It's another hot day, one of many through spring and summer—a day that sears the body in football armor. Hip pads are heavy with sweat. Rib pads bite into bone. Shoulder pads that fit so well in the locker room now cluster about your throat.
Coach has you hitting, running through the tires, steamrolling, monkey-rolling, duck-walking, bear-crawling. And this is only the warmup for the one-on-one blocking and tackling; then pattern drills; then scrimmage.
Coach is yelling for you to be mean. You hear the pain of men with twisted ankles, jammed thumbs and bruised elbows.
But the dread part of football practice comes after this, wind sprints—50 yards two dozen times at a crack, usually. Your lungs feel like balloons with the air running out of them. Your lips are dry and beginning to crack. Your emotions are a confusion of fear and anger, pride and hope, and you wish you could tell somebody about them, but this is hardly the time. Besides, you have to save your breath so you can yell your lungs out when you start the sprint.
To make spring practice bearable, JoPaul Industries, Inc. (Tualatin, Ore.) has developed the Jugs Football Passing Machine. It is based on the same principle as JoPaul's Jugs Curveball Pitching Machine, now being used by many high school, college and pro teams. The electric-powered contraption stands on a tripod and passes or punts from 10 to 100 yards at varying speeds. The machine consists of two rubber wheels resembling little automobile tires; the right-hand one rotates clockwise, the left-hand wheel rotates counterclockwise. The ball is fed into a holder, then seized by the rotating wheels and hurled outward. A perfect spiral every time—at least 10 a minute.
Too costly ($1,200) to be a teaching aid for a few key players, Jugs can be a help to the whole team, particularly in defensive and specialty drills. It can also be used to spark a squad running wind sprints. Consider a 245-pound lineman weary and sore from a scrimmage. He lumbers back and forth; he's not really putting out. It's drudgery. But roll out Jugs and roll in fantasy. The lineman can imagine himself a wide receiver, swift as Otis Taylor, graceful as Lance Rentzel. The ball is shot from Jugs and he runs, eager for the catch. "Ah, watch me skate." Now that's the way to run a wind sprint, a way to feel like the wind.