- Jake Fromm/Daily
BY TROY WOOLFOLK
Special to the Daily
Published November 19, 2010
My dad played in the NFL for about eight years. To make it to that level in football, you have to have an edge over the millions of other players across the country with whom you're competing for the chance to go pro. Fortunately for my dad, he had enough edge to sell to the highest bidder. He was fast, strong and tall, but most important, he was fearless. My father played running back, and on the field he played like a man among boys. It was as if he went into an animal-like zone where he was a predator and his prey was waiting for him in the end zone. Nothing would stop him from eating.
More like this
This zone that he would tap into whenever he stepped on the field is actually a trait that is carried down the family line. We’re African American mixed with Native American. The tribe from which my family descends worshipped a powerful creature that rules the night and strikes fear in its potential victims with every howl. This animal is a wolf. The people of my tribe would emulate the wolf lifestyle, copying the way it hunts and travels in packs. Among males in the tribe there was a gene shared only by a few random tribe members.
This gene allowed the individual to actually take on the aggressive nature of a wolf, its focus, senses and its animalistic ways. This was not permanent, and it was not something that you could simply turn on when you wanted to. It is only triggered in order to help the body in times of need. For example, the body needs food, so if a host carrying this gene hadn’t eaten in a while and was hungry, he would go in the zone in search for food. This gene can lie dormant in a kid’s body until he has reached his adolescent years and sometimes even later.
Since my dad played sports, he was adamant that I played a sport. He figured speed is essential for every sport, so I started running track at a very young age. With some good coaching from my dad mixed with some of his genes, I became one of the top sprinters in the nation. By the time I hit high school, I started playing football and seemed naturally good at it. I began to get scholarship letters from schools. I made my dad proud, but there was just one thing that my dad hated that held me back from reaching my full potential as an athlete.
The problem was that I was too silly. I have been the class clown my whole life. My parents received numerous phone calls about me making jokes causing other students to laugh, creating a huge disruption in class. It was an ongoing problem on the football field as well. Before the play would start, I would dance or do something silly like that and not even know the play started, which would cause me to give up a touchdown. I was just never focused or ready to play. Luckily, my ability still offered me a chance to go to college regardless of my flaws.
When I got to Michigan and started practicing with the rest of the players on the team, I realized that I seriously needed to make some changes. My silliness started to get me into even more trouble on the field, ranging from punishments to missed assignments.
It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year during spring ball that I started to change. I remember it like it was yesterday. When I got home from practice one night, I received a call from my coach, who told me I got the starting job at my position. I was ecstatic. That whole night I couldn’t sleep, I just kept imagining gameday and what it would be like coming onto the field and playing in front of the big crowd.
The next day in practice I was extremely nervous because I could just feel the coaches’ eyes grilling me to see whether they made the right decision in giving me the starting job. I could feel my hands violently shaking as if I was in the middle of Alaska butt-naked with nothing but one sock on. When I finally made it to the field after purposely taking my precious time in the locker room, my violent shaking amplified, making it nearly impossible for me to put on my gloves.
The whistle blew to start the play, and all of a sudden, a sense of calmness came over me. I was no longer nervous or worried about living up to the expectations of my coaches. The only thing I was focused on was the football and my assignments. When the receiver came off the ball, he tried to give me a juke move to get me to open my hips the wrong way. When he did it, it was as if time suddenly slowed down so I could watch his every move in slow motion. I didn’t know what was going on.