An excerpt from honor's thesis "The Next Level"
It was the Brown game my senior year. We weren’t favored to win but had made the game surprisingly competitive just before the half. Our defense forced Brown into a punting situation, great for any team in a close game -especially for Dartmouth. We weren’t known for blocking punts but we had a punt returner who had already returned two for touchdowns that year.
The punt was low and to the right which meant the kicking team didn’t have as much time to get down the field and defend. Shawn Abuhoff, a junior cornerback and return specialist, caught the ball in stride and there wasn’t a defender within ten yards of him. He waited for one of his teammates to block the first defender and cut all the way back to the left side of the field where his blockers were setting up a wall for him, avoiding so much as a hand. The defenders took what they thought were good angles to catch Shawn along the sidelines. The kicker seemed to have him cornered and was sure to force Shawn out of bounds.
Just then, the backup tight end, known to his teammates as Marv, was standing right inside the sidelines with his head moving from side to side as if he were watching the ball at a tennis match. His job was to block the first person that showed on the edge of the play and create an alley up the sideline for the returner. He saw the kicker gaining ground on Shawn and locked in on his target like a hawk spying an unsuspecting salmon. Shawn noticed that Marv had spotted his only remaining defender. Shawn took two quick steps toward the inside to freeze the kicker. Typically, the kicker is the least athletic player on the team and can’t really be trusted to make an open field tackle.
Marv sprinted the five steps that were between him and the kicker. When Shawn planted his right foot into the ground and cut back towards the sidelines, Marv was one step away from the kicker moving at full speed toward him. Marv lowered his shoulder and planted it right in the middle of the kicker’s body. The kicker’s arms and legs flailed like a crash test dummy on impact before falling abruptly to the turf. Marv kept driving his legs until the kicker was on the ground. By then, Shawn had made it to the sideline and from there it was a footrace between him and three Brown defenders. He beat them all and scored his third punt return for a touchdown for the year and kept Dartmouth in the game yet again.
I was no longer a member of the team. I hadn’t played in two seasons but maintained my affiliation by leading recruiting and alumni tours and organizing some community activities. I was on the sidelines near the end zone where Shawn scored. As I watched the play progress, I was crouched down in a sumo wrestler’s pose clapping my hands violently. I knew what was going to happen. “Sauce is gonna bring it back,” I said to myself. From where I was standing I could see Marv’s block before it happened. It was destined to be ugly. But then Shawn set the block up by going inside and then cutting out right before Marv was about to make the hit.
When Shawn made it to the sideline he was running directly at me. We briefly caught eyes when he was at about the 25-yard line, before he looked over his shoulder checking for defenders.
He was greeted by a group of Dartmouth players in the end zone with a bevy of butt slaps, helmet taps and chest bumps. When he got to the sideline, I was waiting for him. No words were spoken. He flashed that smile that I had seen so many times before. The smile that says, “they should know better than to kick to me by now.”