#010: The Walk-On Mentality (Part 4 - House Call)
Now throughout these blogs, there are going to be a lot of “Ah ha” moments. Or “that’s why that happened” moments. Because for me, I am reflecting back on my life. I am thinking back and showing you guys what makes me, me! What moments I feel like defined the outcome of my life. Things that led me to opportunities & people I’ve met along the way. The more I write these the more I start to understand why things turned out the way they did, why things happened, or why they DIDN’T happen.
I am a firm believer in everything that happens for a reason. I am a believer that the Universe conspires for us. I believe that we are all born to do great things, but it’s our job to find them.
Eric Mele. Change my life.
He was the special teams coordinator at WSU that took a chance on me. An undersized, white dude, from Orange County. He was literally the only D1 coach that believed in me… That was all I needed.
After giving me a chance, earning a spot on the bus, & eventually becoming the starting kick & punt returner, I was heading into my Sophomore year.
We lost to Eastern Washington & Boise State to open the season. Leach lost his shit. Made us roll in the sand in his words, “until your…” you know what? Nevermind, anyway he was pissed.
After some positive reinforcement, We rallied off 8 straight W’s, & eventually went to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. We lost, Luke came to the game, but he didn’t get to see it. (inside joke).
But this season was a pivotal point in the Walk-On Mentality.
I started off great at Punt Returner. Literally the thoughts in my head were, “I barely touch the ball so better make the most of it,” everytime the ball was in the air. I wanted to make something happen.
I was averaging around 10 yards a return just behind Dante Pettis (NY Giants) & Christian McCaffery (Panthers).
Have you ever fucked up real bad? I mean like REAL bad. Like you don’t want to get back on the flight home type bad.
Well, I have.
October 29th, 2016. We are in a game with a 2-5 Oregon State team. We were losing at half time & we all sat in the quiet locker room for about 15 minutes before Leach came in & said, “Well if you don’t find a way to win this game, we will have a full padded scrimmage tomorrow. So figure it out,” as he walks out calmly.
No one said a word, all you heard were the chin straps snapping to helmets.
We come back out at halftime on fire & eventually take the lead by 4 in the 4th quarter.
It’s 4 down and I go back to get the safe punt, so I'm lined up with my heels at the 10 yard line.
In a safe punt situation, the opposing team is trying to pin you in your own endzone. My job as the punt returner is to have my heels at the 10. If I have to back up, I let it go over my head with hopes that it rolls into the endzone for a touchback. If it’s not behind me, I run up & safely catch the ball.
Literally all I have to do is catch this punt and we win.
The ball was punted, it was high, going out of the night lights. I couldn’t see the ball, so at that point the smart thing would have been to let it go right?
My dumbass, always trying to do too much, tries to turn real quick & catch it.
Yeah, YOU REALLY HATE TO SEE THAT!
Right through me and rolls to the 3 yard line where Oregon State would score the next play.
I did the walk of shame to the sidelines thinking, “I just lost us the fucking game… oh my god. I can’t go back to Pullman.”
I mean, I HAD ONE JOB! I literally thought I was going to get cut on the sidelines. The only person that would talk to me was my roommate, Kyle Sweet, & the only reason he was talking to me was because he fucked up earlier by calling his own fake punt play on 4th down which led to a touchdown. So safe to say the boys were in the dog house.
BUT COOL HAND LUKE FALK WITH ICE IN HIS VEINS FINDS ROBERT LEWIS FOR A GO AHEAD TD.
After the defense made a great 4th down stop late in the 4th quarter, we walked away with a W.
Seriously, this game was nuts, check it out.
After we got the win I can’t tell you how many people asked me, “WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU DOING?”
All I could do was own up to it & hope I got another chance.
Film the next day was brutal… Film is a humbling experience for every player at least a couple times in their career. The whole team watching you fuck up.
All I could think was, “I am getting cut.”
Mele took Kyle Sweet & I out to the sandpit for some positive reinforcement.
The next week, Mele Told me I better do something or I am going to lose my spot.
We steamrolled Arizona putting up 69 points & Tyler Hilinski threw his first college TD. R.I.P #3
I had a decent game returning a couple 20 yarders, but most importantly I got my confidence back in myself, from my teammates, & my coaches.
Shit is going to happen in life. Adversity will hit. Resistance will keep coming. It's going to take you to your knees. You’re going to think, “How can this get any worse?”
All you can do is keep going, learn from your mistakes, & not make the same mistake twice.
So that’s what I did.
Our next opponent was Cal. We watched film all week on their punt return team & saw a huge hole in the middle of the field. So all week we worked a middle return. Super simple, “Fossum, catch the ball, hit the hole.”
I am a huge fan of seeing yourself doing it first. Mentally putting yourself in that environment, position, & stage first. See it, feel it, do it! If you don’t see it first, you’ll never be there.
My game day routine after meetings & everything is to take a shower right before we head to the stadium. I close my eyes, breathe, & visualize.
This time, I visualized a sold out Martin Stadium on a saturday night at 7pm.
Cal receives the ball & goes 3 & out. Time to punt to me.
I am in the shower visualizing this moment. I even pretend to be the announcer. My dad & I used to do that all the time, so I kept doing it.
I start talking in the shower, “Cal goes 3 and out & will now punt to Fossum. Fossum fields it, heads up field, breaks down the sidelines, TOUCHDOWN COUGARS!”
I still get goosebumps talking about it. I literally saw this in my head.
We get to the stadium, MARTIN STADIUM IS JUMPING!
ESPN night game.
Watching the coin toss. Cal elects to receive. I am starting to think, “holy shit.”
Cal goes 3 & out. HOLY SHIT!
“HOUSE CALL ON THE LAUNCH PAD!” Coaches yell. We’re up.
When I walked out there, my heart was racing. The crowd is loud, the lights are on, show time! This is what I envisioned. My heart was beating out of my chest right until the ball left the punter's foot. As soon as that ball got kicked I thought to myself, “This is it.”
I returned the first punt return TD in over 10 years.
I thought I was going to fall before the goal line. I had so much goddamn addredaline.
This was a defining moment for me. I accomplished something so many people told me I wouldn’t. It was a feeling of “I belong here,” & “I can do this.” It ended all doubts for me. I got my swagger back.
Resistance hits hardest at the finish line. You have to go through the storm to get the sun. That’s what makes the journey so worth it. The process to get there.
This is a moment I can still feel to this day. It's a moment that keeps me going on my hardest days or the days I want to give up.
I promise the work pays off.
Oh, we aren’t done yet.
Next Stop: RENO, NV