Deep within the bowels of Texas Stadium, David Remmers kept walking. One foot in front of the next, with no real determination to his steps. As he walked down that long hallway, dreading his destination, he began to think of all the long walks he has taken in the years leading up to that moment. Lives are filled with walks, like from the sideline to the 50-yard line on your Senior Day, or onto the stage to accept the Heisman Trophy. Down the aisle after your wedding ceremony, or to the doctor to get the news that your playing days were over. Walks filled with excitement, nerves, and even some trepidation.
He was not ready to finish this walk.
Only minutes before, his Central Valley State University Bobcats were on the cusp of something truly great. On a neutral field. In the backyard of the defending national champions. Clinging to a 24-21 lead starting a true freshman quarterback, they faced a 4th and 4 on the Texas Northwestern 32-yard line, with just over two minutes remaining. Remmers called for the team’s final timeout, to discuss the situation with the rest of his staff and players. After a long debate that covered all options, including punting or attempting the long field goal, Remmers sent his offense back out on the field to try to ice the game. Keeping with the game plan, the script that had given them an early lead, they put the ball in the hands of their freshman QB, Jeffrey Rogers. They rolled him out to his right, giving him a flood concept to that side of the field.
Rogers had his tight end open in the flat, past the first down markers. The throw sailed over the head of its intended target. The Bobcats never saw the ball again, as Texas Northwestern scored a touchdown on the game’s final play to pull out the win, 27-24.
Given this, Remmers wasn’t ready to face his troops.
But the coach walked on, putting one foot in front of the other, while he tried to find the right words to address these young men. As he got to the locker room, the group was so silent he heard the sound of his wedding band against the steel door as he pushed it open. Behind that piece of steel he found nearly 80 young men, all of them sitting in the spacious locker room, heads down, eye black smudged, some of them sniffling. Remmers walked toward the middle of the room, on the big stadium logo, and began to speak.
“Men, I can’t tell you how proud I am of each and every one of you. We knew coming into this game it was gonna be a battle. That’s a great football team over there. This is their home away from home. That was a hostile crowd out there. But you guys came in here and took it to the defending champs from the whistle.”
Remmers paused for a moment, and took stock of the room around him. Most of the eyes were still on him. There were some exceptions, and he noted those and understood the reasons. He continued.
“This isn’t the result we wanted. But it’s an effort we can be proud of, and build on. One game doesn’t make a season. This is a building block. Remove the obstacles, right? This was a big one. And it’s in the past now. We’ll take our lessons from this and look forward now. This one’s behind us. We’ve got our home opener in a week, and then our conference schedule starts in two weeks. I know this one hurts, but it’s time to get back home and start working for next week. Keep your heads up and be ready to work.”
Remmers turned and headed to one of the private offices to collect his thoughts again. As he left the group, the equipment managers and assistants started their work, moving around from player to player to collect what they could. Other logistics workers started to remind the players of the next important times, such as when busses would leave for the airport, and when they would be wheels up back to campus. Thankfully for all, it would be a pretty quick flight.
Remmers slumped behind a desk, leaning back in the chair as he rubbed his face. Some of the other coaches filtered in, stoic and silent.
“We had that one” Remmers murmured, to no one in particular.
The silence lingered. “60 minutes to busses!” rang out as the locker room slowly grew to life.
Finally, Hugh Villencia broke the silence.
“I know we had that one coach. But defending champs. Basically a damn road game. We punched them in the mouth out the gate and never really looked back. Yeah, they blitzed us late and it slowed us down, but we got something here coach.”
Remmers stayed silent. His offensive line coach continued. “This Rogers kid, he can play. Gutty kid. Big stage and didn’t choke.”
Finally the head coach chimed in. “Hugh, he threw two picks in the second half and missed a gimme that would have iced this.”
“Come on coach. If I told you last night we’d have the ball and a chance to win with two to go, you would have called me crazy.”
“Hugh’s right coach, look. I wasn’t too fucking happy when we went with this kid, but he played his heart out tonight. The entire team did.” Remmers was somewhat surprised that his offensive coordinator was coming to the defense of the freshman QB.
Remmers clasped his hands behind his head, and surveyed the room.
“Guys, we gotta win games. We gave away one here, and this was a big one. This would have set us up going forward. Now we get a home opener against an FCS school, and this is one we gotta have. We gotta evaluate our roster week to week. Let’s see what the tape tells us, but that was one we should have had.”
“Look, we got a flight home to catch, and I have to go address the media. Anyone wanna take my spot?”
There were no takers.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Less than eight hours later, a bleary-eyed Remmers got behind the wheel of his leased Audi A6, started the engine, and began backing down the driveway. As he put the car into drive and started down the road toward campus, he eased into his seat a bit. When he made the left turn onto Spencer Road off Peggy Lane, he finally gave in and turned on the radio. It was tuned to the local ESPN affiliate, and their morning show was already in full gear.
“I’m just saying, if you’re gonna go for it in that situation, maybe don’t put the ball in the hands of this freshman who already turned it over twice.”
“And that’s enough of that” Remmers whispered, as he changed the station.
The coach accelerated down Spencer Road, turning right onto Grubb Road before making the left turn onto East-West Highway, which would lead right into the heart of campus. Given the early hour and the fact it was a Sunday morning on a college campus, the four-lane road was quiet and Remmers opened up the engine a bit. Forty-five miles per hour was just a recommendation to the coach at this time. As the stadium complex came into view, Remmers slowed the vehicle down and made the left just past the main gate onto Campus Drive, before looping around the stadium on Bobcat Way, and into the complex, parking in his designated space in the shadow of Memorial Stadium.
Reserved for Head Coach David Remmers, the sign read. Although you couldn’t tell, as the name was spray-painted over sometime in the past few hours. It wasn’t there when the team arrived back on campus only a few hours before.
“That was quick,” the coach remarked to the empty car.
Remmers locked his vehicle and headed into the offices at the complex, winding his way through the halls and taking the stairs to the coaches’ suite, and finally slid into his office just a touch after 8 AM. As he expected, he wasn’t alone. Some of the graduate assistants were already in the suite, finalizing their work on the next opponent as well as the film work from the game the night before. Remmers wasn’t really ready to tackle either just quite yet, but would be in due time. He did glance at the stat sheet that was on his desk, flashing his eyes to the quarterback numbers. Rogers was 21 of 33 for 242 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Also picked up another 67 yards with his legs with one scramble for a score. Those were the numbers.
First, though, Remmers needed to face some music. In the new media age, there was always something to address, whether a message board chat, or some video work with the school’s own media department, or other external media such as T.V. or radio shows. But today, of all days, Remmers had agreed to go on a podcast. He agreed to it weeks ago, when his Sports and Information Director (SID) approached him with the idea and the invite, and Remmers deeply regretted the decision now. But at the time he looked at it like a way to get his SID out of his office, and saying yes seemed the path of least resistance.
Remmers sat down behind his desk and spun the chair around, reaching for the Keurig. As his second cup of the day began to brew, he spun back around and logged into his Skype account on his office desktop. After signing in, he saw the notification that the host of the podcast was online, and he quickly got out of his chair, and closed his office door. The call started to come in. Remmers sat back down.
“Hey there Jeff, thanks for having me.”
“Sorry about last night, coach. Tough loss. Kids played well.”
“Yeah, that’s a tough one.”
“Okay coach, so we’re ready to go on our end. I know you’re busy so thanks again for taking the time, and we’ll try and get you out in just a few minutes. You ready to go?”
“Okay. Coming back in three…two…one.”
Decision time again coach:
— Inside the Pylon (@ITPylon) August 14, 2017