Date: August 30, 2003
Location: Kenan Memorial Stadium, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Opponent: North Carolina
The date is August 30th, 2003, and the college football season is about to begin. Florida State is your first opponent, and you want to make sure that they open up their season with a loss. This date has been circled on your calendar since the end of last year. You worked hard all offseason and are ready to show a national audience what you and your team can do.
Your name is University of North Carolina defensive back Dexter Reid, and you’re going to have a memorable night.
FSU beat your Tar Heels last season in Tallahassee, but it was a different story the last time they played you in Chapel Hill. Coming off their 3rd straight appearance in the BCS National Championship Game, UNC took it to the ’Noles. You beat them by a score of 41-9, a truly shocking result at the time. In your heart, you know the same thing can happen again, especially with you leading the defense.
You’ve gotten better each year, and are now a very good player. How good?
Last season, you started 12 games at DB and made 166 tackles. That’s only five less than the school record that was set in 1979. For your efforts, you were awarded the honor of being a member of the All-ACC First Team. This is now your senior year, and you’re ready to get even better. No matter what the Seminoles throw at you, you have no doubt that you’ll be ready.
The game did not start off as planned. FSU head coach Bobby Bowden came into the game with a plan based on utilizing their excellent team speed and running game. Their quarterback Chris Rix looked like an entirely different QB than the one who lost in 2001. His throws were accurate, and he showed great poise. But, those Seminole running backs were really doing the damage, especially No. 6 Greg Jones.
You know all about Greg Jones through film session and personal experience. That guy is insanely strong and runs with a degree of power rarely found in mere mortals. He doesn’t just truck people, he flattens them. But, you’re one of the best defenders in the conference, with a penchant for getting guys to the ground. He’s just another guy, and when you hit him, he’s going down.
Florida State jumped out to a 14-0 lead and was on offense again. Things were starting to get out of hand. With 1:20 left to play in the 1st quarter, FSU faced a 3rd and 1. The entire stadium, including all the players on the field, knew that the ’Noles were going to feed it to Jones. You were ready, or at least you thought you were. Rix took the snap and handed it off to Jones. He’s carving through your defense relatively untouched when you approach him to make the tackle.
Hey, what’s he doing with his right hand?
OH MY GOD!?! The hit comes, and you were decidedly not ready. But, is anyone really ready for their entire chest cavity to be caved in? You’ve never felt anything like it. You’re actually pretty sure that nobody has felt something like this and survived. Strange thoughts start flashing through your mind.
Last weekend, you rented The Patriot, a movie about the Revolutionary War. In it, you’re pretty sure that a guy gets hit in the sternum with a cannonball. You envy him.
The collision drops you to the ground, but you still try to make the tackle. Jones goes down pretty soon after. That’s when you realize that your field of vision is much better than it should be during a football game. Where’s your helmet? It must have fallen off because of the stiff arm. Jones just knocked my helmet off? He knocked my helmet off when I’M ON DEFENSE? Yeah, that’s never happened to you before.
The game doesn’t get much better from there, and UNC falls to FSU by a score of 37-0. It’s a long season ahead, but this one stings, literally and figuratively. You get dressed, go to the trainer to get some ice for your chest, and try to forget about the night.
You’ve got a long season ahead of you and a shot to play in the NFL. It’s just one night. There’s no way that one play from this game will be remembered for that long, right? People will probably be talking about it for a couple weeks, at most. It’s not like in 15 years, some Florida State site will write an 800-word article about it. No way, that’d be crazy.