Dez Bryant Should Have Grown Up on Nebraska Street

Dez

I still think Dez caught that ball in Green Bay.

And it was a great catch.

But, to be honest, we made better catches on Nebraska Street when I was growing up in Norman.

Dez only had to deal with one short defensive back.

We had to deal with cars, trucks, concrete curbs, darkness, and angry mothers.

The street light was in front of  my best friend Steve Madden’s house, at the corner of Berry Road and Nebraska Street, opposite his fire hydrant.

Or “far hydrant” as Steve would say.

The street light was essential to summer football. 

Because, when we were 10 or 12 years old, there was no way on Earth we were going home until it was really late and our mothers were screaming out all three of our given names. 

We were 100% committed to perfecting the ability to catch a football, rifled from the other side of the street, and keep both feet in bounds, so the pass was complete under NFL and NCAA rules.

It would have really helped Dez a lot if he’d grown up on Nebraska Street in the Sixties.  His concentration and reflexes would have been way better.  If he’d survived.

To make a truly great catch on Nebraska Street, it had to be deep in the 4th quarter (after 9pm), and involve the risk of death.

Especially when Grampa Mac’s beat up old El Camino would skid round the corner at maybe 35 mph, bounce off the curb, and become a real hazard for street football players.

We had no sissy rules or time-outs.  So if you happened to be in the path of Grampa Mac, that was just your tough luck.

You STILL had to make the catch or be a total wussy. 

And at that age, catching the ball — at full speed or slow motion. Keeping both feet in bounds.  Bleeding but never crying.  And never being a woosy — these were the important things in life.

Greatest Catch 

My greatest Nebraska Night Football catch saw Steve QB’ing, and doing a three-step drop onto busy Berry Road.

I was planning to run a simple down-out-and-down, making the catch about 25 yards downfield, then darting behind his Dad’s work truck. We’d done it a million times.

But right before the snap (on two – Hut, HUT – always on two) – out of the corner of his eye, Steve saw the weaving headlights coming down Berry Road.

It was Grampa Mac, who was basically blind at night. 

Steve gave me a look that said, “we could both get killed, you know?”

And I gave him a look that said “Run the dang play!”

So “Hut, HUT”.

Now, I don’t want to knock Dez, but he could have learned a lot from my release from the line of scrimmage.

I was off like a gazelle.

Steve had to really back-pedal to avoid getting clipped by Grampa Mac as he skidded onto Nebraska Street.  

As he was falling backwards, he lofted a spiral high into the night.

By then, I’d run the down-and-out part of the pass route, given a head-fake to a defender, and drifted toward the middle of the road.

And I was hauling ass, because I knew Grampa Mac was bearing down on me.

I was longing for the thrill of victory, but I sensed the agony of defeat. Because I lost the ball in the darkness.

Then I got a break. Grampa Mac’s headlights reflected just briefly off the white half circle on the end of the football, and I adjusted my speed and pattern.

I knew it was going to be very, very close.

If I was not fast enough, Grampa Mac was going to run right over me, and probably drag my carcass 100 yards to his house.

And Steve would never, ever let me forget it.

But it was my night.

I made the single greatest, one-handed, fully perpendicular, not-getting-smashed-by-Grampa Mac AND getting-both-feet-down-in-bounds catch in the history of Nebraska Street.

At least until the next night.




3 Responses to “Dez Bryant Should Have Grown Up on Nebraska Street”

  1. Kris says:

    I love this story.

    Meanwhile, I just spent fifteen minutes throwing a tennis ball back and forth with my younger daughter. A tennis ball … the friendliest possible ball … and we stood perhaps 20 feet apart. During the fifteen minutes of underhanded catch, my daughter screamed and wept and cut herself on a tree branch and also numbed two of her fingers because she insisted on catching the ball with stiffly spread and outstretched hands.

    Also, she was cold and her shoe came untied and she wondered forlornly why I was punishing her with athletics.

    I have failed this child.

    • hams says:

      Har. The Maj would not have made it on Nebraska Street. When we played with tennis balls, one guy stood next to the concrete wall at the park. The other guy stood at the freethrow line and tried to kill him. It was great.

    • hams says:

      Wait. Youngest daughter??? I would’ve thought Kallan could kill you with a tennis ball. Go figger.

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