Seeing Daylight

NFL runners (and a poet) talk about the moment when the field opens up
January 10, 2005


When I was 17,/the quarterback gave me the ball, and/the hole opened/up, right where it said it would be/on the blackboard./And I kept on going,

and going. I was an/x attached to an arrow. It was/like making love/to a woman, although I must/admit, I did/not know that at the time.

--H.R. COURSEN, New and Selected Poems, 2002

>>JEROME BETTIS, STEELERS If you had a camera on the player, you'd see his eyes light up like he was getting a big prize. You go through a couple of different feelings. Initially, it's like walking into a surprise birthday party; you're stunned. Then, during the run, you feel nervous about getting caught and fear kicks in.

STEVEN JACKSON, RAMS The main thing is, you can't think about getting hit. That's when things tend to happen, like fumbles. You just need to react. Once you see that glimpse of daylight, it's a split-second decision where you tell yourself to hit it. If you don't, daylight closes.

<<DORSEY LEVENS, EAGLES I've never been to prison, but I would imagine it would feel like being released from jail--the gates just open.

TONY DORSETT, HALL OF FAME COWBOY When you get out in that open field, it's like a bird on a clear day. It has all that freedom to fly and go where it wants to go. That's the good feeling. You've just got all this open space, and you're just free. All the tension is gone because you've gotten away from everybody else, and you're free to float on and go do your own thing. You're in a zone. I couldn't even hear the crowd a lot of the times. I mean, I couldn't until I crossed that goal line.

CURTIS MARTIN, JETS Because they're so few and far between, the first thing that comes to mind is surprise. In the NFL everybody's so fast that you rarely get the room where you hit a hole and there's daylight. Usually the daylight comes with broken tackles, things like that. The first thing you think about is not getting caught. Then you think about scoring the touchdown. When I see daylight, those are the only thoughts that enter my mind.

>>COREY DILLON, PATRIOTS You get this weird feeling like a rush. Something comes over you. My first thought is to explode through and run as fast as I can. The impact of a tackle is the last thing I'm worrying about--the impact is not going to be that fierce. Adrenaline is just pushing you to the end zone. It's like you're running toward the light.