Last Man Out

Last Man Out by Mike Lupica Read Free Book Online

Book: Last Man Out by Mike Lupica Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mike Lupica
Then he walked away.
    The offense got another first down and Tommy was starting to get really frustrated.
    On the next set of downs, the offense ended up with a third and eight from the seventeen-yard line. They had to throw here, and not just because they only had one time-out left. Tommy knew that even in scrimmages, the guys on offense wanted to win as much as the defense did, and didn’t want it to come down to an all-or-nothing fourth-down play.
    He thought Nick might come out of the huddle in a shotgun formation. But instead Nick got under center and dropped back. The whole time, Tommy studied his motions, exactly the way he’d been taught. Like it was him and his dad at Rogers Park. And what Tommy’s eyes told him now, as Nick rolled to his right, was that he wasn’t throwing, he was running, pulling the ball down on what had become a glorified quarterback sweep, with plenty of blocking in front of him.
    Amare picked off Greck with a perfect block, pushing him toward the sideline and out of the play. Elliott Kalb, their offensive right tackle, cleaned out Liam Cobb, the outside linebacker on Tommy’s side of the field. Suddenly, with Danny Martinez leading the way, there was a lot of open field in front of Nick, who Tommy knew wasn’t just thinking first down now, he was thinking touchdown.
    With the end zone in sight, there was just one guy to beat. But that guy was Tommy Gallagher.
    Danny was the one who was supposed to block Tommy. Probably
wanted
to block Tommy the way Tommy had tried to sendhim into outer space on first down. But just as Danny lowered his shoulder, Tommy managed to stop himself, spinning around like he was making a reverse pivot in basketball. Danny was so surprised he stumbled and went down.
    But Tommy’s spin move had taken time, enough time for Nick to get to the sideline, running free, a stride or two ahead of Tommy as Tommy scrambled to catch up.
    Now or never, Tommy told himself.
    If he waited a second longer, Nick would be out of his tackling range.
    So he made up the distance between them by launching himself forward, like he was turning himself into some kind of guided missile, believing that was the only chance he had—his last chance—to make a play.
    Nick was the one who got launched then, Tommy catching him perfectly and cleanly, hitting him high but not too high, right below his left shoulder pad. The hit was so powerful, even on Nick’s left side, that Tommy knocked the football out of his right hand.
    Nick had no chance to break his fall after the ball was gone, landing hard on his throwing shoulder. Like Danny Martinez a few minutes ago, Nick stayed down, too, just longer, until he rolled into a sitting position.
    Tommy ran over to him, and put his hand out.
    Nick slapped it away, and jumped up so that his face mask and Tommy’s were no more than an inch apart.
    â€œAre you
insane
?” Nick said, breathing hard, but not because he was out of breath.
    â€œI didn’t mean . . . I didn’t think I could put that big a hit on you,” Tommy said.
    â€œYou weren’t thinking at all!” Nick said. “That was messed up, man. This is practice, not a game. Seriously, dude? You could have knocked me out of Saturday’s game.”
    Then Coach Fisher was between them. Tommy waited for him to tell Nick to calm down, that it’d been a clean hit, but he turned to Tommy instead.
    â€œTake the rest of practice off,” he said.
    â€œNo!”
Tommy knew it sounded like he was the one in pain now. “Scrimmage isn’t over, Coach.”
    â€œFor you it is,” Coach Fisher said. “Please go take a seat on the bench and calm down.”
    â€œI
am
calm, I promise.”
    â€œNo, Tommy,” Coach said. “You’re out of control.”
    In a voice that wasn’t much more than a whisper, only loud enough for Coach to hear, Tommy said, “Please let me keep

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