Right Tackle Todd
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ďWhat do you want? Paper? Wait, thereís some here somewhere.Ē 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.
ďThis will do, sir,Ē he said. ďMaybe if I can see that plan a minute Ė Ē 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. ďYou 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.Ē Mr. Cade nodded thoughtfully. ďYour left half-back Ė or whoever stands behind the center Ė gets the ball on a direct pass and Ė Hold on, though, I forgot. First, this fellow here Ė Ē
ďLetís call them by name, Todd. Hereís Kinsey at the left, hereís 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 Ė what?Ē
ďHe starts before the ball, sir, running to the left. That Ė thatís all right, isnít it?Ē
ďAbsolutely, 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.Ē
ďWell, he runs to the left, passing behind Whittier and going over here.Ē
ďWhere is Ďover here,í Todd?Ē
ďI donít know exactly, sir. I suppose about twelve yards back of the scrimmage line and maybe about five yards outside the end.Ē He looked questioningly across and the coach nodded again.
ďSomething that can be best determined by experiment, I fancy. Then what?Ē
ďCenter 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 Ė Ē
ďWhich must be on-side,Ē interpolated the coach.
ďYes, 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.Ē
ďWhy?Ē demanded Mr. Cade.
ďSo 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.Ē
ďI see, but if Whittier emphasizes the intention to throw to his left, wonít the opponents argue that his real intention is a heave in the other direction?Ē
Jim studied a moment. ďWell, maybe they would, sir,Ē he said finally. ďMaybe heíd better not do that.Ē
ďI donít 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.Ē
ďWell, then, Tennyson passes to the right, just about over the center of the line, to the right end.Ē
Mr. Cade frowned over the diagram in his hand. ďHow does that end get into position, Todd?Ē
ďHe 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.Ē
ďQuestion is whether Frost couldnít do that part better, Todd. Youíre counting on the opposing backs swinging to their right and not coming around our right end, but I donít believe you can do that. Wouldnít the end be in better position than Frost to put out a back coming around? But never mind that for the moment. Whatís Kinseyís duty?Ē
ďI thought heíd 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 Iíd 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 heíd go down for the catch. Heíd sort of take it easy, too, like the play wasnít 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.Ē
ďSounds fairly reasonable, too,Ē mused the coach. ďOne thing, though, wonít do, Todd. Youíve 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 theyíre going to smell a mouse. Theyíre going to suspect the play, whatever it is, is coming on that side, and theyíre going to stick around a while. Of course you need the strong side of the line in front of the play, but perhaps you donít need all the strength youíve put there. You could leave a tackle and end on the right, or even a guard and end, I fancy, which wouldnít cause so much suspicion on the part of the enemy. Or Ė Ē Mr. Cade stopped, thrust out a lower lip and lifted a speculative glance to Jim. ďOr, much better yet, Todd, you could simply move your end to the other side.Ē
ďThen who would take the pass, sir? You mean let Frost get it?Ē
ďNot necessarily. The last man on that side of the line would be eligible.Ē
ďWell, but Ė but youíve got to have a fellow who can catch forward-passes, Mr. Cade,Ē said Jim earnestly. ďThatís a long pass, nearly forty-five yards, maybe, and it would need a mighty good fellow to catch it. Thatís why I thought it ought to be Jake Borden.Ē
ďYes, Bordenís pretty good,Ē agreed the coach. ďBut thatís another part that can be decided later. The first thing weíve 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 canít 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 theyíd never get back again to the other side of the field to prevent a catch. In fact, it wouldnít be surprising if the man who received that ball found a clear path to the goal-line. In any case heíd be certain of ten yards, even if he didnít stir after the catch. By Jingo, Todd, I like the thing, I honestly do!Ē
ďI wish it would go like I Ė like it looks like Ė Ē Jim got tangled there, and before he could get straightened out and go on Mr. Cade was speaking again.
ďOf course the play has its limitation, Todd. As, for instance, it couldnít be used if the ball was very close to either side-line. Wait, though! Thatís wrong. It could be pulled off all right pretty close to the right side of the field, couldnít it? Todd, Iím going to sit up with this thing to-night and figure it out!Ē He was staring at the diagram again. Then: ďThunder, hereís another bad feature! Look here, Todd. About the time when Tennyson gets set to make that forty or forty-five yard heave heís going to have in the neighborhood of sixteen men dodging around between him and the receiver. Well, that means that itís 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 Ė That reminds me.Ē Mr. Cade added another memorandum to those he had already jotted on the side of the paper he held. ďIt 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.Ē
Jim studied his plan and looked dubious. ďI donít believe so, sir. Besides, wouldnít it be sort of a give-away if two fellows went over there? One might look like an accident, but two Ė Ē
ďI fancy youíre right. Well, weíll see.Ē Mr. Cade laid the diagram aside and picked up his pipe. ďI wish youíd tell me something, Todd,Ē he said. ďYou 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. Whatís the matter?Ē
ďI Ė I donít know, Mr. Cade,Ē answered Jim. ďI guess there isnít anything the matter. I mean I donít know why I canít seem to play like I used to.Ē
Jim hesitated. ďN-no, sir, not exactly.Ē
ďThat means you have. Why? Feeling all right?Ē
ďYes, sir, fine.Ē
ďAnything worrying you?Ē
Jim started to shake his head, but stopped, his eyes falling before the coachís steady look. For the first time he realized what his trouble was. After a moment he answered: ďMaybe, sir, a little.Ē
ďThatís it then. Well, I wonít ask you what it is thatís bothering you, Todd. Itís 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 youíll 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 didnít 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 didnít 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. Thatís why Iíve let you go your own gait, in a way, and thatís why Iím not telling you even now whatís been in my mind. For that matter, I havenít told any one. Just now it doesnít look as though Iíd 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, thatíll be different. Just show me that youíre on your toes again, keen and anxious and chock-full of fight and Iíll 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?Ē
ďIíll try awful hard, sir,Ē answered Jim earnestly. ďI guess if I knew that Ė that it really mattered, Mr. Cade, I could do a heap better.Ē
ďMatters! 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 mustnít 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 Iíd have had a very good excuse for keeping you out of the squad this fall if Iíd wanted one. Now it looks as though you were working yourself into the same attitude of mind again, Todd. Itís all wrong, though. When we pick a man out of sixty or seventy others we do it not only because he shows football ability Ė football ability alone never won a game Ė but because we say to ourselves, ĎThereís 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.í Do you get the idea, Todd?Ē
ďYes, sir.Ē Jim looked troubled. ďIím 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 Ė about schools and how fellows feel about them. Maybe I ainít making myself clear Ė Ē
ďI understand, my boy. Well, donít you feel somewhat about this school, your school, as youíve discovered that other chaps feel? You understand, donít 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?Ē
ďYes, sir, I understand that. Only Ė Ē
Jim smiled apologetically. ďIt never seemed that anything I could do would Ė would make much difference, sir. I just ainít much of a hero, I guess.Ē
ďWell, youíve got the wrong slant, Todd. Heroes donít 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.Ē He leaned forward and laid a hand on Jimís knee. ďSo Iíll tell you this, and you can believe every word of it. Youíre a natural-born football player, Todd. If you were going to be here one more year Iíd turn you into as pretty a tackle as this school ever saw; and Iím not forgetting men like Martin Proctor, either. Even now, as inexperienced as you are, Iíd back you against a lot of the fellows who have played your position on Alton Field this fall. Now does that help any?Ē
Jim shook his head, supremely embarrassed. ďI donít know, Mr. Cade. If you say so I guess Iíve got to believe it, but, gee, I ainít Ė I canít Ė Ē
Mr. Cade slapped the knee under his hand and sat back with a laugh. ďTodd, youíre hopeless,Ē he said. ďYouíve 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 Iíll 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 Ė if you will.Ē
ďIíll try mighty hard Ė Gee, thatís ten oíclock.Ē At sound of the strokes Jim jumped to his feet in dismay. ďIíll get the dickens for being out of hall!Ē
ďPerhaps I can fix that. Whoís in charge of your hall?Ē
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. ďI fancy that will pacify him,Ē he said.
ďDear 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.Ē Jim grinned as he folded the paper once and thrust it into a pocket.
ďThank you, sir,Ē he said gratefully. ďI guess that will fix him.Ē
ďI hope so. Thanks for coming over, Todd, and Ė Wait just a minute. Stand where you are, please, and put your hand up. Away up. Thatís it. Fine!Ē Mr. Cade stared across the room a moment while Jim, perplexed, stood by the door with one hand Ė that, as it chanced, of which two fingers were bound with an already soiled white bandage Ė extended almost to the ceiling. Then: ďAll right, Todd. Much obliged. Good night!Ē
ďNow,Ē Jim asked himself as he let himself out and took long strides across Academy street, ďI wonder what that was for!Ē
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.
ďAh, Todd,Ē he began blandly. But Jim presented his note before the instructor got further. Mr. Tarbot read it, smiled faintly and laid it aside. ďA football coach who quotes Latin so aptly, Todd, is not to be refused. Good night.Ē
ďGood night, sir. Thanks.Ē
ďAh, just a moment. Was the mystery of the stranger in the cloth cap ever fathomed, Todd?Ē
ďAh, I see you are not in your room-mateís confidence, so never mind. Possibly I have been indiscreet. Pay no heed to my maudlin mutterings, Todd. Good night to you.Ē
ďGee,Ē reflected Jim as he went on upstairs, ďevery oneís acting sort of crazy to-night!Ē
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. ďDid he nab you?Ē he asked.
Jim nodded. ďMr. Cade gave me a note for him, though, and he didnít say a word.Ē
Clemís face disappeared again. ďLucky for you,Ē he muttered from under the sheet. ďGood night.Ē