Jason Parks can feel the adrenaline pumping through his veins as they break the huddle. The high school senior takes his position on the scrimmage line. Gibson, their quarterback, shouts the cadence, "Hup one, hup two, hup, hup!"
Jason flies down the football field. It is a spread offense. Jason and his fellow wide receivers are to draw off opposing players so the remaining defenders are spread thin. Hopefully, giving their running back a hole to run through.
Jason glances over his shoulder. Gibson is in trouble; the handoff to the running back was fumbled. Gibson clings to the football scrambling for his life.
Jason waves his hand high in the air, trying to get Gibson's attention, and streaks across the field. Two defensive ends tackle Gibson. As he is going down, he throws a wobbly ball high in the air. Jason sees the ball coming toward him. He leaps stretching his body to its full length making a one-handed catch. He quickly clutches it to his chest and takes off running towards the end zone.
The roar of the crowd is deafening. The feeling is almost tribal as the sea of fans in Cougar green jump to their feet and cheer. The metal bleachers shake as the high school students jump up and down in a frenzy, shouting and whistling as Jason sprints down the field. A sideways glance reveals three defenders on his heels. Jason kicks it into another gear, only ten yards to go. He feels the touch of a linebacker on his leg. Jason dives forward, crossing the end zone, touchdown!
Jonas Parks, Jason's father, nods to one of the college scouts attending the game. The University of Oregon scout recognizes Jonas as a star wide receiver from the university years ago.
Jason removes his helmet and walks humbly to the sidelines. His raven hair and good looks don't go unnoticed by the pretty young cheerleaders swooning as he passes by. With congratulating backslapping from his teammates he sits on the bench waiting for the next possession.
Mr. Parks leans against the hood of his Cadillac. Then, like a conquering hero, surrounded by cheering and laughter of his teammates Jason comes out of the locker room. Seeing his father, Jason waves and walks across the parking lot.
"Great game son," his father says.
"Twenty-four to twenty-one," Jason laughs. "I would call that a squeaker."
"I meant, for you," Mr. Parks says, climbing into the car.
Jason smiles as he sits down. "Yes, I did have a few good catches."
"A few?" Mr. Parks exclaims. "There were college scouts in the stands and they remarked how good you are."
"That's nice?" exclaims Mr. Parks. "I think they are all going to offer you a full athletic scholarship. Some people would give their eyeteeth for a chance like that."
"I just don't know what I want to do with my life yet."
Mr. Parks shakes his head. "Find yourself in college, as most kids do."
Jason's little sister bounds up the stairs as fast as her little legs can carry her. She slides into Jason's room shouting, "Jason! You have a letter from a college!"
Jason takes the letter from his little sister who is bouncing excitedly. He glances at it then puts it on his nightstand.
His sister reaches for the letter. "If you aren't going to open it, I will."
She snatches the letter and runs into the hallway with Jason at her heels. She rips it open while hopping down the stairs two at a time.
At the bottom of the stairs, their father blocks her path, "No running, young lady."
"Give me that," Jason says, arriving at the bottom of the stairs.
Jason's father takes the letter and envelope saying, "What are you two..." He stops mid-sentence, his mouth dropping open. "This is from UO." He looks up at Jason exclaiming, "You got it! A full athletic Scholarship to the University of Oregon!"
"I figured that's what it was," Jason says, taking the letter from his father's hand and reading it. "That's nice."
"Is that all you have to say?" Mr. Parks shouts. "This could be your ticket to a pro football career."
"That's your dream, dad." Jason turns and climbs the stairs to his bedroom.
Looking to her father, she asks, "Why isn't Jason excited? This is good news, right?"
"Of course it is," Mr. Parks says, gently ruffling her hair. "It's a mystery to me what has gotten into that boy."
The mystery is solved in "They Don't Cast Shadows"