The Playmaker - Book cover

The Playmaker

Natalie Ashee

The Interview

NOVA

“Call me as soon as you’re done with the interview! I mean it, Nova Danielle Connors! Don’t you dare blow me off!”

I try to balance my cell phone between my ear and shoulder as I trek my way down the hall to the offensive coordinator’s office.

My best friend Lily has just received the CliffsNotes version of the last few days of my life.

Since breaking the news of my newest job opportunity to my father, I’ve managed to grow a gray hair or two from the sheer stress of it all.

Once the elation wore off, pure anxiety was left in its wake, and my preparation for this interview has been nothing short of OCD-level obsessive.

My father made sure to quiz me on probably every play and formation used by the Crusaders since the eighties, not to mention the team’s history.

I’m almost positive Dan Connors has chewed his fingernails to the nub by now, and I only left his home not twenty minutes ago.

“Lil, I will. I promise. But I’m here now; I’ve got to go!” I whisper-shout into my phone.

“Aah! I can’t believe this! We’re going to be working together!”

I giggle at Lily’s comment. “I’m pretty sure that as an offensive consultant, I won’t be spending much time with the cheerleaders, Lil,” I remind her.

“Yeah… I still think you should’ve tried out. You’re just as good a dancer as me.” I internally cringe at her statement. Lily is being kind.

We both met when my father signed me up for ballet classes at her mom’s studio when we first moved to Atlanta from Memphis.

While I did take to ballet, and both of us might be classically trained, Lily is talented in all genres of dance, and she possesses the showmanship needed for professional cheerleading.

I myself prefer the precision and the challenge ballet presents. Besides, I decided not to continue with it after I graduated from university, and Lily has.

“But I have so much fun watching you from the sidelines. You know you’re the best one out there. But okay, Lil. Seriously, I’ve got to go!”

Without waiting for a response, I stab at the screen to end the call and knock at the door.

Because Rodney’s office is on the lower level of the Crusaders’ stadium near the field, it took directions from several different staff workers, an elevator, and a few wrong turns to find it.

I’m suddenly grateful I left an hour early to be on time.

“Come in!” the muffled voice from behind the door calls to me.

I’m not sure what I expected to find when I enter, but what I see is one of the most disorganized offices I’ve ever seen.

Filing cabinets stuffed to the brim with file folders are barely closed.

A tall bookshelf behind Rodney’s desk is equally full of play binders dating back to before I was born, and the desk in front of me looks to have just been cleared away only moments ago.

From what I’ve seen on television, Rodney is a fit man in his mid to late forties with dark, dark brown hair and green eyes.

His tall frame is sturdy and still holds the muscular build from his days as a quarterback for San Diego.

However, here in person he looks just a bit older, and the dark circles beneath his eyes belie the energetic smile he’s giving me.

He stands and offers me his hand, and I shake firmly before taking my seat.

“It’s nice to meet you, Miss Connors. I have to say, it’s not every day I meet someone quite like yourself.”

“You mean a football-obsessed science slash math geek?” I joke. Rodney laughs heartily, and I instantly decide that I like him. The way his eyes crinkle when he smiles reminds me of my father.

“Honestly, yes. And I mean that in the best way. Your dissertation surprised me, though.”

“How so?” Other than the fact that someone like me wrote it at all, I can’t imagine what about it would surprise him.

As the offensive coordinator, he’s probably aware of everything I said in my thesis and more. This team is his baby, his life.

I can’t imagine I’ve offered some enlightening revelation regarding the technique of his franchise, albeit losing, player.

“Well, for one thing, your thesis mostly focused on the mathematical elements of improving speed and accuracy in throwing technique, but I couldn’t help but notice that you seemed to criticize the quarterback’s mentality as well. Why?”

“Well, Mr. Rodney. From a mathematical standpoint, I can most certainly place the blame on the technique, reaction time, poor conditioning, et cetera for your QB1’s performance last regular season.

“But from a personal standpoint, everyone knows that the flower grows from the root. Have you ever seen Ice Princess?”

Ice Princess?”

I nod.

“In the film, the main character is a physics scholar who figures out the exact formula to perfect figure skating technique.

“But she says in the movie, ‘The computer doesn’t make the jumps for you.’

“It’s the same concept, Mr. Rodney. The system, the strategy, the plays, his technique… None of it works if the leader of your team doesn’t, sir.”

I fidget nervously. I know that he wants my honest opinion, but I can’t help but feel like a fish out of water critiquing someone who probably knows more about football than I ever will.

However, the truth is in the performance. Which by the looks of every single pre-, regular-, and postseason game, has been less than stellar.

I’m not sure how I expected Rodney to react, but when I see him break into a wide grin, I can’t help but wrinkle my brows in confusion.

“Ms. Connors, how would you like to be an offensive consultant for our upcoming season?

“You’ll be working mostly with myself and Mr. Garland, but you’ll still report to the head coach, all the same. I’d like to get you started—”

“I’m sorry; did you just say I’m going to be working with you and Garland as in the quarterback, Maxwell Garland?”

I have to blink myself out of the shocked expression I’m wearing, and for the second time this week, I pick my jaw up off the floor.

Holy. Shit.

“Yes, Ms. Connors. The quarterback is the captain of the team. Like you said, we’re the flower. He’s the root.

“Besides, I’m looking forward to introducing you, and after reading your thesis, he’s excited to meet you.”

I suddenly feel my hands clam up, and my head is dizzy. I probably just insulted a multimillion-dollar athlete, and now I have to work with him?

I’m not sure how I plan on smoothing this over, but one thing’s for sure, this is not going to be good.

Next chapter

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