RSP Writers Project: Possessing the Minister by Bryan Frye


Photo by Keith Fujimoto.

By Bryan Frye,

Twitter: @LaverneusDingle

I’ve never been a commanding physical presence. Growing up, I was normally the smallest person in every class, and often by a considerable margin. I was only 70 pounds in seventh grade.

I was the target of bullying and often had to resort to aggressive extremes to prevent it from continuing. Unfortunately, we moved from place to place rather often, so once I finally got the harassment to stop the cycle would start all over again.

Hope came as puberty coincided with another change of scenery. By the time I was ready to begin eighth grade at a new school, I had doubled my body weight and even grown a few inches.

The product of my moderate growth spurt and ample martial arts training meant that my maltreatment came to an abrupt and happy end.

As I traversed high school, I excelled in wrestling, football, and track. I also took private gymnastics lessons. I liked showing off what I learned, earning the nickname “Flip Mode” along the way (Busta Rhymes was still big at this point, mind you).

I dabbled in power lifting and body building and became a pretty strong kid for my size. Standing 5-7 and 170 pounds at my physical peak, I was hardly in danger of being mistaken for Lou Ferrigno.

A car wreck and broken back, a wife and kid, and a full-time office job later, I now have a 190-pound “dad bod”. I am more interested in power naps than power lifting. Looking back on my (very brief) physical prime, I can say that I could outrun, outjump, and out-flip just about anyone I met.

But I was never more than just strong for my size. I have never possessed the kind of unbridled, earth-moving power that could strike fear into the hearts of men. Unless you’re easily intimidated by pull-ups, in which case you scare too easy, friend.

The lack of such an experience brings me to the play I have decided to offer Matt and his readers. It was January 26, 1997, in the Louisiana Superdome and the biggest stage of them all – Super Bowl XXXI.

Starting at left defensive end for the heavily favored Green Bay Packers was Reggie White, arguably the greatest defenseman ever to play football. Starting opposite him was Max Lane, right tackle for the underdog New England Patriots.

Lane managed to spend seven seasons in the NFL and started 70 games, a respectable career by any reasonable measure. But Lane was no match for White – not that day or any other day.

White is one of the most intimidating men in the long and storied history of football. It’s my dream to step into his body right before the snap of this great Super Bowl moment.

They’re crazy if they think that five-yard screen will slow my rush. They’ll learn respect the hard way when they see the wanton fury I can unleash.

They’ve kept me off the QB all day, but I’ve been close. Ben’s [Coates] been running that chip over and over, but he’s going to have to start getting into his route more quickly now that they’re down by fourteen. I’ve been a step too late to finish the play, but not this time.

I’ve seen this look before in the film room. Keith’s [Byars] going to take the opposite flat; we aren’t blitzing, so Curtis [Martin] is releasing up the middle. Drew’s [Bledsoe] not going to have time to find either of them.

If they think this young buck is gonna block me, one-on-one, in an obvious passing situation, they’ve got another thing comin’. I’ve been stymied for 43 minutes, but I’m not losing today… not like with Erik [Williams].

I’m older now. Wiser. The Lord knit every sinewy fiber in my mother’s womb, and I’m not about to unravel today.

This kid might be 20 pounds heavier and 10 years my junior, but I’m the Minister of Defense, the field is my pulpit, and I preach hellfire and brimstone every Sunday.

Come on. Snap the ball. That’s it!

Just like I thought: This poor guy is on an island with me. It’s over before it begins.

He’s biting on my outside rush and the hump is there for me. He’s so off-balance I could move him with one finger. But he’s going to the ground. I don’t care if I have to run over him to the quarterback.

This game is my destiny. This sack is my destiny.

White sacked Bledsoe for an 8-yard loss. To add to the glorious euphoria, White sacked him again on the next play for a 6-yard loss. Two Patriots snaps, one legendary defensive end, -14 yards, and a championship.

When White signed the monster contract with Green Bay, some in the media wondered if it was too much to pay for an aging pass rusher. They said he wasn’t as quick as he used to be.

That might have been true, but White as an NFL senior citizen was far savvier and still as powerful as ever. The critics can say all they want about his 17 million reasons for signing for the cold, small-market team. He made it clear that he also wanted a ring.

And as the cold robe of winter blanketed the Heartland, White combined the wisdom of age and the tyranny of sheer power to help bring the Lombardi back home.

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