Memories of Mean Melvin 

By Luke Robinson

Winter always brings back so many football memories doesn’t it? I know it does for me. Even though my high school didn’t have football, I did participate every year I could in junior high in Alexander City.

I remember my being on the 8th grade team in the late ’80s (cue dream sequence…).

The Alex City Middle School team had some talented players that year. It should have. Coach didn’t believe in cutting kids, so I think we had 213 guys on the team. One or two were bound to be good based on the law of averages alone.

It was a noble gesture not to cut players, but the problem was Coach also wanted every single player to play in every…single…game. I am not kidding when I type that our 8th grade team had a 6th-string defense. We couldn’t call them the 6th string, though. Oh no. We had to call them something ferocious so as not to give away their 6th string status. We had to call them “The Mad Dog Defense.”

The theory was this squad was comprised of the underdog kids who were always picked last. Their pent-up frustrations would, no doubt, lead to hellacious play on the gridiron. The problem was that they could have gotten as mad as they wanted, but they were all still around 4’11”, 124 pounds.

Many a game that year the junior high would be in a tight contest when, inevitably, Coach would yell those immortal words that meant sure victory for our opponents, “Mad Dog…Git in dare!!”.

Legend has it that there’s a kid from Opelika who’s still running over Mad Dog defenders to this very day.

But who am I to talk? I certainly had my fair share of embarrassing football follies. That same year we played Lyman Ward Military Academy in Camp Hill, Ala. I am pretty dang sure we played the actual high schoolers, too. Either that or all of Lyman Ward’s 8th graders just happened to drive their own cars to the game.

Man, we hated playing those guys. The cadets weren’t worried about the score; they just wanted to pound on some other kids for a while.

Case in point, during one play my faceguard got hooked into the faceguard of what had to be a 19-year-old oncoming defender. When the play ended, he and I were still joined by our helmets. I remember saying something prancy and un-football-y like, “Well what do you know, kind sir? Our helmets have become intertwined. Perhaps we should calmly remove said head gear and consult a team trainer before sharing a refreshing Gatorade?”

The cadet’s retort was of a different tone. He let out a primal scream and shook his head violently like a grizzly trying to maim a fighting trout. I dangled about like a Goo Goo Car Wash air-freshener hanging from a rear view mirror while going over a speed bump.

I’ll give him credit, as he did detach our helmets (and realigned my spine).

My fondest memory of football, though, was in 5th grade playing for the EDCO Jets. There was no EDCO in Birmingham, I know, but it was like Alex City’s Walmart back in the 1980s.

Anyhoo, our Jets team was absolutely loaded. We had talent at every position. Terry Butler coached us like he was the adopted son of Nick Saban and Knute Rockne. We were, in a word, awesome.

One regular ol’ Saturday my Jets were facing off against the Maddix Dolphins. The Dolphins were OK, but not a real threat—except for this one kid named Melvin. Melvin was mean, strong, mean, fast, mean and strong (in that order). He also wore those slippery-ass church shoes a lot. Like, to football practice and stuff. And he still made every tackle.

That day, we were beating up on the Dolphins pretty good. Like, 30-0 good.

Mean Melvin was not a fan of that.

The signature move of our offensive line was to slap our knee pads when the QB yelled, “down.” On “set,” we would crouch down into position. Finally, on “hut” the play began. Occasionally, the ball would be snapped on “set” to throw the defense’s timing off. Just some mild trickery to gain an advantage.

Mean Melvin wasn’t a fan of our trying to trick him, either.

  So, late in the fourth quarter as the clock was winding down, our quarterback said “down” and I slapped my knee pads. But before the QB get could to “set” or, God forbid, “hut,” Melvin flew across the line and knocked me back to third grade.

This is not a joke; I literally lost all knowledge I had obtained in grades four and five. I vaguely remember flying through the air and then…nothing, until I saw my bedroom ceiling an hour later.

Yellow flags started flying like it was the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. Melvin was ejected, my parents were upset and I was riding a unicorn across a chocolate sky of cotton candy clouds (in my mind). Luckily, I survived to tell the tale.

So good luck to all bowl-bound football teams this year. My only advice is: if you line up against a guy named Melvin be sure to keep your head on a swivel.

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