Show Some Love to the Men Up Front

Shaun RouserContributor IMay 12, 2009

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 09:  Olin Kreutz #57 of the Chicago Bears centers the ball at the line of scrimmage against the Tennessee Titans at Soldier Field on November 9, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. The Titans won 21-14. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

When I was a kid, I, like many others, went out for pee-wee football. Near the end of my very first practice, the coach (or one of the coaches, on this point I’m unsure) told my dad and me that he planned on using me as an offensive lineman.

It was my first and last football practice. Ever.

In retrospect, topping out at about 5’11’’ and 170 pounds, I would’ve turned into an awful (or hilarious) offensive lineman anyway.

The question, though, is why the inordinate fear of becoming a “Big Nasty.”

They’re football players, too. And important football players. And under-appreciated, to boot.

First, let’s take left tackles out of the equation. They’re routinely drafted in the top ten (when they’re not being taken one overall), well paid, and the best receive copious plaudits.

I’m interested, therefore, in those other corpulent warriors—the men whose names we don’t know.

I vaguely remember hearing some time ago that offensive linemen averaged the highest Wonderlic scores. Backhanded compliments aside, this seems not just plausible but probable.

Now, let’s also admit up front that, with the exception of Center, the other three linemen are fairly interchangeable. But this helps the case for how important they are, not diminish it.

How many football players are required to be able to play at other positions—not just know where their teammates should be on the field and what they should be doing?

Of course, quarterbacks and middle linebackers, as “field generals,” have to know where each of his teammates are on the field. But they’re never asked to step in and play another position as if it was their own.

And skill position players and some defenders will also line up at different positions. But this is simply to gain a matchup advantage on any given play, not a prolonged change of position.

Only the overweight O-linemen suffer through such anonymous toil.

Centers particularly—the literal focal point of the offensive line—are one of only two players who touch the ball each play, and, because they have to snap the ball, are the most defenseless player on the line. Moreover, the make many, if not all with inexperienced quarterbacks, protection checks at the line of scrimmage.

Oh and here’s the kicker: they begin each play with their fat fannies raised into the air with another guy’s hands placed strategically between his legs.

Only a very smart man can rationalize this situation.

So, when next season begins, take some time out to thank those nameless chubbies protecting the pretty boy in the pocket.

Paraphrasing Col. Jessep: we want them on that wall; we need them on that wall.