A Whole New Game
Tim Riggins looked up from where he sat on the bench in front of his locker to find his coach standing in the door of his office. Tim took a deep breath and stood up. There was a little kink in his back and a twinge of pain in his left knee. Two a days at Dillon High had done little to prepare him for getting ready for the pre-season work out at San Antonio State.
"Yes, sir?" Tim asked as he approached Coach Powers.
"I just talked to the trainer. Thompson is out for Saturday. You ready to step it up?"
Thompson, a junior, was number one fullback on the depth chart. As far as Tim knew, he was still third behind Jack Sampson, a redshirt freshman from Amarillo. When Scotty Sims had recruited him, they said Tim was the future of their offense—and now it looked like the future was this weekend.
"Uh, yeah," Tim stammered.
"Well, are you ready or not?" the coach asked again.
Tim wanted to ask about Sampson, but then thought better of it. "No, sir…I mean, yes, sir. I'm ready."
"Okay, take another look at the playbooks and we'll run the new offense tomorrow before practice to make sure you're set to go," Powers instructed.
Tim nodded, unsure of what noise would come out of his mouth. The coach turned and went back into his office, closing the door behind him. Tim waited for a moment, and then headed down to his locker.
He spun the lock and opened the door. The light was beeping on his cell phone. Two messages.
So, bad news here…well, good news, honestly. We went in for Mindy's appointment this morning and she's something like 50% faced or something like that. Anyway, the baby's coming soon, so it doesn't look like we're going to make the game. Sorry, bro.
Tim deleted the message and went to the next one.
I hope practice went well. You know I'm thinking about you and wish I was coming this weekend, but I'm…
Lyla sounded good—maybe a little bit nervous, but more like herself than she had those last few months in Dillon.
I can't really believe it, but I'm gonna rush a sorority. It's the one my mom belonged to in college and…well, I wish I was coming down this weekend because I'd love to see you game, but it' s an awfully long trip. But call me. We can talk. Love you!
Tim paused, then deleted Lyla's message as well. He'd be lying if he said he didn't want her there or Billy. Even with everything with his parents, he'd never played in front of a whole stadium of strangers.
He fingered the phone, wondering if he should tell them he was starting, but then snapped the phone shut. Billy's life was in Dillon with Mindy and the baby. And Lyla's life was in Nashville now.
He'd just have to find a new crowd of fans.
"You ready, Riggins?"
Tim reached for his jersey, pulling it over the pads tightened up across his chest. It felt weird to not be wearing blue anymore, but San Antonio's colors were cardinal and gold. Tim thought it just looked like red and yellow—a little too Ronald McDonald for his taste, but the cheerleaders had impressed on him that it was cardinal and gold.
He looked over at Mike Ryan, the quarterback. "Yeah, I'm ready."
"Good, cause we're gonna need you out there today," Ryan responded.
Tim liked Mike. He was a good guy and a damned good quarterback. It was almost like playing with Jason again—except nothing would ever really be like playing with Jason.
Tim looked up to see one of the line coaches calling him from the hall.
"You've got two minutes and then get your ass back in here for coach's instructions," the assistant coach instructed Tim.
Go where? It wasn't like he had a crowd of people out there waiting to see him before or after the game. He stood up slowly and made his way past the offensive line who were all finishing up the tape around their shoes.
"Yeah?" Tim said as he came around the corner, then he stopped in his tracks.
"I think we left him speechless."
Tim looked at the two men in front of him, unable to say a word.
"Definitely speechless," Coach Taylor replied to Jason Street.
"Are you shitting me?" Tim finally said.
"I heard there was a hot new prospect in Texas," Jason teased.
"Careful, agents can't be talking to players until their last regular season football game," Coach Taylor admonished.
"Or a bowl game," Jason offered.
"What…what are you doing here?" Tim finally said. He couldn't believe they were here, especially Jason. He knew it was going to be hard when Jay moved to New York, but it wasn't until he got to San Antonio that he realized how hard. He'd never admit it, but a red pick-up truck never drove by without Tim taking a double look to make sure it wasn't Jason.
"Just wanted to make sure you still remembered everything I taught you," Jason replied.
"What you taught him?" Coach Taylor responded. "I think I did a little bit of that teaching."
"Riggins!" the coach called from the locker room.
"I gotta go," Tim said, reluctantly.
Jason offered out his hand and Tim took it in both of his. "Go get 'em, Riggs."
"Clear eyes," Tim replied. "Full hearts."
"You got it," Coach Taylor finished. "Can't lose, Tim."
Tim held onto Jason's hand for a moment longer. Coach clapped his hand on Tim's shoulder. "Get going, son—don't keep your coach or your team waiting."
"You'll stay?" Tim asked.
"See you after the game," Jason replied.
Tim nodded, still not believing what he was seeing.
"You can do it, Tim," Jason added.
Tim closed his eyes and nodded again. It was weird—that knot in his stomach was gone. He'd been dreading the game, but all that had changed in the last five minutes. Now it was a whole new game.