In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.
Even as we welcome you today, dear parishioners, we must ask ourselves if you are prepared for what lies ahead of you. Are you truly focused on the task of watching 12, perhaps even 16 hours of football a week? Are you ready to lie, weasel, cheat, and shave time off other important activities to rush home and watch the Thursday night Nevada/Fresno State game, like basic hygiene, income-generating activities, or even time with your significant other?
Of course you are. And as we prepare to neglect family, work, and yes, even the proper flossing of one's teeth for the next five months in order to satisfy the need--nay! the holy lust for football, let us praise one of its most noble denizens, a position so forceful, so destructive his very name is a mockery of his actual role on the field: the safety.
The safety: anything but safe.
Let us reserve today's words of faith and praise for the safety. He strikes without warning, stealing passes from the air with outstretched hands; he concusses without mercy, running headlong into receivers like a thrown boulder; he leaps into piles without forethought and stuffs runs with the frenzy of a dying animal. He is the safety and he is concerned about nothing resembling his name, the man who gets the longest running start on any play in which to gear up speed and power abundant enough to knock third grade out of a player's skull.
Let him be praised, in his order;
Laron Landry. He who is superbly named also runs like a third corner in the defensive backfield, whipping across elegantly designed pass sets like an eraser to intercept, break up, and other short-circuit the best-laid plans of SEC offensive coordinators. A negator of the first rank, Landry moves like the Snitch in Harry Potter but hits like a bludger, the picture of what we make our safeties at The University of Hell like in NCAA 2007: 99s across the board.
Kevin Ellison, USC: He who has not played down one one full year yet of college football and will undoubtedly play out of position to the tune of several enormous plays against the Trojans this year, since safeties hand out Hammurabi-esque punishment but take it as well in the form of long pass plays and runs made against them. Being the last line of defense has its drawbacks, too, since you're it before six points and a stadium full of whiskey-charged and very unhappy fans. Yet Ellison bears mention for this reason: he's a freshman sophomore with a chance to start at a position where freshman sophomores playing their first full year, dammit have thrived in the past on the basis of unlimited potential and athleticism overcoming the mistakes their green brains lead them into on the field. Ellison represents just that: potential in all its forms, nasty and magnificent, from the improbably swooping pick he might make in the clutch to the play-action TD he watches from his heels late in a crucial game. He's playing a heritage position at a heritage school, and he's one of the most agonizing and compelling things about collegiate athletics: boundless, unproven potential about to be put on the spot in grand fashion. Speaking of improbable picks...
Michael Griffin. Displayed the full range of physical possibilities in 2005 as a starting safety for the Longhorns. Imitated Nureyev with a delicate tiptoe of the foot in bounds on the game-changing INT against USC, a play so improbable it was initially ruled an incomplete pass by slow-eyed officials before being overturned on replay. Aped George "the Animal" Steele on countless brutal hits, including many of the Waterboy variety. Rounded out the physical repertoire by plucking a ball juggled off the hands of an Oklahoma receiver as he lay on the ground for a pick. This video really illustrates Griffin's capacity for kinetic mayhem better than we can, though this stat comes close: against hated rival Texas A&M, Griffin logged 23 tackles, which is three more than the entire Aggie team had in 2005.
Michael Griffin. He's the guy with the ball who's not supposed to have it here.
Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame. Living proof that Polish people can fucking fly if properly motivated. Something burns within Zbikowski, and we're guessing it's pure, undying rage, since playing football evidently isn't enough to contain his fury. Yes, Zibby boxes. And plays special teams. And gets sewn into burlap bags with badgers and thrown down stairs for fun. Zbikowski keys the Notre Dame defense, which is a term for "we're not sure who these other guys are, but damn that one dude is castrating people down there." At the risk of saying this out loud and earning an ass-beating from a professional, Tommy Z. must play even larger and faster than he did in '05 for the Notre Dame defense. Nine tackles is his career high, and despite the pub and ooh-ahhing from the ladies Zibby remains less of a true safety and more of a corner playing free agent in the backfield.(Though he's certainly got linebacker 'tude in spades.) Boundless potential playing in a defense that needs boundless improvement, especially in the pass defense department, plus smaller linebackers in front of him means Zbikowski's numbers should balloon this season.
Reggie Nelson. The tragedy of watching Reggie Nelson play corner has narrowly been avoided at Florida: transfer Ryan Smith has stepped in, allowing the dreaded, jack-jawing, smack-talking, helmet-spearing Nelson to return to what he does best: everything. Our man-crush is reaching its apex with Nelson, but could mutate to planetary size if Nelson's flashes of potential-read the cruise-missile hit he put on Mohammed Massaquoi in the Cocktail Party--come to fruition in 2006.
Dreaded in multiple ways: Reggie Nelson.
Let the safety be praised!
Ite, missa est. Deo Gratias, football fans. Three days and counting.