by Kerry Taylor
So up to now you have been able to have an inside look at what an aspiring NFL football player goes through. My own personal "Hard Knocks," so to speak.
It all accumulates to these next few days. I have always been the type that kept his head down and worked hard for what I wanted. I would come up for air when I finally got to where I wanted to be. Well, it was time to come up for air a little bit. We had the next few days off. I felt, up to this point, I did enough to make the team, so I did something that was very uncharacteristic of me, I ventured around the area to see what there was out there for places to live. That’s how confident I was in how I performed in training camp, practices, games and just all around.
Those three days went by in a snap. Feeling good about myself and confident, I headed back to the Silverdome for our first official regular season game practice. I walked into the locker room to get myself changed up for practice, and a sudden uneasiness came over me. And ladies and gentlemen, this is where I met the Reaper.
This is the guy on staff that is in charge of telling the players to grab their playbook, so they could meet the coach. And here it was, “Hey Kerry, Coach Ross would like to meet with you. Please bring your playbook.” The key part to that sentence I later found out was, “bring your playbook.” I remember the rest of this moment like it was yesterday (Key the dramatic flashback effect). I took a seat in a large brown leather chair across from Coach Ross who was sitting behind an enormous, dark brown, oak desk with different trophies, awards, and plaques on the wall behind him. But, there was one part of his desk that immediately caught my eye. It was the stack of powder blue playbooks that stood about 4 feet high, and on these playbooks were some of the players I became good friends with over our time together. That’s when I started to get the feeling that this was the end of the road for me. But, deep down inside, I was still holding on tightly to HOPE. Internally I thought maybe he is taking everyone’s playbook and giving some of us our game week playbook. Ahhh..but I digress, the inevitable happened. I knew from the first words out of his mouth. “Kerry, you had a helluva camp and you should be in the NFL for a long time with your skill set...” At that point everything else sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown.
And here it comes...”But we are only going to keep three tight ends on our roster this season. I would like to keep the three veterans we have. But if you clear waivers we may try to keep you here for our practice squad.” As crushed and disappointed as I was, all I could say was, “Thank you Coach for the opportunity. I truly enjoyed the challenge. Best of luck to you this year.” I tried to give him one of the firmest handshakes I have ever given to someone, turned around and walked out of the room. I tried to walk around with my head held high, but at the moment the floor seemed to be the only thing worth looking at. I headed into the locker room, packed up my personal belongings, and exchanged numbers with some of the veterans that I became friends with over the last six months. I took my time to thank all of the other team personnel that I had become close to. I grabbed my flight info and headed out of the stadium to catch the shuttle back to my hotel room to pack. Just before I got on the shuttle, two of the veterans in my tight end group said, “Keep your head up, it’s a business at the end of the day. You have nothing to be ashamed of, keep working. Some one will pick you up.”
I dragged my feet onto the shuttle and headed back to the hotel. My thoughts and mind were all over the place, “NOW WHAT?!?!” I kicked my room door open, and plopped onto the bed for a minute staring at the ceiling. Then, to my amazement, the phone rang, but that excitement quickly disappeared as I was feeling sorry for myself. It’s probably just my mom or uncle calling and, at that point in time, I didn’t feel like speaking to anyone. So I didn’t answer. Two minutes later it rang again. This time, I took a deep breath and got ready to explain to my family what had happened.
I picked up the phone and on the other end the voice said, “Kerry, how are you feeling?” Can any of you guess who’s voice was on the other end? Was it my mother? Uncle? Other teammates that were going through the same thing? The Lions calling me back? My agent? A new team? The front desk of the hotel? Tune in next time to see who was on the phone.
Until next time, continue to live a life one degree above the rest.