Young America League Football

Like millions of American boys growing up, I played pee-wee football in the fall. Here, it was called Young America League (YAL) football and was sponsored by the Colorado Springs’ Park and Recreation department. I played a couple of positions from the time I was 8 until 8th grade.

I was a Packer fan, then, and my idol was #15, the quarterback, Bart Starr. First of all, and incidentally, I enjoyed the almost poetic consonance of his name: Bart Starr. (An aside: perhaps it was this fascination with linguistic features of the athletes that caused my football career to end so soon.)

In 6th Grade, I bought a book by Bart Starr that was a primer on quarterbacking technique. I read that book. And I studied that book. I’d go out in the small side yard at our house on Nevada Avenue or across the street in the medical center parking lot and practice every lesson in it. I had the techniques down for fall practice. I was especially proud of my ability to lateral the ball to a running back just like it was described and pictured in the book.

A few practices into the 1969 season, we were ready to run-through a more full-blown offensive practice. I was trading off at the QB position with some short dude who was fast and pretty smart — but I don’t think he had read the Bart Starr “Playing Quarterback for Dummies” book (I don’t think that was the actual title). I knew that I had that advantage.

So we were running this sweep where the QB would turn, take a few steps parallel to the offensive line, and then lateral the ball to the running back who would, no doubt, take off around the end of the line for a touchdown. I took the snap, took my steps, and in Bart Starr-esque form (see picture 3), lateraled perfectly to Rocco Villani, our running back. The ball slid through his hands and to the ground.

“He’s spiraling the pitch!”
“Puzick, pitch the ball the RIGHT way,” barked the coach.

Next snap, I took my two steps, and sent another perfectly spiraled lateral to Villani.

“Puzick! Quit spiralling the gosh-dang ball and pitch it right.” Evidently the coach had not read THE Book either. I’m sure he saw me as either uncoachable, stupid, or something other than very well-read on quarterbacking technique.

Another snap. Another spiraled pitch to the running back. Another tongue-lashing.

It was that autumn evening, the sun setting behind Pikes Peak and the chill of dusk spreading over the grass at Bonny Park, that I took my last snap at Quarterback. Damn you Bart Starr. Damn you reading. Damn you Coach “Gosh-Dang.”

One Response to “Young America League Football”

  1. >Nice. There's a lesson in here for any teacher or coach.

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