You’re a stranger in a strange place. You’re out later than you should be, and the traffic lights flash yellow as if they know. You hurry down the slick streets amidst the hiss and the steam of the city night. You hear shuffling in the middle distance behind you. You pick up your pace. The shuffling gathers into footsteps—a pack of footsteps, clacking on pavement. You don’t look back, and duck down an alleyway. The footsteps follow. You break into a full sprint, rushing past Dumpsters and fire escapes, but it only amounts to reaching the dead end sooner. You swallow hard, and turn to pack of backlit silhouettes, still and silent. One of the shadows steps forward into soft blue lamplight.
Spurrier: Hey there, fella. What’s all the runnin’ for? We just wanna talk is all. You sure are sweatin’. Ain’t a reason to sweat far as I can tell. ‘Specially not on accounta’ me. Heck, I’m pushin’ 70 and got a knee made outta tinfoil. I couldn’t scare off a pigeon with a .22. [takes slug from can of Coors Original] Jadeveon, though.
Clowney steps behind Spurrier.
Spurrier: Jadeveon scares pigeons. Snatches em outta midair, in fact. Eats ‘em like airline peanuts. Similar protein content. You know that? Speak up, now. Did you know that pigeons and peanuts got similar protein content?
Clowney: [Low growl.]
Spurrier: Woo! You hear that? Jadeveon didn’t much care for your answer, fella. Maybe he didn’t hear you so good. That, or he figures you don’t think he’s worthy of a response. Zat it? You think he’s not worth the time?
You shake your head. Clowney bucks.
Spurrier: Whoa, JD, go easy now! He don’t mean a thing by it. Besides, you’re shut down for the spring. If anyone needs to get physical, Kelcy and Chaz can more’n suffice.
Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton step into the light.
Kelcy: Should we whoop him, coach?
Chaz: Yeah coach, should we? [Sutton pulls tight on a length of chain. You sputter backwards and topple a few garbage cans.]
Spurrier: Easy does it, fellas. We don’t aim to harm. Matter’a fact, friend, you must be wonderin’ as to why we followed you all this way. Truth be told, we were just hopin’ for a little game a’ throw and catch. Silly fun, that’s all. Sound good to you, son?
You nod mekely, and pray your tears aren’t reflecting the moonlight. Spurrier gulps the last of his beer and tosses the can. Clowney catches it between his thumb and forefinger and crushes it.
Spurrier: Sure it does! We’re all football guys, after all. So, let’s getcha a ball. [Spurrier claps twice.]
Connor Shaw charges through the darkness, and plants a ball firmly into your gut. You wheeze as he retreats behind Spurrier and Clowney.
Spurrier: Easy on that hoof there, Connor. Need you ready for fall camp. [turns to you] Alright, Joey Namath. Sling me one in the numbers.
You manage to collect yourself and toss the ball at Spurrier. He doesn’t break eye contact as the ball soars well overhead.
Bruce Ellington leaps out of the shadows and snatches the errant throw. Everyone laughs. Everyone except you.
Spurrier: Zat you, Chris Smelley? Nah, just joshin’. We got Bruce here, he cleans up those strongarm jobs. Makes any ol’ passer look All-SEC, ain’t that right Dylan?
Dylan Thompson steps forward.
Thompson: Aw, heaven yeah! Bruce is my guy, coach! [turns to you, his tone sours] I don’t know about this fella, though. He looks like he needs a prayer. Maybe even a Hail Mary. [launches football into nearby abandoned building, glass shatters. He turns his glare back to you.]
Spurrier: I’m sure he appreciates your concern, DT. Say, fella, ol’ Dylan says he’s gonna throw up a prayer for you! Howzat make you feel?
You attempt to speak but only manage a whimper. Spurrier steps closer, followed by the rest. After a few interminable seconds, Spurrier smirks.
Spurrier: Enough for now, boys. Let's leave him be. We'll head on back to Billy Brice and swirly some walk-ons.
Everyone turns and saunters down the alley. You exhale and slump back against the brick wall. Spurrier pauses without turning.
Spurrier: One last thing.
You tense up.
Spurrier: Good luck this season, Dabo.