Love at the 50 Yard Line - Book cover

Love at the 50 Yard Line

Mel C. Clair

Age Rating


Brooke Waters had it all—a beautiful baby daughter, an NFL star fiancé, a successful physical therapy practice. Then an injury put her fiancé John out of commission, and hotshot running back Colin stole his place on the team. Now, years later, single mom Brooke has sworn off football players for good—until Colin walks into her office with his own potentially career-ending injury, and big brown eyes that make Brooke want dangerous things. As Colin and Brooke work together, sparks fly… but football might not be finished stealing away what Brooke loves most.

Age Rating: 18+

View more

36 Chapters

The Fifty-Yard Line


It’s a perfect September day and the start of another football season. My daughter Sydney and I are on the couch watching our home team, the Carolina Panthers, away in New Orleans winning against the Saints.

The Panthers’ star running back, Colin Scholtz, already has an impressive 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns, leading us to a decisive twenty-eight to seven lead when I step into the kitchen to take the call I’ve been dreading.

“John, you promised you wouldn’t bail this time.”

“Don’t start with me, Brooke,” John huffs on the other end of the phone.

“You haven’t seen Sydney in two months. She’s going to be heartbroken. Again!”

“Don’t you realize how important my career is to me?” he snaps back.

“Sydney should be more important to you. She’s your daughter too!” I raise my voice in anger.

“I’ll visit her next month. I can’t start this with you again!” John hangs up on me.

I throw my phone down on the counter, viciously rubbing my face, trying to wipe away the stress and frustration. Over and over again, throughout my life, football has been my downfall, my kryptonite.

“Mommy,” Sydney calls from the living room, “you’re missing the game!”

I lean back against the fridge, taking a few deep breaths. “Just a few minutes!” I call back. How did everything get so messed up?


Football has always been a part of my life, ever since I was a little girl.

My mom left when I was three years old, so it was just me and my dad. Watching football together was the only way we connected. I learned everything there was to know about the game, and fell in love with it, just like my pops.

In high school, I was captain of the cheerleading squad. Josh Hoffman was the high school quarterback. We were inseparable until he realized he could have his pick from the line of girls following the star quarterback around.

I caught him in bed with two girls one weekend when I came to surprise him at an away game. Needless to say, that was the end of the road for us.

In college, then, I traded my pom-poms for a lab coat, double majoring in human biology and exercise science to start a career in physical therapy.

But even amid the punishing class schedule, I spent my weekends cheering for the UNC Tar Heels from the bleachers. That’s when I met Ashton Wilks, the star wide receiver. Things with Ashton were great, for a few years.

However, when he graduated, he immediately got drafted to the NFL’s Detroit Lions. He did ask me to come with him, but I had no interest in leaving my home, my dad, and my studies behind to follow a boy.

Ashton moved across the country to start his pro football career while I stayed behind getting my doctorate.

I was a year into my private practice as a physical therapist when the next, and worst, football player walked through my doors. John Moore, the NFL’s newest running back on the market.

He had a minor shoulder tear, and he’d heard my name floating around the NFL locker rooms as one of the best physical therapists for pro athletes.

John and I instantly had chemistry. I couldn’t help drooling every time I watched him work his perfectly sculpted shoulder muscles. Plus, I really admired his determination to rise to be the best in the NFL.

We started dating shortly after he finished his rehab, and the rest seemed like history.

It wasn’t long before he rose to stardom playing for the Panthers. We couldn’t go anywhere without paparazzi following us, without people interrupting our dinners out asking for his autograph.

He loved every moment of fame—and just seeing him happy and rising to the top, achieving his dreams, made me happy too.

A year and a half into our relationship, I got pregnant with Sydney. I didn’t know I could love anything as much as I loved that little girl from the minute I saw her.

I was never concerned that John and I weren’t married. I trusted John was committed to me, no matter if I had a ring on my finger to prove anything. And for a while, he was. John, Sydney, and I were a happy family of three.

Then, when Sydney was four, my dad got sick. That made me want to have an actual wedding. I wanted my dad to walk me down the aisle, to offer his final blessing, and to officially give me away before I lost him forever.

John was sweet and supportive of the plan; we got engaged in July and planned to have a small wedding in September.

But during the second game of football season, John got hit from an awkward angle below his hip. He suffered a horrific injury, tearing three out of the four ligaments in his knee: ACL, MCL, and PCL.

Everything in our life stopped dead in its tracks—his career, the wedding, everything. I worked with him trying to strengthen his knee after the reconstructive surgery, but deep down, I knew it would never be the same. His career was over.

In John’s absence, the Panthers’ replacement running back, Colin Scholtz, emerged and led the team to six straight wins. He was younger, faster, stronger, and drafted to the NFL fresh out of college.

I begged John not to go back to football, to retire and leave it to younger men like Scholtz, but he refused to listen.

He played out a few months of the season with the Panthers, barely seeing any time on the field, and then, predictably, they refused to renew his contract.

Rather than take that as a sign to give up and try something new, John went on to play short stints for several teams over the next two years, signing year-by-year contracts with different teams to fill in for injured players.

His knee still hurt him, I knew, and he’d lost just enough speed, just enough power, that he would never be a star again.

That was when he went off the deep end. The man I had loved in all his fame and glory wasn’t famous or glorious anymore, and it tore him apart.

He started taking steroids, spending late nights out partying with the team, and traveling to a different city every few months to play with whatever team would have him. Forget getting married; Sydney and I barely saw him anymore.

I finally couldn’t do it anymore. I ended our relationship. And whatever token effort John had put into being a father ended.

He was never there for us anymore. Never paid attention to Sydney, never bothered to show up for any of her gymnastics tournaments, birthdays, or track meets, yet she still idolized him.

It broke my heart to see her disappointed face every time she looked into the stands after finishing a race and saw me sitting alone. I did my best to clap and cheer hard enough for two parents.

I was thirty-four and had become a single mom. I cared for my dad until the cancer took him. I did my best to be there for Sydney while running my physical therapy practice, without anyone to help out, even when I was sick or exhausted.

And I vowed to myself I was done with football players.

I needed someone to blame for the way my life had fallen apart, and I blamed football players. More specifically, I blamed Colin Scholtz.

I’d watch Scholtz lead the Panthers to victory every week, but still, I hated him. I hated him because John hated him. I hated him for taking John’s career away and, with it, any chance at a happy family for me and Sydney.


“OH, NOOO! MOM! COME SEE WHAT HAPPENED!” Sydney yells from the other room.

Syd is seven now, and she still loves football. For her sake, I try to keep loving it too. Watching games with her reminds me of myself and my dad, cuddled up on the couch at night, screaming at the TV about the bad calls and fumbled balls.

“What is it?” I run back into the family room and make it in time to see the replay.

On the screen, Scholtz is going for it again, rushing down the field. At the 50-yard line, he eyes the opposing defenders coming at him. He stops short and sticks his toes in the turf, trying to pivot and weave in the other direction to avoid their tackle.

But as the replay goes to slow motion, I see his heel twist at an unnatural angle.

He falters, allowing the defense to bulldoze him to the ground. After the refs remove the pileup on top of him, he tries to stand and put weight on his foot but fails.

He throws his helmet off, upset, and kneels. His injury is bad. Professionally, I can see that much already. Scholtz seems to know it too.

“Is he going to be okay?” Syd asks.

“I hope so, baby.”

As much as I despise Scholtz, it’s never a good feeling to witness a player getting injured, especially knowing it could be a career-ender.

“Do you know what happened?” she presses.

“He hurt his foot, sweetie.”

My best guess is he ruptured his Achilles tendon. An injury you don’t see every day. I’m acquainted with a lot of sports injuries in my line of work; studies show that only two-thirds of NFL players ever come back to play after an Achilles tendon rupture.

Of course, that’s still a majority—NFL players will try to come back after almost anything. But, like John, they lose speed and power, and they’re never the same. Chances are, Scholtz’s career is over.

I rub Syd’s back as Scholtz is helped off the field, and the game resumes. Even without their star, as usual, the Panthers just keep playing.

Next chapter
Rated 4.4 of 5 on the App Store
82.5K Ratings
Galatea logo

Unlimited books, immersive experiences.

Galatea FacebookGalatea InstagramGalatea TikTok