On Character and Characters

“Surround yourself with character, not characters,”  Colin Cowherd

Sometimes you can’t separate character from the characters. I write this as a eulogy to my friend, Magruder DeJarnette. We called him Wolf.  

During the last years of my semi-pro football career, my life crossed paths with Wolf. I was in my first year with the Virginia Minutemen of the Atlantic Football League. Wolf was the Minuteman kicker the previous year and let’s just say he hadn’t had a great deal of success. I came in and was immediately named the starting kicker and had essentially taken Wolf’s job.  

Wolf was 6’4” and 165 pounds of tattooed, backwoods Virginia junk-yard dog who was dealing with all sorts of issues and dysfunction. He put the “fun” in dysfunction. Sporting a gray beard and gray ponytail he looked like a tall, skinny Willie Nelson. Missing one finger (rumor had it that it had been chewed off in a bar fight) and being one of the worst trash talkers, he wasn’t exactly the poster boy for high level football. But Wolf possessed a spirit and love of the game that was simply second to none. 

The Minutemen played in Culpeper, VA on the outskirts of the DC Metropolitan area, and many of the players had high paying jobs. I worked at the Pentagon. Wolf, however, worked on a horse farm and had to scrape together all he could to make it to practice and games, not to mention buy all his equipment like the rest of us. Wolf was a hurtin’ cowboy. 

Still, every practice he would scrape up enough to buy a packet of Gatorade powder and mix up a 5 gallon jug for the team. Although he was the least able to afford it, he loved this team and wanted to make sure everybody was well hydrated.

Since Wolf and I were the first to arrive at practice we would kick on the field before anyone else arrived. He would hold for my kicks, before and during practice, until my regular holder was available to hold during team PAT/FG practice. I had just taken his job but he loved the game just wanted to help the team.

When my regular holder went down with an injury I told the coach I wanted Wolf. The coach agreed and Wolf never missed a beat. With nine fingers, the tattoos, and the ponytail, Wolf served up the good holds and we had a hell of a season.  

As I mentioned, Wolf was a trash talker. No NFL player or professional wrestler had anything on Wolf. When God was handing out sense and heart Wolf got a double shot of heart…

Not only was Wolf my holder but he was also on the kickoff team. Each and every game he would find the biggest, baddest guy on the other team and start talking crap saying what he was going to do to the guy’s mother, and generally not making any friends. So I would kick off and Wolf would run down field under the kicks and proceed each and every time to get obliterated, stomped and mashed into the red Virginia clay by two, three, or four of the opposing team. Seeing a 6’4” 165 pound, trash-talking hippie with a gray beard and ponytail lumber down the field must have been irresistible target because each and every game Wolf was a human “He Got Jacked Up!!” video.

One time after a kickoff Wolf came to the sidelines with his arm bent at a grotesque angle. He had separated and dislocated his shoulder. He was yelling for everyone to get out of his way. He proceeded to run full speed into a light pole, popping his shoulder back into place. Less than a minute later we had recovered a fumble and ran three plays. They put us out there for a 44 yard field goal try, which we made. Wolf’s hold was perfect. He even spun the laces.     

One doesn’t have to be crazy to play like that but it helped Wolf.

Next season when I had changed teams Wolf came along as a package deal.  Our practices and games were in King George, Virginia, 75 miles from Wolf’s home. On one practice, the night before a game, Wolf had worked late and had a truck with a bad starter, which meant it ran fine as long as he never shut it off. He knew how much he loved the game and how much it meant to be the holder so he drove 75 miles after work and arrived at practice at dusk. He left the truck running. We had just enough time to get ten or fifteen snap/hold/kicks before it got dark. He then left and drove the 75 miles home, feeling like the luckiest guy on earth. I was the lucky one. 

It is no exaggeration to say that King George, Virginia on a Saturday night in September is a million miles from FedEx Field, but we won the game that week. With Wolf’s perfect holds I kicked a 47 yard field goal and several PATs. The Redskins kicker missed a 46 yarder, short, that same week. The Skins lost. We were on top of the world.

September 11, 2001, the day of the attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. It had been two years since Wolf and I had talked. When I got home that night there was a voice mail message from a worried friend.  “Hey, Bud.  I don’t know if you’s alive or dead,” Wolf drawled, “but if you’s alive and don’t call me I’m going to be really mad at you!  Don’t make me worry!”

Wolf was a character.    

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