The lowly center


By Michael Stegall - From the Sidelines



The game of football is the ultimate team sport. It takes all 11 players doing their assignments every play to be a success.

Coaches observe practices at the start of every season and try to figure out who the starters will be. Once those players are chosen, the importance of keeping that group together as much as possible leads to the success the team will have. Injuries play a huge part in the success of a football team. Staying healthy is the key to being the best you can be.

How many of you watched the Ohio State-Michigan State game last Saturday? If you did, you saw an extremely talented team that lost three starters on the offensive line, 23 players overall, come out and dominate Michigan State. That is a testament to Ohio State’s depth at most positions.

The one spot they seemed to be a little short was at the center position. Harry Miller, a guard normally, was switched to center for the game because of the Covid Virus to the starter, Josh Meyers. Josh Meyers is an outstanding center and is in line to be nominated for the Rimington award, the award given to the best center in America. Harry Miller, bless his soul, only had a week to replace one of the best at their position in America. It was a struggle.

For those of you who have never played that position, let me tell you it is the most important position on the offensive line and it is the only position that requires you to have 3 assignments on every play.Recognizing what the defense is doing so the offensive line blocking calls can be made is the first assignment.

This takes quick thinking and the ability to recognize changes. A dummy cannot play center! The most important assignment is to get the ball to the quarterback. Sounds easy, but there are several factors involved.

Sometimes the weather is a factor, wet and slippery balls cause major problems for the center and quarterback. Sometimes, the quarterback pulls his hands too soon, or just drops the ball ( of course this is the center’s fault!) and sometimes the center loses his grip on the ball or just tries to get to his third assignment too soon which is make the block.

With all that is going on with every play, it is a wonder that Mr. Miller did as well as he did! His long snaps to the quarterback were…..uh……exciting to say the least. You could tell when they went to the sidelines, that his performance bothered him.

I felt for him, I knew how hard he was trying. I played this position from grade school to a year in college. It got harder at every level. I cannot imagine how hard it is at the elite level Ohio State is at.

Center is the worst position on the field if you are playing because 99% of the time, you have no idea what happened during a play! You either have your face planted into somebody pushing with all your might, or lying on the ground wondering what the hell happened!

Then you get up, call for the huddle, get the play and start it all over again. Parents who have a child who plays the position hardly ever really know what they are doing on the field. They are always in a pile, and if they were like my mother, just hoping that they would get up every time.

If you have a son or daughter who plays the position, try and understand what they are going through out there and remember, they absolutely love it. They get to get dirty and hit people, what else could be more fun!?

Watch the Ohio State game this week against Michigan, and for a while just watch the poor guy in the middle of all the bedlam. If it is Josh Meyers, you will be watching one of the better ones in America. If it is Harry Miller again, you will see a marked improvement in his play, I will bet. He will work hard this week getting ready for “The Game”.

If it is Harry, I will be rooting for him. I have an idea how hard what he is trying to do is. I saw some Twitter responses from former and current centers after the game and almost all of them had the same theme: “People have no idea how hard it is!” It is hard, it is essential, and it is important to team success. That’s how I see it from the sidelines.

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By Michael Stegall

From the Sidelines

Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27 year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner

Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27 year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner