**Editor’s Note: The following is a spoof of Mitch Albom’s “the Five People You Meet in Heaven”, if you haven’t read that book, you should.**
January, 4th, 2015 — The Lions have the ball at the Cowboys’ 45-yard line, facing a third and short with one yard to go, leading 20-17 with 8:25 left in the game. The Lions start to form their huddle around midfield as Matt Stafford heads toward the sideline for the play call.
“22 personnel! 22! Let’s go! We need Eric and Brandon out there now!” Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi barks from the sideline. “Let’s go, Ebron and Pettigrew you’re in!” The two tight ends were two of Stafford’s favorite targets on crucial downs and despite only needing a yard, the Lions weren’t running; Realizing the importance of the situation, Head Coach Jim Caldwell wanted the ball in his franchise QB’s hands.
Stafford stood halfway between the huddle and Lombardi, waiting for his OC to relay the play to him inside his helmet, before he could tell the rest of the team waiting in the huddle. “Alright Matt, let’s win this thing right here,” Lombardi yelled as the crowd began to stand on their feet and rattle the stadium. “Scatter to West Right Tight — — —- Z Spot.”
“Hold on Coach, you cut out,” Stafford responded with a sense of urgency in his voice. “Scatter to West Right Tight F Left 372 Y Stick Z Spot! Look for Eric!” Lombardi shouted. Stafford heard him this time. Holy shit, coach wants to win this right here, Stafford thought as he jogged toward the huddle.
Moments later Stafford joined the huddle and took a knee besides Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. “Alright guys, let’s win this thing right here and now,” Stafford said looking his veteran TE, Pettigrew, in the eyes. “I’m coming to you Brandon, make a play! Scatter to West Right Tight F Left 372 Y Stick Z Spot, ready break!”
The team broke the huddle and rushed to the line of scrimmage, their long huddle and exchanging of personnel left only 10 seconds on the play clock as they hurried to get set. Stafford took his place behind center and studied the defense from left to right… He liked what he saw: They are going to be in man, most likely #59 Hitchens is going to be covering Pett, Stafford thought as the clock trickled down to 5 seconds remaining on the play clock. Stafford took a deep breath before placing his hands under-center and braced for the silent count snap from his Center, Dominic Riola.
The snap came and Stafford took three long steps left to sell the play fake to Bush off the edge. Only rushing four, the Cowboys didn’t fall for the play fake, but it did allow Stafford more time in the pocket to locate Pettigrew on a crossing route over the middle. Stafford waited a beat… then another… as Pettigrew grew some separation from Hitchens as he turned up the field. The 6-year-vet waited one more millisecond before unloading a pass toward Pettigrew’s outside shoulder. The pass fluttered in the air as the fans in Jerry World all rose to their feet in unison.
Everyone in the stadium held their breath as the pass sailed toward the Cowboys 25 yard line.
The ball seemed to hang in the air for an eternity, especially for Stafford, who perhaps felt more pressure than anyone to win a playoff game for the city of Detroit. He was the one who was supposed to turn this franchise around and get them to a Super Bowl. That was the plan anyway, but much like life, it almost never goes according to plan and after 6 years in the league, this seemed like his best chance.
He watched with baited breath as the pass started to close in on its target, but before he could see whether Pettigrew caught it, a Cowboys defensive lineman closed wrapped his arms around him and wrestled him to ground. The hit hurt… but that wasn’t even the worst of it; As Stafford hit the ground, his head bounced off the turf and his vision turned white as he started to lose consciousness. The crowd grew quiet as he started to slip into darkness…
did he catch it? Was the only thing on his mind before he passed out.
Did he catch it?…
“Hey kid,” a familiar voice said to him as he began to regain consciousness. “You feeling okay?”
Matt started to open his eyes but was immediately blinded by some bright bathroom ceiling lights and quickly shut them off.
“Where am I?” Matt questioned sleepily, “did he catch it?”
“Boy oh boy, you just won’t give that up will ya kid?” The voice answered snickering. “That’s all you’ve been babbling on about while you sleeping.”
Confused, Matt waited a second before he forced his eyes open.
He couldn’t believe what he saw.
“Who are you and where am I?!” Matt yelled as his heart started to race.
“Calm down, calm down! It’s me, well… it’s you, I’m Matt!” The voice said. “Well, sorta, I’m you from the year 2021, I’m here to show you a few thin—“
The younger Matt cut him off, “What are you talking about? This must be a dream,” he said as he started to sit up. Boy, the doctors must have me on some serious pain pills right now he thought to himself.
“No-this is no dream, this is real, kid.” The thing quipped.
Matt stood up and looked the thing up and down. He was in awe of how much it resembled him and sounded like him. He was wearing a typical Lions sweatshirt and matching sweatpants, an outfit Matt wore everywhere except on gameday.
“What are you?” Matt finally mustered out.
“I told, you I’m you… just six years in the future. You ever seen the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’? Consider me your Clarence. But I’m actually you, just a little bit wiser. Actually, who am I kidding? I know you have seen that movie. You watched it with your wife, Kelly, just a couple weeks ag-“
“How do you know that?!?” Matt questioned. “Matt, come on, it’s me,” the Thing continued. “You know what? Fine! I’ll indulge you. Ask me something that only I would know, come on, go ahead.”
Matt thought for a moment before it came to him, “Who did I l-“
“Sarah Fletcher,” the Thing answered.
“How did you-?” Matt questioned as he started to become flustered.
“Because I am you!” He answered raising his voice, “now can you just follow me? We’ve already wasted some time and I have a lot to show you in a short amount of time, come on.”
The younger Matt couldn’t explain it, but something in his gut was telling him this guy was for real, so he reluctantly agreed to follow him.
The older Matt opened the door and started to head out of the bathroom as the younger Matt slowly followed. As soon as they popped out of the bathroom, they emerged into a large ballroom with bright stage lights beaming on each of the tables. Still a little bit disoriented, the younger Stafford asked “where are we?”
“Well, Matthew, can I call you that? You know what, I already know it’s okay so don’t even answer. You can call me Matt, incase you were wondering about me whatsoever, buuuut you are in the green room, my friend. Look there’s you, right there!” Matt said pointing toward a table at the front.
He was right. It was him, well sorta, it was a 20-year-old-green-around-the-gills version of himself.
“Wha-what’s going on?” Matthew asked.
“This is your first stop, draft day,” Matt said as he handed him a glass of champagne and mouthed cheers before taking a big gulp. “Oh, and don’t worry, they can’t see us. I just wanted to take you here first, this was such a great day… wasn’t it? And boy-oh-boy, look at that beautiful suit you chose! It’s a little bit bulky for today’s style, but it still looks good on you.”
“Listen, Matt, I don’t have time for this,” Matthew said starting to grow frustrated. “I know you are like trying to teach me something or take me on a stroll down memory lane or something weird like that but I have a playoff game to get back to, so if you could just take me there, that’d be great.”
Matt took a deep breath before answering, “jeez, you won’t shut up about that will ya? Trust me, once we are all done I’ll take you right back to that, alright?”
Matthew quickly answered back, “fine, just tell me if he caught it and I’ll be fine.”
“I can’t tell you that,” Matt answered. “Well, not yet anyway. We will get to that, I promise but I have to show you a few things first, alright?”
“Alrig-,” before Matthew could answer a loud ding came over the ball-room and a ticker read “the pick is in”…
“Ssshhh, we’re going to miss it!” Matt yelled as he grabbed Matthew’s shoulder and pointed him toward the stage.
Commissioner Roger Goodell (greeted by boos), made his toward the podium to announce the first pick. “With the first pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select Matthew Stafford from Georgia,” Goodell said as the crowd erupted in cheers. The 20-year-old made his way to stage and had a big smile on his face as he strolled across it toward Goodell.
“Wow, look at that smile,” Matt said to Matthew, beaming with pride. “Look how happy you are.”
Matthew started to crack a smile as he watched his younger self hug the commissioner and pose with the Detroit Lions #1 jersey. Matt continued while Matthew looked on, “you know, a lot of people wouldn’t have blamed you if you didn’t want to play for an 0-16 team. Eli did it, so did John Elway — I mean, that franchise had nothing going for them, like at a-“
“So what?” Matthew interjected. “They trusted in me and that was enough.”
“Yeah, we’ve always been loyal, haven’t we?” Matt said faintly.
“No, that’s not it. It’s just the right thing to do,” Matthew continued. “They took a chance on some kid from Georgia with a lot of question marks… the least I could do is give them my all.”
Matt nodded before saying, “look at your parents and your sister, they are loving this!”
Matthew turned his attention away from the stage and back to the green room, where his family was huddled up sharing hugs and laughs. He noticed his dad was crying as he watched his son take pictures on the big screen.
“Why’d you take me here?” Matthew said as he started to tear up watching his father.
“Because it’s the happiest day of your life,” Matt continued. “You worked so hard to get there, why not enjoy it twice?”
Matthew nodded and for the first time since he’d been with Matt, he started to relax as he took a big gulp from the champagne glass.
The two sat there quietly drinking champagne as they followed young Matthew’s entourage throughout New York City as they celebrated. They went to five different bars that night and Matt didn’t end up sleeping until 2:00 pm the next day.
As they watched him fall asleep in his upturned hotel bed, Matt and Matthew had stepped out onto the deck of the hotel room, where Matt turned to Matthew and began to speak. “You know, sometimes we get caught up in what we haven’t accomplished and forget to appreciate how far we have come. Look at how many people you made happy tonight! From your family, to your friends, to the people of Detroit. You did that.”
“I haven’t done anything yet, I haven’t even won a single playoff game for this city and I’ve already been in the league 7 years,” Matthew said sadly.
“You haven’t done anything? Is that really how you feel?” Matt questioned.
“I just figured I’d have won a Super Bowl by now is all,” Matthew answered quietly.
“We’ve always been hung up on that damn Super Bowl thing, haven’t we?” Matt continued. “Come on, we’ve already spent too much time here, I’ve got more to show you.”
**Part #2 is coming soon**