We all, as sports fans, do it.
We watch our favorite high school and college teams and think to ourselves “that guy is going to play in the pros one day,” as if somewhere inside us is some hidden NFL GM gene that just hasn’t been given the chance to see the light of day.
Most of the time, to be honest, we’re wrong.
But I seem to recall one weekend in September of 2011, where, as my Dad would say, “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then.”
It started on a warm Friday night here in Ashburn. The two local high school football powers – Stone Bridge and Broad Run – were finally playing each other for the first time. As I live one mile from Broad Run and a mile and a half from Stone Bridge, I can tell you it was an electric evening on September 23, 2011. The game was at Stone Bridge, and it’s the most packed that field has even been or ever will be.
Walls of people were on both sides of the field, people were ringed around the fence, and local media, former players, and just about anyone who was anyone in Ashburn were standing on the sidelines. So were a number of players from what was then called the Washington Redskins, including Santana Moss.
Despite the huge buildup for the game, it started off looking like a dud. Broad Run sprinted to a 24-0 lead at halftime, and it looked like the huge gathering was going to see a rout by the upstart Spartans when Broad Run took the second-half kickoff and drove down to the Stone Bridge 1, facing a third and goal.
Broad Run ran the ball on third down and it was stuffed by a junior tackle by the name of Jonathan Allen. Broad Run, feeling its oats because they had such a big lead, ignored going for a field goal and ran the ball again. Allen stuffed it again. A moment later, Stone Bridge scored, went for two and made it, and it was game on. Marianne Thiede captured a fantastic pic of Allen (93) making the key stop.
It became a turning point in the contest as Allen dominated the second half and Stone Bridge rallied to win 31-30 in what was one of the best high school games I’d ever seen. Allen had been good up to that point, but that evening he showed what a monster he could be on the football field. I even remember glancing at Moss and you could tell he was impressed.
One day, I thought, Allen is going to be playing on Sundays.
The next morning, with a full slate of college games to watch, I settled in to see how Virginia Tech would fare with its new quarterback. Tyrod Taylor was gone from the Hokies’ lineup, and a former tight end by the name of Logan Thomas was deemed “the man”. He’d only thrown 26 passes the year before as a backup to Taylor, and was primarily used more as a battering ram-type runner than anything.
The Hokies had started their season with wins over Appalachian State, East Carolina and Arkansas State, and that Saturday they were playing Marshall, which I thought would be a good test for them. Thomas would score the first touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run, and would complete 22 of 33 passes for 229 yards in a 30-10 win.
It wasn’t the runs or passes that impressed me. Thomas just had a calmness and poise about him that made me think that for a player in only his second season, he had “it.” Virginia Tech lost the next week, then reeled off seven straight wins before losing to Clemson in the ACC Championship game. They still got a bid to the Sugar Bowl against Michigan, which will forever be remembered in my house as the game where “Danny Coale caught the ball.”
For the second time in two days that Saturday afternoon, I once again thought “that guy is going to be playing on Sundays” too.
I’m rarely right obout such things, and if you ask my wife, that extends to a lot of other areas in life. But 10 years later, I find myself this morning wanting to point out that yesterday Jon Allen agreed to a 4-year contract extension worth $72 million, including a $30 million signing bonus, with the Washington Football Team. Today, it was announced Logan Thomas has agreed to a 3-year extension with the team worth $24 million, with $10.3 million guaranteed.
Both, it seems, are going to keep playing on Sundays.
Looks like this blind squirrel, as my Dad used to say, finally found a couple of acorns 😊
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