At each snap of the ball, there might be one play called. But there are plays, within plays, within plays, within plays.
Regardless of which side you are playin’, O or D, there is more than ample opportunity to do greater, achieve more and continue that relentless pursuit of excellence. You just have to “want to”.
As an offensive lineman several hundred years ago, I was simply told to “get down field”, you know, where the safeties tended to reside. Those three words became ingrained in my noggin. In time, I envisioned myself there every single play. It was my mission. I was not content to limit my play in and around the line of scrimmage.
I wanted to make my field of play that much larger.
These days, that essential concept remains, only the terminology has changed somewhat. The multiple levels that you O-linemen are asked to frequent and travel – first, second, third and fourth – are the plays, within the plays, within the plays. Within the plays.
Again, speaking as an O-lineman, your primary objective is to get off the ball, on the correct count, in unison. All five at once. Liken the O-line to your hand – five fingers. Hard to push through anything with all five fingers extended. But if you curl them into a fist – they can punch through a wall. That is precisely how an offensive line should come off the ball; like a fist. All five “as one” – punching a hole into the heart of the defense.
That is just the first play you will need to make at the snap of the ball.
Once the defense is on their heels – a typical reaction to being “punched” – you immediately need to take control of that yard just beyond the line of scrimmage. Notice I said the yard “just beyond the line of scrimmage”. Not at, and definitely not behind. Beyond. That is the first level, where your attitude, effort and perseverance will be the ultimate determining factor for the success of that one play.
But for you on the O line, even though the play just started, you are already working on the second play within the first.
It gets even better.
About the time you have gained control of that yard beyond the line of scrimmage, your team-mate with the ball is about to make their appearance. This is precisely the moment when the play can either end right there, or take on an entirely different level of significance and success.
If you choose to stop your feet, lose contact with the opponent and abandon that one yard you worked so hard to take, the advance will be stopped. The play will be over. Back to the huddle and drawing board.
However, if you have it within you to push beyond that first yard on the field – and past those internal yard markers that can always seem to hold you back – you can reach the second level. The play, within the play within the play for you.
Extra credit territory.
With your head up, eyes down field and shoulders square, you will find there is more to be done. Your presence several yards beyond the line of scrimmage creates a great deal of adversity for your opponent while creating a tremendous opportunity for your team-mate with the ball. You only need to decide to keep advancing forward. Your opponent needs to decide if he should contend with you, your other team mates advancing up the field, or your team-mate with the ball.
By advancing to the second level, you have already made several decisions. You know where you want to go. Just “knowing” frees up all sorts of energy and ability. You can simply play. Your opponent, on the other hand, does not know your intentions.
He may be coached to expect certain situations and how best to react to them. But you already know what it is that you want to do. He has to think about the adversity you have created for him by entering the second level. He has to weigh circumstances, consider consequences and then act. All in the matter of a few seconds. And when you are thinking – you aren’t playing.
Now the play is really beginning to take shape. Actually, the play, within the play, within the play. Within the play.
The rout is on.
X’s, Y’s, the 3 and 4 back, maybe even the QB are getting into the action. More red shirts than white shirts are now ten or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and moving down field with intention and purpose.
All with their head up, eyes down field, shoulders square, pressing forward. Onward to the third level, creating more options and opportunity for the lone team-mate with the rock. Opponents are no longer on their heels, but are frantically trying to catch up from behind.
You have captured momentum.
They have to regain theirs.
You know where you want to go – they still have to make decisions. More thinking, less playing. Energy sapping moments for them. An energizing situation for you.
Only one place left to go now.
Should be that spot where you think every play should end.
That one spot that insures that you made it into the movie.
The culmination of the play, within the play, within the play within the play.
Within the play.
The fourth level.