotes Latin so aptly, Todd, is not to be refused. Good night.”
“Good night, sir. Thanks.”
“Ah, just a moment. Was the mystery of the stranger in the cloth cap ever fathomed, Todd?”
“Ah, I see you are not in your room-mate’s confidence, so never mind. Possibly I have been indiscreet. Pay no heed to my maudlin mutterings, Todd. Good night to you.”
“Gee,” reflected Jim as he went on upstairs, “every one’s acting sort of crazy to-night!”
Clem was in bed, although he had left the light burning for Jim, and he raised an inquiring, even slightly anxious, face above the clothes as the latter entered. “Did he nab you?” he asked.
Jim nodded. “Mr. Cade gave me a note for him, though, and he didn’t say a word.”
Clem’s face disappeared again. “Lucky for you,” he muttered from under the sheet. “Good night.”