You want a tribute? Fine, here's a tribute, but don't tell me I didn't warn you

You could look it up, but don't. I mean really, don't ask about it.

The older boosters will remember it as “the pants-off tackle.” It was in my junior year in the game against Upper Darby, on a kickoff return. Their returner, Curtis Womack, had made at least thirty yards when we ran into each other, and the way I tried to tackle him ended up pulling his pants off. It stopped him, though, and somebody else knocked the ball loose and fell on it. Three students at Monsignor Bonner got suspended because of that play: the photographer who snapped a perfect picture of Womack losing his pants and the ball at the same time, the reporter for the school paper who wrote up the game, and the editor of the paper. I guess “Friars Knock Royals' Pants Off 35-23” was just too good of a headline not to use – all the local papers did. Unfortunately I don't have any of the articles, they got lost one of the times that I moved. And for the next few years, Bonner fans greeted Upper Darby with chants of “Pants Off, Pants Off!” no matter how much the school tried to discourage or punish it.

Don't expect anyone to remember who made that tackle: I wasn't a big name on the team. The stars were guys like Joel Bishop, DeSean Croston, Leo “Anaconda” Anconitano (that was how anybody who wasn't Italian pronounced his name), and big Jay Kaczinski, who once sacked the quarterback three downs in a row. Football fans won't remember Ray Fiorentino, or they might confuse me with my cousin Paul, who broke a couple of school receiving records four years later. I was sort of an in-between player: not fast enough for receiver or safety, not big enough for the lines, so I backed up at linebacker and tight end and played special teams. A few catches and tackles here and there, plus a lot of downfield blocks that I threw. My favorite memory was blocking for DeSean on his tenth touchdown of the year – the one that iced our win against Haverford - and after he spiked the ball, he turned to me and said “Goddamn, you're a hero, Ray!” That was my fifteen minutes of pride.

When I told my father I was going out for the football team, he told me to focus on getting an education and not waste time playing games. He didn't understand that I needed a way to work off the tension from studying, just like he couldn't understand that I liked learning things but not the process of studying itself. Coach Rossheimer never told me not to study. In fact, he encouraged it – he told me to study my teammates, study the opposition, study the game of football, and study myself and what I could do – and then put in every effort to increase that beyond what I expected.

At my first practice, Coach made a few things clear. “I don't care how popular you are, I don't care who your parents are, and I don't care what other sports you play. Spots on this team are earned by what you do on the field here and how good a member of the team you are.” If you were out for your own glory and didn't care about the others, he'd find a way to cut you down to size. That wasn't a problem for me – sure, I wanted to get us some yards and first downs and dreamed about touchdowns, but most of the time if I could just help someone else get there – or even better, stop the other team from managing it, I was happy with that. “Get in there, Fiorentino,” Coach used to say, “I know what you can do.”

Coach Rossheimer was the one who taught me how to block and tackle. As in, opponents and life in general. I hadn't played Pop Warner or been on a junior high school team, nothing beyond flag or touch football in PE class or at recess. He told me to just keep moving forwards. If I was in the wrong place or the play was behind me, “just change your angle and run hard. Don't give up on the play; try to get right back into it.”

Since I played for Coach, I've had my ups and downs. A college education at Monterey, a career on the other side of the world. Made friends and lost some of them. I got married and then unmarried, and almost had a kid. Not to mention spending one whole year with my feet in an ice bath every evening. I've had to change my angle plenty of times, in plenty of ways – even now I live in a country that back then I only knew about from maps and World War I battles.

That was Coach's real legacy to me:Keep moving forwards. Change your angle and run hard. I couldn't tell you much of anything about his wife and his family, or his life the rest of the year. I'm not really in touch with anyone from back then. Still, this is the best idea I can give you about who Coach Frank Rossheimer was. I hope this helps you with your article, Jeremy. Rest in Peace, Coach. #41 remembers you.

NOTE: This whole mess is a work of fiction.

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