Thursday, April 25, 2013 – Martin residence in Paradise, Pa.
The TV set at my house was set to the opening of the first round of the NFL Draft. I'm Kyle Martin, a college football standout wide receiver at Penn State and winner of the 2012 Campbell Scholar/Athlete, Biletnikoff and Maxwell Awards. Forty or fifty friends and family had gathered to watch my prospects. Three and a half months of preparation culminated this night. Which team would choose me?
Eight o'clock finally came and things got started. The NFL wasted too much time with introductions to the first round of the draft. I wanted to shout, 'Just put the Redskins on the clock already. Let's get going!'
About 8:15 Commissioner Goodell announced, "The Redskins are on the clock." Less than sixty seconds later he stepped up to the podium again and announced, "The Washington Redskins, with the first pick in the 2013 NFL draft, chose University of Michigan defensive tackle, William Johnson."
I cheered as my friend Big William became a very rich man. Nobody deserved the first pick more than him. The crawler at the bottom of the screen showed the time remaining for the Detroit Lions to make their choice as the anchors praised William and talked about the many awards he had won.
Most of the Lions' fifteen minutes were gone when Commissioner Goodell came out to announce, "With the second pick of the draft, the Detroit Lions chose the University of Southern California's offensive tackle, K. J. Kirkpatrick." That was an excellent pick. The Lions need protection for Matthew Stafford and K. J. is excellent at pass blocking.
The Kansas City Chiefs didn't use all their time. They chose Owen Wright, the big offensive tackle from Wisconsin. The anchors speculated that the Chiefs would probably use him at guard instead.
My nephews, Noah and Connor, and my three-year-old brother, Hunter, were still up, even though it was past their bed time. Noah and Connor were juiced from all the people. Hunter was fading.
"I'm tired, Kyle," my little brother said. "Can you hold me?"
"Sure, big guy," I agreed. I helped him onto my lap. Hunter leaned back against my body and was asleep in seconds.
The Seahawks wasted no time choosing. Roger Goodell came to the podium with ten minutes left on the clock for the Seahawks. "With the fourth pick of the 2013 draft, the Seattle Seahawks choose University of Texas quarterback, Todd Landry." Everyone in the world expected that pick.
The ticker at the bottom of the TV showed the Raiders on the clock. My fiancée, Penny Edwards, slid in close to me and held my hand. Would Al Davis pull a bone-headed stunt and draft me? The anchors filled the time with speculations about who the Raiders would draft. Mike Mayock categorically stated that they would draft me. He reminded all the viewers how much Al Davis loves fast wide receivers before reminding everyone that I posted the best time in a decade at the Combine.
I wanted to scream, 'Don't give Davis any ideas, damn it!' I tensed and waited to see if all my warnings to their team would be heeded. Roger Goodell came to the podium when less than thirty seconds remained.
"With the fifth pick of the 2013 draft, the Oakland Raiders choose..." Penny tightened her grip on my hand. I tensed. " ... Pennsylvania State University's wide receiver, Kyle D. Martin."
"NOOOO!" I screamed. Everyone stared at me. "YOU IDIOT! I'LL NEVER..." My phone rang mid-rant. I pulled my phone out and stared at the area code. It was a 510 area code, the same one I used when I called Aaron Morano in San Francisco. I punched the button and growled, "Hello?"
"Welcome to the Raiders, Kyle," Al Davis said pleasantly. I recognized his voice immediately. "I know you had certain misgivings, but when you give us a look..."
"MISGIVINGS?" I shouted into the phone. "I told you and your coaches explicitly NOT to draft me. I will never, EVER play for your joke of a team. Not in a million years for all the money in the world. NEVER!"
"JOKE? Joke of a team..." Al sputtered. "How dare you ... you ... God damned..." I punched the button on my phone to end the call. My phone rang again almost immediately. It was the same 510 area code and number. I ignored the call.
"What now?" Dad asked. "You need to calm down and think things through logically." I took a deep breath.
"You're right, Dad," I agreed. "I guess I need to face the press."
"Take a couple of minutes and get yourself centered," Dad suggested. "I'll go outside and tell them you will be out shortly."
"Thanks, Dad," I replied. My phone rang again. I looked at the same damned 510 number. The Raiders' obstinacy wasn't helping me calm down. Penny came over and gave me a hug. We clung together. I drew strength from my honey. My phone rang again about a minute later.
"God damn it!" I growled. "I wish they would leave me the hell alone!" I managed to spot the name on my phone before I hit the "Ignore" button. "Max, what's up?"
"Are you fully prepared to follow Plan B?"
"I'm sure as hell not playing for that idiot, Davis," I responded.
"Take a deep breath, Kyle," Max commanded. I did. "It is not as grim as it looks right now. I fielded half a dozen calls from teams that are interested in trading the Raiders for your services. They want to confirm if you are willing to play football for them."
"The Broncos, the Ravens, the Rams, the Cardinals, the Vikings and the Jets all have indicated an interest in your services," Max replied. "They are seeking assurances that you would be willing to play for them if they are able to trade with the Raiders for your services."
"Any of those teams are fine, Max," I answered. "I'd love it for someone ... anyone to get me away from Al Davis."
"I will pass the word on to the other teams," Max said. "Be prepared for your real Plan B."
"Teaching high school?" I answered. "I have two more days of student teaching then I get my degree and teaching certificate. I'm as prepared as any new graduate can be." I chuckled. "You know I'll be staying in the Philly area now so I can be close to my sweetie." Penny gave me a kiss on the cheek.
"Give Penny my best," Max said.
"Bye, Max," I said. Penny echoed my good-bye.
"I guess it's time for me to face the press," I announced.
"Are you calm?" Penny asked.
"I can do this," I responded. I saw Andy standing nearby holding a box of NFL team hats. A Raiders hat was on top of the pile. He shrugged his shoulders to me.
"Dad wanted me to make sure you had a team hat for the team that drafted you," Andy explained. "Do you want this one?" He offered me the Raiders hat.
"Burn the damned thing," I said. "Give me the Eagles one." I got funny looks from most of the people in the room. "It's OK. I know what I'm doing." I pasted a smile on my face and headed for the press on the front porch. I stepped out into the blinding lights to face the cameras. I managed not to laugh as virtually everyone did a double-take at my Eagles hat.
"Kyle, what is your reaction to the Raiders drafting you?" one reporter asked. "Why the Eagles hat?" another added.
"Shock. Dismay," I replied to the first question. "I am disappointed that the Raiders chose to ignore what my agent and I told them a couple months ago – that I would not be willing to play for the Raiders. I am wearing an Eagles cap tonight because it looks like I will be teaching history at some high school around the Philadelphia area next fall. I can continue to cheer for my favorite team from boyhood for another 364 days."
"Why Philadelphia and why teaching?" one of reporters shouted over half a dozen other questions.
"My fiancée and soon-to-be wife is studying to be a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania," I explained. "I want to stay in this area so we can begin our lives together. As for teaching ... well that is what my college degree is in."
"Any circumstances that you would play for the Raiders?"
"None," I stated firmly.
"What are your specific objections to playing for Al Davis?"
"Their quarterback situation is unsettled," I began. "I fully respect Elijah Carter but I doubt he will be 100% ready to play next September. They desperately need help on the offensive line, which is why Elijah got hurt in the first place. They picked up Pete Cochran to fill in until Elijah is back, but Pete's going to face protection problems too. My skills won't help turn the Raiders into a winner. I don't want to be separated from my wife and subject my body to the pounding of a football season if I can't help the team win. It's that simple."
"You and your agent denied that you had a list of teams that you wouldn't play for. Now you tell us that wasn't true. You refuse to play for the Raiders. Who else is on your list?"
"My agent and I chose to keep the fact that I would not play for the Raiders confidential between me and them," I explained. "We didn't want to single them out and embarrass them. They chose to ignore our request and draft me anyway. Any embarrassment they feel for wasting a draft pick on me is theirs and theirs alone. I have no list of teams I won't play for. As a matter of fact, my agent has already fielded half a dozen calls from teams that would like to trade with the Raiders to obtain my rights. They want to know if I will play for them. I told my agent yes to EVERY team on that list." My phone had been vibrating throughout my press conference but I had been ignoring it.
"Kyle, you need to take a call right now," Dad said as he stuck his head out the front door. "They have six more minutes to do a deal."
"It's the Rams," half a dozen different reporters gasped simultaneously.
"Excuse me," I announced. "I'll be back in a few minutes." I stepped back into the house and pulled my phone out. The current call from was area code 410 – the Ravens. "Hello, Kyle Martin."
"Thank God, I got you," the man stated. "This is Ozzie Newsome. I want to hear it from your own mouth. If I manage to swing a trade with the Raiders will you come play for my team?"
"Absolutely, Mr. Newsome," I agreed quickly. "You're close to Philly and my fiancée. I would LOVE to come play for your team."
"Stand by, Kyle," Ozzie said. "I am going to try to make a blockbuster trade to get you."
"I'll do that," I agreed. I clicked "End" to finish the call, turned to the living room full of people and announced, "The Ravens are trying to trade for me." Everyone in the room let out a cheer. Andy handed me a purple Ravens cap. "Not yet, let's let Ozzie Newsome finish the trade first."
I poked my head outside momentarily. "Can you guys stand by for a bit? Things are happening right now that you probably will want to wait for." Half a dozen reporters shouted out questions as I pulled my head inside again and shut the front door.
"What did I miss in the draft?" I asked.
"The Titans took Danny Clay with the sixth pick," Andy replied. "The Rams have another minute on the clock."
Penny slipped in beside me again and put her arm around my waist. I slipped mine around hers. Everyone stared at the TV as the seconds wound down on the Rams. Commissioner Goodell stepped to the podium and announced, "The St. Louis Rams, with the seventh pick of the 2013 draft, select the University of Pittsburgh's offensive tackle, Courtney Devine."
My phone was strangely quiet as my family, friends and fiancée sat and watched the draft, hoping someone could offer enough to free me from the Raider's grasp. The Browns took Eldon Burkholder. The Jaguars took DeMarcus Van Dyke. Green Bay swapped their first pick for Buffalo's 1st and 3rd. Buffalo chose Dylan Harris to be their next QB.
A crawler appeared at the bottom of the screen the same time the Bengals picked Marshon Wilkins with the 11th pick of the draft. The crawler announced, "Al Davis has been rushed to a hospital in Oakland. He is reported to have suffered a heart attack."
"I hope nobody blames you for causing his heart attack," Andy commented.
"Andrew, that's a terrible thing to say," Mom insisted. Andy apologized immediately. It didn't help my frame of mind. Had I indirectly caused it? Was there any way for me to know?
Mike Mayock announced that the Denver Broncos traded their first round pick to Baltimore for Baltimore's 1st and 2nd picks. Everyone perked up and watched the TV while we waited to hear if Ozzie Newsome could arrange the trade he had hinted at. Baltimore took nearly the entire fifteen minutes to make their pick. The clock was down to 20 seconds when Commissioner Goodell walked up to the podium on stage.
"The Baltimore Ravens, with the twelfth pick of the 2013 draft, select University of Florida wide receiver, Eric Peters."
"Anybody know of any high school history teacher job openings around Philly?" I called out. That drew polite laughs from my crowd of friends and family. Andy and Mom took Hunter, Noah and Connor upstairs to bed. Hunter was dead to the world. The twins were fading fast. The rest of us watched as the draft proceeded.
13. Dallas Cowboys picked Da'Rel Etherridge, OT
14. Miami – Bradford Garrett, TE
15. Green Bay Packers - Ross McCarthy, OL with the pick they swapped with Buffalo
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Tre Benjamin, RB
17. Carolina Panthers - DeMarcus Hankerson, OL
18. Houston Texans - Eric Young, CB
19. New York Giants - Malo Kaapana, RB
I realized by then it was way past time to finish talking with the press. I put the Eagles hat on again and stepped outside. The cameramen clicked the TV lights on. I did my best to answer all their questions patiently. I reiterated my position that I would not play for the Raiders under any circumstances.
"Kyle, are you certain you will give up $22 million dollars over four years to teach a bunch of high school kids?" the Fox Sports reporter asked.
"I have three goals in my life," I explained. "Family is first. I want to teach youth, because I think I am good at it and I want to coach football. Do you see striking it rich on my list?"
"No," the reporter conceded.
"Kyle ... could you hold on a second?" the ESPN reporter asked. He took a small sheet of paper and read it quickly. "Can I get your reaction to this breaking news?"
"What is it?"
"My producer just received word from the network that Al Davis passed away half an hour ago," the reporter announced. "Does this change your intentions regarding the Raiders?"
"Al Davis is dead," I repeated as I bowed my head. I looked up again after about twenty seconds of silence. "This is a sad day for the Raiders and for the NFL. Mr. Davis and I may have disagreed on my utility to his team when we talked earlier tonight but I respected the man and everything he has done for football. My high school and college coaches' philosophies ... even my own football philosophy are founded on the principles of Al Davis' vertical passing game. My interview with Mr. Davis before the Senior Bowl was probably one of the most interesting I have had in the past few months. Talking X's and O's with Mr. Davis was fascinating."
"Will this change your decision about playing for the Raiders?" half a dozen reporters shouted at the same time.
"Neither Mr. Davis nor I can block an onrushing defensive lineman," I replied. "I can't quarterback for the Raiders. My skill set and the Raiders' player needs have not changed with Mr. Davis' death. I wish the Raiders the best but I will not play for them ... this season or in the future."
"Doesn't your decision to spurn the Raiders simply confirm earlier reports you're difficult to deal with?" Andrew Morgan from ESPN asked. "Some have called you a prima donna." Andrew had always been decent to me during other interviews. Why the hell was he spouting Brown's nonsense?
"Speak with my teammates and coaches," I countered. "I know every one of them will say the same thing. My focus on a team is making the team ... THE WHOLE TEAM successful. My speed and pass-catching ability aren't going to help the Raiders become a winning team. The $20 or $25 million they would need to pay me as a first-round number five pick would be wasted. If I were a prima donna interested only in myself, I would grab that money instantly. I could manage to go through the motions for two or three years while that pile of money grows. They'll eventually get tired of me not producing and cut me. I would be a rich man and free of the Raiders too, but that's not who I am. I want to make whichever team I am on better and help turn them into a winner."
"Sounds like a story the Raiders have heard before," one of the reporters remarked.
"Coach, what message would you like to pass on to the Raiders organization, if any?" Jeff Morgan from the Philadelphia Inquirer asked. I'd known Jeff for almost four years. We had been on a first name (or nickname) basis for the past year.
"Trade me," I answered. "Please, trade me. Get something of value for the first-round pick you have wasted. See if you can get a good offensive lineman. Elijah and Pete will thank you for that." I looked over the crowd of reporters. A dozen had their hands up for more questions. I was exhausted and burnt out from dealing with all of this. "Let's take a minute to say a prayer for Al Davis' family in this, their time of trouble." I bowed my head while the reporters, cameramen and crews stood nervously. "Thank you, that is all I have for you tonight."
I turned and walked back into the house, ignoring the questions they shouted out to me. "Well, I'm glad that's done."
"Maybe they'll go away now so our guests can get out the door," Dad remarked.
"I want to thank everyone for coming tonight," I announced to the gathering in the living room. "I know this isn't what you anticipated when you came tonight but I do appreciate your support."
Penny and I individually spoke with and thanked the guests as they departed. John Waters, my mentor teacher, and his wife Emily were one of the last couples to leave.
"Thanks for inviting us, Kyle," John said. "It certainly was interesting."
"I'm glad the two of you were able to come," I replied. "I'll see you in class tomorrow morning."
"Between you being drafted by the Raiders and then you refusing to play for them, it will be an interesting day, Kyle," John said. "Be prepared for chaos."
"It won't be that bad," I answered. "Our kids are well behaved."
"This is the biggest thing to happen to someone at our school in decades," John answered. "Be prepared."
"It will be fine, John," I insisted. "I'll see you in the morning."
The last of the guests were clearing out when the next draftee of significance to me was announced. The New York Jets took Trevor Conwell. I knew my buddy was delighted. He loved the creative ways Rex Ryan had for applying pressure to quarterbacks. He was going to be in heaven playing for the Jets. I called him before Penny and I went downstairs to bed.
We were getting ready for bed when my cell phone rang. It was that 410 area code again.
"Hello, Kyle Martin," I announced when I accepted the call.
"Kyle, this is Ozzie Newsome." My heart leapt with hope.
"Yes, Mr. Newsome," I replied.
"We tried our damnedest to pry you from the Raiders," Ozzie said. "All of this was before Al's heart attack. He wouldn't budge. No one else is ready to do anything now that Al is gone."
"I figured that when you engineered the trade with the Broncos," I replied. "You have an excellent receiver with Eric Peters. Eric is a friend of mine. He will do well for your team."
"We think so too," Ozzie said. "I'm sorry we couldn't get you in our organization. I know it would have been a long and mutually profitable relationship. Good luck wherever you end up. Maybe we can pick you up a year from now, if you make yourself available in the 2014 draft."
"I hope it happens," I answered. I snapped the phone off and set it on the dresser. It rang before I got a foot away. I checked the phone. It was a call from the 510 area code. I hit the Ignore button. Five seconds later it rang again. It was the same damned 510 phone number. I hit Ignore and climbed in bed. The phone rang again.
"I'm turning the God damned thing off!" I growled as I climbed out of bed. Fortunately, I looked at the phone before shutting it down. It was Ed Fritz.
"What's up, Ed?" I snapped. I took a deep breath. My bad night wasn't Ed's fault.
"Sorry about how your night went," Ed responded. "Who would have thought Al Davis was idiot enough to take you in the draft."
"I know," I agreed. "Look at the good side. We'll be entering the draft together, just like we did when we started college."
"Could be," Ed said. "Can I put you on speaker? I have a friend who wants to talk with you."
"Is it Eric?" I asked. "Sure, put him on. He's going to love working with the Ravens."
"I'll pass that on to Eric," Ed said. "It isn't Eric. He's at his parents' place tonight. Listen to what Elijah has to say. Do it for your best friend."
"Elijah?" I responded. "You're asking a lot."
"Listening can't hurt you," Ed said. "Let me put Elijah on."
"Hello, Kyle?" Elijah said.
"Hi, Elijah," I responded.
"Ed's told me so many good things about you," Elijah said. "It almost feels like I know you already." I chuckled.
"I know that feeling," I agreed. "Ed has a lot of good things to say about you, too. How is your knee doing?"
"I'm working through it," Elijah allowed. "I'm up to 75 degrees on range of motion."
"That's progress," I replied. "Keep working at it. You'll get there in time."
"I was really excited when the team drafted you tonight," Elijah said. "Ed has told me so many good things about working with you. I think you and I could do some amazing things together on a football field. You really should come out here to Oakland and see things. The Raiders aren't nearly as bad as you might think."
"Not a ringing endorsement of your team," I countered. "Not as bad as you think. How's your new best friend Pete [Cochran] working out?"
"Pete?" Elijah allowed. He paused a few seconds. "He's got a strong arm. He's confident. He knows football."
"He's a dick," I added. "Anybody try to run him over in the parking lot?"
"No, they haven't," Elijah allowed. "At least, not yet."
"There's a reason Ed became a Gator and I became a Nittany Lion," I explained. "Michigan recruited both of us. The reason we rejected the school is named Cochran."
"I understand," Elijah agreed.
"Tell me you wouldn't prefer a couple of high-draft-pick offensive linemen over me," I challenged. Elijah didn't answer. "I'll assume silence means you agree with me. I wish things were different. Ed's told me so many good things about you. I'd love to play with you ... anywhere but in Oakland."
"I disagree but I understand," Elijah said. "Good luck, however things turn out."
"Work hard on rehab," I responded. "You'll be back better than ever by the end of the year if you put in the sweat and tears."
"Ed reminds me of how your knee turned out every time we've talked since last December," Elijah said. "I'm going to work at it and come back strong."
"You do that, Elijah," I said. "Take care." I turned the phone off when I ended the call. Penny and I didn't need more distractions.
Penny and I did make love before falling asleep. It wasn't the wild passionate sex we might have had if the draft had worked out the way we both hoped. It was slow and comforting. I needed the support of the woman I loved. I lay in bed after we finished thinking about the latest turn my life had taken. Making 20 or 25 million dollars would be nice, but spending full time living with the love of my life was probably better for me than the crazy life of a football star.
I remembered the story about the big stones that Max had told us back when we chose him for my agent. Penny was the biggest stone in my life. Professional accomplishment was a pretty big one too. I wanted to teach and coach football. Nothing that happened tonight would displace my big stones. Maybe this was just how God intended my life to unfold. Love of a good woman and learning to practice your chosen profession. Those were pretty good things.
My first-period class the morning after the first round draft was pure chaos. John Waters sat in the back, smiling and observing while I tried to get the kids to focus on our review of the Swiss republican system of government. Instead of a discussion about the cantons and how they were governed I got questions about Oakland, the Raiders and what my future held.
"People! Stop!" I finally said in exasperation. "I know you're interested in my draft status. I will give you five minutes to get ALL your football questions asked. After that, it is back to Switzerland and the Alps. Is that a deal?" I got head nods from most of the class. I held my arm out and stared at my watch. "Your time starts NOW!"
The kids peppered me with questions about the Raiders, how much money I could have been making and how I could give that up. I let them ask questions right up until my watch hit the five-minute mark.
"OK, that's it!" I insisted. "No more football until 8:03." Derek, a sweet kid and sports fanatic, was still waving his hand for my attention. I gave him the cold stare I learned from Mom. "Is this question about Switzerland?" I stared hard. Derek wilted and put his hand down. "Ask me at 8:03, Derek."
"OK, Mr. Martin," Derek agreed. "Sorry." I proceeded to give my lecture on the Swiss system of government. The kids managed to behave through the rest of the class. Derek and the other sports fanatics hit me with more questions at the end of the period. I had to shoo them off to home room.
Home room was similarly chaotic, but shorter. I allowed no questions at all. I took roll and had the kids do the pledge and listen to the morning announcements, as usual. I had to shoo them out the door again when the next bell rang.
John came forward as the kids were leaving. I held my hands up and said, "You don't need to say it. You told me so. I don't know why I ever doubted you."
"You handled that about as well as is possible," John said. "The kids are not used to their teacher suddenly getting and then giving up twenty-some million dollars. That is bound to be disruptive."
"I plan to handle the rest of the classes the same way I did this one," I replied. "I will take roll and then give them five minutes for football questions. After that it is strictly studying until the bell."
"That's a plan, Kyle," John agreed.
The strategy allowed me to keep a modicum of control over my classroom during the day. I had one student in third period that just would not take the hint. After four times of asking inappropriate questions after football time, I was out of patience. When his hand went up again I gave him a hard stare.
"Bill, if the words football, Oakland or Raiders appear anywhere in your next question, you will be visiting Mr. Jarvis," I declared. He put his hand down and kept quiet for the last fifteen minutes of AP European History.
My phone vibrated in my pocket while I was delivering the lecture third period. I checked who called after the period was over. It was Coach Burton. I gave my coach a call.
"Hello, Kyle," Coach Burton began when he answered. "I'm sorry about how things went for you last night. Do you need Plan B? I haven't hired an offensive grad assistant yet. The job is yours if you want it."
"That's tempting, Coach," I responded. "I'd jump at the chance if it weren't for Penny. You do remember I'm getting married on July 6th? I know Ann-Marie put it on your calendar."
"I haven't forgotten," Coach replied.
"I'm afraid working for you is my Plan C," I explained. "I want to give myself a chance to find work down here in Philly first before I head back to State College."
"I completely understand," Coach Burton said. "A position here will be open for you whenever you need it. Look around and see what you can find. I'll be happy to give you a reference if you end up at a school looking for a football coach and a teacher. I'll help you any way I can."
"I appreciate that, Coach," I said. "You've been so good to me over the past four years."
"Good luck with the job search," Coach said before finishing the call.
"Job offer?" John asked after I hung up.
"Coach Burton offered me a position on staff with him."
"That's not a bad start for a soon-to-be college grad," John said. "I'll keep my ear open to see if we can find you a spot somewhere out here in the suburbs. Some district has to have an opening for a good social studies teacher." He smiled. "As soon as you get hired to teach, they'll be after you for the football staff too. Count on it."
"I hope you're right," I agreed. John reviewed the merits of the various school districts in the area over the next ten minutes. My phone rang. I stared at the 215 area code. I didn't recognize the phone number.
"Hello, Kyle Martin."
"Hello, Kyle. It's Coach Golden over at Temple," Coach Golden said in greeting.
"Are you revoking my ID to work out with you already?" I teased. I had gotten to like Coach Golden over the few months I used his facilities.
"No ... certainly not," Coach Golden answered. "This call is more one Penn Stater to another. I'm sorry to hear about the Raiders taking you last night."
"I'll survive ... especially if I stay away from playing for that team," I responded.
"I know how you feel, Kyle," Coach Golden said. "I got myself drafted by the Patriots when I came out of college. Not the high flying, winning Patriots everyone knows today. I was drafted by the sad-sack Patriots who went 2-14 in my only season with them. I guess it's no wonder I took up coaching early. I did a year at a high school in Jersey before getting a job as a grad assistant at Virginia."
"I didn't know that," I allowed.
"Do you want to skip the year as a high school assistant and go straight to working as a grad assistant for me?" Coach Golden asked.
"Seriously?" I gasped. "You'd take me on?"
"Seriously, Kyle. I would like you to join the Temple staff," Coach Golden responded. "Can you come in after classes are over today so we can do a formal job interview?"
"Um ... sure ... um ... I don't have a suit handy or anything," I responded. "They're all in Paradise today ... and..."
"Kyle, we're football coaches," Coach Golden said. "Come dressed as you are at class. That will be fine. What time can you be down to Edberg-Olson?"
"Um... 4:15?" I suggested.
"Good, I will see you at 4:15 today."
"Thanks, Coach," I said before clicking "End."
"Take you on?" John asked as I finished. "Did you just get another job offer? Is this one local?"
"I think Temple qualifies as local," I responded.
"Coach Golden ... very nice," John said. "That should get you launched nicely into the coaching ranks."
"Yeah, I guess," I allowed. "My head is still spinning."
"Call Penny and give her the good news."
"Yeah, you're right, John," I agreed. I called my sweetie, who had taken the day off and was back at her parents' place in Paradise.
"What's up, Kyle?" Penny asked when she answered the phone.
"I have good news," I announced.
"Somebody traded you away from the Raiders," Penny guessed.
"That would be great news," I answered. "This is good news. My job search in the Philly area may not take very long. I have an interview with Coach Golden at Temple this afternoon for a spot as a grad assistant."
"Temple!" Penny gushed. "That would be wonderful. How much does it pay?"
"I don't know," I replied. "I think Anders got a $10,000 stipend, room, board and tuition at Penn State. I don't know what Coach Golden will offer."
"Room and board wouldn't work," Penny said. "Temple is too far from the veterinary school for me to live on their campus. $10,000 wouldn't pay our rent for a year. I don't want us to tap the Nike money for daily living expenses."
"I know," I agreed. "Will I have more Nike money after this year if I refuse to play in the NFL? I'll go do the interview and find out about the financial arrangements. Why don't you line up your parents and mine for a post-dinner meeting tonight. We can look at what Coach Golden is offering and see if it makes sense for us."
"That sounds like a plan," Penny agreed. "Will you make it back for dinner here?"
"I'm sure I won't," I replied. "My interview is at 4:15. You know the Schuylkill [Expressway]. Traffic will be murder tonight. Why don't you tell our parents we'll sit down and review Coach Golden's offer at 7:00 tonight."
"Done!" Penny said. "I love you, honey."
"I love you too."
The beginning of the last three classes were as chaotic as the first classes, but I had a plan to deal with it. We managed to spend most of each period on the appropriate topic. John wished me well after the final bell rang. I headed for my trusty VW Golf and drove for the Schuylkill Expressway. I made it to Temple in plenty of time for my appointment. Katie Hahnemann, the Edberg-Olson receptionist gave me a big smile as I came in.
"I expected you to be flying out Oakland today, not coming here to work out," Katie said in greeting.
"I won't be playing for Oakland," I replied. "I don't see eye-to-eye with the ownership. I have a 4:15 appointment to see Coach Golden."
"Go ahead, Kyle," Katie said. "You know your way around here by now."
I wanted to add, 'but not as well as I will soon, ' but I didn't. I headed upstairs to Coach Golden's office.
"Come in. Sit down," Coach Golden said with a big smile. "I'm glad you were able to come in this afternoon." He pointed at the couch in front of his desk.
"I'm happy to be here," I said as I sat down. Coach Golden joined me on the couch.
"Do you know what a graduate assistant does?" Coach asked.
"I have a fair idea," I replied. "Anders Voight and Yasin Clark have filled the positions at Penn State the past two years. Both were players and friends when I started at the university. I know they do the detail stuff."
"That's a polite way to put it," Coach Golden said, grinning. "You would prep game charts. You keep everyone's playbooks up to date. You'll break down a lot of video."
"That's certainly not a problem," I said.
"I heard that about you from Bob [Burton]," Coach Golden said. "Is the rumor true? Did Coach kick you out of the film room once?"
"No, not me," I answered laughing. "That was Zack Hayes. Coach did ban him from the video room one weekend. I'm almost but not quite as bad as Zack."
"You'll deliver messages," Coach continued. "You'll do whatever detail work needs to be done to keep the team going. You will sit in on the coaching staff meetings. You may get to work with the players some too. Have I scared you away yet?"
"Not yet," I replied.
"I understand you had some practice coaching last weekend," Coach Golden said. "What did you think?"
"I enjoyed it," I replied.
"Bob Burton raved about the job you did with the Blue team's special teams," Coach Golden said. "Did you see anything in the papers this week about our Cherry and White game?"
"Sorry, Coach, I didn't pay any attention to it," I answered.
"That's fine," Coach Golden said. "I thought you might have noticed who our top receiver was. How did Dave Mitchell get so good? He tells me you have been coaching him off and on for years."
"We worked together for four summers at scout camp," I explained. "We worked at least an hour a day on passing drills while we were in camp. I worked with him during our high school's spring passing drills each year after I got home from college. I think you probably can give Walt Caffrey and Jason Turner more credit than me for Dave's abilities."
"This can't leave this room," Coach said. "Dave beat out my two- and three-year starters at the wide receiver position. By most rights, Dave should still be in high school. He was doing things on the field I haven't seen seniors in college do. I credit Walt and Coach Turner to an extent. They're both great coaches. Dave tells me you're responsible. Coach Burton agrees."
"I think they're being too generous," I protested. "I just help out the best I can."
"Don't be surprised if you're assigned to help Coach Rhule with the receivers. Matt is stretched pretty thin. He is co-offensive coordinator for the passing game and handles position responsibilities for the tight ends and wide receivers."
"I'm willing to help out however I can," I replied.
"If you can get the rest of the receivers up to young Dave's standards, we're going to blow out the rest of the Big East," Coach Golden stated.
"The Big East?" I said. "I thought you played in the MAC."
"That is past tense," Coach explained. "We are back starting this coming season. The conference realignments are getting crazy. Nine years ago they kicked our team out of the Big East. Now they need us back. It's poetic."
"Can we talk compensation?" I asked. "That will probably be the key question."
"Certainly," Coach Golden said. "Our normal arrangement with our grad assistants is a full graduate-degree scholarship, room and board and a $12,000 living stipend for incidental expenses. We allow a week of paid vacation after the first year and eight sick days. How does that sound?"
"Not great," I answered. "I don't need room and board. My fiancée is going to veterinary school over at Penn. We have an apartment just off campus."
"Bob told me you were getting married this summer," Coach said. "We have some housing available for married grad students. I can get the two of you in there."
"My fiancée isn't comfortable with that," I explained. "I don't want her traveling around Philly if she has early morning or evening classes. She doesn't have a car. Is there any way you can drop room and board from my compensation and increase the stipend? Would that be possible?"
"I have to watch what I pay you," Coach answered. "I have to be fair to Matt Dellavecchia." Matt was a current grad assistant for the team. I had worked with him some while I was working out at Temple over the past few months.
"What is the value of room and board for a grad student here?" I asked. "I don't want to take advantage of Matt either. I have a lot of respect for Matt. He has been very helpful since I started working out here."
Coach Golden walked over to his desk. "Let me see what I can do." He looked through a folder. "I could go to $24,000 if I don't have to take your room and board out of my budget."
"I may be able to work with that, Coach," I replied.
"There is one other important item we need to discuss," Coach Golden said. "You would be on a one-year contract. Somehow I suspect you probably won't be available after the next draft."
"I hope not," I agreed.
"I understand that and it's fine," Coach said. "You're probably a one-year rental for us, but I think my team will take value from having you with us. I know a year as a grad assistant will look good on your coaching resume. I have asked the HR department to include an out for you. You will be able to leave here on two weeks' notice if someone in the NFL manages to pry your rights away from Oakland so you can go pro where you really belong right now."
"Wow!" I remarked. "I hadn't expected that."
"That's my offer, Kyle," Coach Golden said. "I hope you will take it."
"I'm planning to head back to Lancaster County when we're done. I will go over this offer with my parents, my fiancée and her parents. Can I give you a call tomorrow and let you know if this works for us?" Coach Golden handed me a fat envelope containing the contract. That reminded me. "There is one more step I guess I have to take. Max Solomon is my agent. He's responsible for all my football contracts. I guess that includes this one."
"It is definitely a football contract," Coach Golden confirmed. He laughed. "I think you'll be the first grad assistant I've ever dealt with that used a sports agent for his contract."
"I signed a football contract with Max," I explained. "I don't think I have a choice but to involve him."
"Hopefully he doesn't take too large a chunk of your stipend for his agent's cut," Coach Golden teased.
"I'm sure he'll be gentle," I answered. "Thank you for this offer, Coach. I'll give it serious consideration and get back to you as soon as I can."
I gave Max Solomon a call before I headed for home. "Any news on the trade front?" I asked when he answered his phone.
"Nothing new, Kyle," Max answered.
"I'm leaving Philly for home now," I reported. "I will send you a contract I received this afternoon for you to review after I get home. Al Golden wants me to coach at Temple."
"The job search didn't take long," Max said. "Are you interested?"
"I may be, if Penny and I can figure out how to survive on a grad assistant's stipend," I explained. "I think we can pull it off with a little help from our parents." Max chuckled.
"I won't demand my 3% if you sign with Temple," Max said. "The most important question I have, Kyle, is this. Does the contract have a way out if a team gets desperate enough for a wide receiver to meet the Raiders' price later in the summer?"
"Two weeks' notice and I'm free to play in the NFL," I answered.
"Excellent!" Max replied. "This would be an excellent place for you to hold out until sanity prevails with the Raiders and someone gets your rights that you can play for."
I headed west on Schuylkill, Route 202 and then Route 30. I grabbed a sandwich for dinner at the Wawa on the east end of Downingtown. I got home about fifteen minutes before our scheduled family meeting. Dad scanned and e-mailed the contract to Max Solomon. I played with Hunter and the twins until Penny, Jim and Marilyn came over for our meeting.
The meeting was anti-climactic. Jim Edwards had always planned to pay for Penny's veterinary education. That hadn't changed. Even though Penny and I would be living as man and wife, Jim and Marilyn planned to pay Penny's half of the rent on our apartment. Mom and Dad would continue to pay my charge-card bill and add to my debt as I had done throughout college.
Dad had done some research before I got home. He reported that the average starting teacher's salary was around $35,000. That would probably have travel expenses and have to pay for the continuing education courses beginning teachers were required to take. Travel expenses would be minimal between our apartment near Penn and my potential job at Temple. I would have a scholarship so I could get to work on a master's degree. I would probably go for a degree in History. That would add value to my marketability as a teacher.
Everyone agreed that I should accept Coach Golden's offer, assuming Max Solomon signed off on the deal. Max called later that evening and recommended I accept the offer. I called Coach Golden back Saturday morning and formally accepted a position as an offensive graduate assistant for the Temple Owls. I promised to return the signed contract on Monday after my last class.
Penny and I headed downstairs to the basement after a very full night. I was psyched up to have a job and know where I would be and what I would do. I was frisky and ready to show Penny how much I loved her. We made out a little before I kissed my way south towards my lover's treasures. Penny reached down and pulled me back up before I dived below her waist.
"Let's hold off, Kyle," Penny explained as she hugged me. "I did something really dumb Wednesday night."
"I doubt it's a big deal," I commented.
"I put my pills in my suitcase Wednesday night instead of in my purse like I usually do."
"And?" I asked.
"You took off for school early on Thursday," Penny explained. "I missed Thursday morning's pill."
"It should be fine," Penny added quickly. "I went down to Groff's Drugstore this morning and got the Plan B emergency contraception. Everything should be fine, but it's probably best if we hold off on sex until I finish the Plan B pills. Unless ... you happen to have some condoms here."
"Sorry, honey. I only make love to you and have no need for them," I explained. I remembered a few I had stuffed in my dresser back when I was bedding Faith sixteen months ago. They might still be there. "I remembered some ancient ones I have around here somewhere. They're probably just as dangerous to use tonight as doing it without any protection at all."
"Let's just cuddle and kiss," Penny suggested. "I love you just as much this way as when we go all the way."
"That's fine," I agreed. I love kissing and cuddling with you."