I’m often asked questions about my playing days as a quarterback for the ASU Sun Devils, Arizona Cardinals, and Denver Broncos. They can range from “Who hit you the hardest?” to “What stadium did you like the best?” then onto “Who was your best teammate?” But when this question is asked, ”What’s it like running out of the Tunnel in front of all those fans?”, I do my best in the short amount of time I usually have before the next question.
So today, I will attempt to take you, the fan, into the tunnel to relive one of the most thrilling moments before a big game.
As you exit your locker room and head towards the field you realize there’s no turning back, “The hay is in the barn”, and that’s when the pulsating starts. This feeling is different than many other thrills I’ve experienced in my life, both before or after football. It consists of a plethora of emotions and you feel unflappable! I don’t believe anything will ever compare to the feeling of coming out of the tunnel with your teammates before a big game on game day. Your adrenaline is pumping, nerves are quaking, and your body and mind are poised to spring into action. The fans are screaming as music is blaring to a cacophony of fireworks sprinkled with some pom-pom’s, all in anticipation of the moment we’ve all been waiting for all week………..GAME TIME!!!!!
Now, I’ll try to take you into the tunnel! “YEEEAAAHHHH!!!! GOOO SNAKE!!!!”……”KICK some Raider BUTT today!”………”GOOOOO Broncos!!!”…….”Go Cardinals!”……”GOOO Devils!” That’s at home. On the road it’s a different story, “You Suck Plummer…….Come clean out my toilet……..My pipes are clogged…..You’re skinny, eat some potatoes,……Your momma is……..” Hey now, don’t go there……
FOCUS!!! Your heart is pounding, and your mind is racing, visualizing each successful play, while also ridding itself of any negative thoughts that creep up. You’re ready, you studied the playbook, you know your game plan. Hone in!! Soak it in!
I’m lathered up and ready, waiting anxiously to play some ball. Huddled together under the stands, all 11 offensive starters wait to hear our names blared through the loud speakers. This is the moment that motivates you during the offseason to do one more rep. It lifts you up off the ground one more time during camp and pushes you to run one more sprint. This moment inspires us and helps brings us back from injury and pain. It’s a scintillating moment that reminds us why we love playing ball! There’s nothing like it.
I can’t stand still, I shift from right to left, adjust my pads, shift again. I run through positive thoughts in my mind, eyes sharp, Snake Eyes….I envision huge plays happening on the field, that I’m soon to be running out on…..Come ON, let’s get this thing started. I hear the announcer call out….”WR #80 Rod Smith!” The crowd erupts…and rightfully so.
Rod Smith is one of the best teammates I’ve ever played ball with. Undrafted out of Missouri Southern State University, #80 epitomizes what a Wide Receiver should be. He’s tough, consistent, has hands like glue strips, loves to block, and is my #1 target. I lean on him when things get tight. He never lets me down.
I feel inadequate following this legend out of the tunnel, but I’m the QB and we always get introduced last………finally……”At Quarterback, number sixteen, Jake “The Snake” Plummer!” I run out full speed screaming, “LET’S GOOOO!!”
As my nickname implies I slither through the Pom-Poms to the deafening fans, teammates slap my helmet and pads as I yell, ”Let’s go Baby!” I gather with the other ten men, say some inspiring words, and then break and sprint off in different directions ready to go, ready to start something big!!
There is nothing like what I just described. The whole stadium, 76,000 plus, full of hope and the belief that we are the best!! It’s a great way to start a Friday night, Saturday or a Sunday, focused on one goal, to WIN!
I am grateful that I was able to run out of Tunnels for 14 years and it’s one of those special moments that makes leaving the game we love so hard.