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January 22rd, 2012, AFC Championship Game

“Drops back at the 50, looking, still looking, he’s hit!” The announcer went silent. The stadium went silent. “Fumble! FUMBLE,” he finally bellowed.
The ball took a bounce and was snatched up by the running back. His body moved without thought, he instinctively looked down field for his blockers.

                  50 yards till the end zone…
                  50 months ago...
He’s the touchdown king & NFL MVP,” yelled the commentator of the 24-hour sports network. “He might be the best running back in NFL history and he’s only 27!

Globs of snow pelted across his visor but his vision was clear. One unblocked man to beat then it was smooth sailing all the way. Only a linebacker. The running back sprinted forward doing a little pirouette as 250 pounds of pure muscle dove towards him. The line backer clipped his thigh but the running back kept balance. Even over the snow he heard the crowds cheering. They were cheering for him. A sharp pain ran up and down his right leg. A few years ago he would have cleanly avoided that hit. A few years ago he would have already scored.

                  35 yards till the end zone…
                  35 months ago…
We’ve never seen him play with an injury before but he sure did look slow,” said the same commentator, many months later. “It’s hard to say where his place is on that team, will they pay big for a slowed superstar?

The weather was getting to him now. The pain wasn’t helping either. He glanced back. The line backer was getting up. He needed to look forward.

                  25 yards till the end zone…
                  25 months ago…
Son, you’ve been an amazing member of this organization.” Said the head coach. “I thought you should hear it from me first, we’ll be cutting you here, right soon, before your bonus is due. Let me assure you, it was a hard decision. We’ve both achieved great things together, simply great, but it’s time for both of us to move on. To look forward.

The pads on his shoulders felt like a ton of bricks now, cold and wet with snow and sweat. The line backer was up and running, probably gaining on him. But he needed to score. This was his last chance to win a championship. He kept running.

                  20 yards till the end zone…
                  20 months ago…
How would you like to play for me son?!” Jovially yelled the rotund head coach. “Now it’s not the glamour role you’re used to, and it would be for a lot less money then you’re used to, but we need each other. We’re going for it all this year, join up with us and I promise you we’ll win the F***ing big one!

He did his best to suppress the limp. After years of playing the game, the running back didn’t even have to turn around; he knew the line backer had almost caught up with him. It was hurting to breathe now; the air was too cold and moist for his oxygen-deprived lungs. He could still hear the crowd cheering. For him. He wouldn’t be embarrassed. Not again.

                  5 yards till the end zone…
                  5 months ago…
I just got off the phone with them, the teams requesting you cut your salary in half for the upcoming season,” said the running back’s once hardworking agent. “I think they’ll cut you from the team if you don’t take the offer. They need the money for the salary cap and signin’ new players, nothing they can do they said. They also apologized for not telling you in person, they’re too busy dealing with some other issues, you understand. If you want my opinion, take the deal. You can’t afford to find a new team this close to the start of the season. You have a good thing going here and at this point it’ll be easier for the both of us…

The goal line was steps away. His limp was noticeable now. The running back looked at his sideline. He saw his obese head coach screaming and urging him forward. He saw his teammates scream and urge him forward. He saw the fans scream and urge him forward. He saw his critics scream and urge him forward. They demanded everything from him. They always demanded everything from him. He gave them everything.

The line backer dove forward, this time hitting the running back square between the shoulder blades. They both fell forward. Into the end zone. The referee signaled for a touchdown.
TOUCHDOWN!” yelled the announcer.
The stadium erupted in a cheer. The moment of jubilation passed and the stadium fell silent. The running back remained still on the ground; face down in the fresh snow. He gave them everything.

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