After getting obliterated by Polamalu yesterday, I was determined not to let that happen again. But during one play with the first team today, I was more concerned about where Polamalu was than I was with my blocking assignment. At the snap I hit the first defender I saw when I hit the hole. I blasted him with a solid, crushing block, and I got up excited about finally getting the better end of a hit. As I turned around though, I saw a massive figure stomping in my direction—my 275-pound Samoan position coach, Kennedy Pola. I could feel his eyes burning through me as he yelled and sprayed saliva in my face. He told me that I had completely blown my assignment and that my screwup had resulted in senior tailback Justin Fargas getting the piss knocked out of him. I was scared. Coach Pola intimidated me so much that I felt I never wanted to mess up again.
Today we had a scrimmage in the Coliseum. I didn't have any carries, but I did make one catch for 13 yards. It has been hard to get reps with the first team, and that has been frustrating. The coaches will give you a shot with the big boys, but as soon as you mess up, you get pulled out. I'm still making a lot of mental mistakes. I may be one of the five strongest guys on the team, and I may be faster and have better hands than some of the vets, but I am useless until I know what my role is on every play.
The mental aspect of the game has been the toughest transition for me. In high school your assignment is set in stone, and the defense reacts to you. In college the offense and defense read and react to each other. You have to notice if the linebackers are going to bow over to the side, or if the free safety is coming down as if he's going to blitz. You have to know how to read shades and gaps, and everything is always changing.
Aaron Graham, a senior linebacker, has started calling me Hancock 2002, as though I'm some destructive machine. He'll say in this robotic voice, "He is on a mission to destroy all linebackers."
Today was the spring game, the last day of [ NCAA-sanctioned] practice until mid-August. I sprained a ligament in my neck in a head-to-head collision with a linebacker the other day, so I didn't play. But I know where I stand. I'm third on the depth chart, and I have a lot of work ahead of me this summer. I'm going to stay down here, go to summer school and work out. I'll watch a lot of film and work on my blocking technique. I never had to block in high school, but here there are much faster guys who need to carry the ball. I'll probably be a situational player at first, but I'm confident I'll see playing time. Meanwhile, finals are coming up, and so is the prom. Kelli Bennett is in town shopping with her mom tonight; I'm going to take her out and pop the question about the prom.
My first college finals are over, and they weren't too bad. After the last day of class, on April 26,1 had an entire week to study. My philosophy tutor helped me break down and understand complex arguments on such issues as abortion, animal rights, war and terrorism. I haven't gotten my grade back on the exam yet, but I think I did well [an A-]. I aced my ITP/computer test, a 93, and finished the class with a solid A. Instead of a test in my writing class, we had a short in-class essay, primarily to show that our writing skills matched those of our previous four papers and that we hadn't been plagiarizing. I got an A-in that class, which is quite an accomplishment according to my classmates.
I had heard a lot about how tough exams could be, but I thought the semester as a whole was more stressful than finals week.