Garman is a senior marketing and advertising double major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
My good friend Evan “Big Cat” Lawrence, all-conference right tackle for the newly crowned Pioneer Football League Champion Drake Bulldogs, is quite possibly the poster boy for offensive linemen. Unfortunately, offensive linemen do not get posters, and calling a person who stands nearly 6-feet, 5-inches tall, weighs roughly 320 pounds depending on breakfast and sports a beard that looks like it could eat lesser beards a boy is both silly and inadvisable.
The scene is a staple to even the most casual football fan: the quarterback drops back, sets his feet and uncorks a beautiful arching pass into the waiting arms of a streaking receiver for a long touchdown. The bruising running back takes the handoff and plunges into the end zone, gaining the tough yards necessary to earn a hard-fought victory for the home team. It’s time honored. It’s essential Americana hero worship. It’s cliché.
Few people take the time to stop and cheer for the battered big man who has the awareness to identify and nullify the blitzing linebacker, with murder on his mind, so that the quarterback has time to deliver that pass. How many people have a picture of a hulking trench warrior engaging and dominating in the brutal tango known as run blocking, digging deep to find the strength and guile it takes to physically move a defensive lineman. Most of us couldn’t move a defensive lineman with a machete.
Even the few attempts at giving some attention to the big boys who don’t get to touch the ball tend to fail. Michael Lewis’ 2006 book, “The Blind Side,” which showcased the evolution of the outrageously huge and quick, big men with the unique combination of physical ability and mental acumen to keep record-breaking quarterbacks upright year after year, is today widely known as a movie which showcased Sandra Bullock’s ability to successfully play a southern cougar.
Still, I contend that shoving is in fact an art form, and that Evan Lawrence has crafted some of the most underappreciated masterpieces of recent times.
Take this little tidbit from ESPN.com on November 5:
“TD Bulldogs, J. Orlando 8 Yd Pass From M. Piatkowski”
There is no mention of the immense effort required of Evan as quarterback Mike Piatkowski rolled out to his right before releasing his pass (Evan’s side, naturally) leaving the Big Cat as the only physical presence between Piatkowski and a rampaging defensive end composed of equal parts of power, speed and fury. The defender only had to slip past Evan to maim the Bulldog quarterback and potentially end any hope of a Drake comeback, with our boys in blue down seven points at the time. Of course, he didn’t. Evan was too quick, too smart and too powerful for him; a warrior poet. A dancing bear — A Big Cat.
Drake went on to win that game and eventually the conference championship in this, Evan’s senior year and last gridiron hurrah.
Football is a team sport, which is perhaps the saving grace of the lineman. The boys in the trenches do not collect statistics for number of opponents knocked on their individual backsides or amount of time they bought their quarterback to loft heroic, game winning passes. Evan’s page on ESPN reads “no statistics available” with a sort of unconcerned smugness akin to librarians who hate telling students that their book is unavailable and hinting that they should go away and stop bothering them. There is no mention of the fact that Evan has started almost every game since his freshman year. Nothing alluding to the fact that the Cat has garnered every accolade a player at his position and level can attain (which, as you can guess, do not exactly rival a Heisman Trophy). But then again, linemen generally don’t play for the glory.
Evan and the rest of Drake’s stalwart offensive line are champions. He won his last football game. He came, saw and blocked. This 800-word pat on the back is the least I can do to congratulate the big man on an excellent career. (I’ll probably get him some ice cream later in the week, which he will appreciate more than a rambling newspaper article, anyway.) And as it turns out, he’s as good at identifying and erasing financial mathematics errors as blitzing linebackers, so he will continue his streak of excelling behind the scenes. (A natural fit: Accountants, much like lineman, only get noticed when they do something very, very wrong.)
I’m happy Evan goes out on top, he’s happy his days of 6 a.m. team workouts have ended and you are probably happy that I’m going to stop rambling now. All I ask is if you know Evan personally or see any other gigantic man sauntering about campus wearing a Drake Football sweatshirt, give them a thumbs up. After all, every (Bull)dog has his day.