Twenty years from now I can look my grandkids in the eye and say I played football for BYU coach LaVell Edwards.
True, it was in a rag-tag touch football game to help advance Red Ribbon Week, but I'm the type who can take something like that and make it sound like the Holiday Bowl.Mark Twain said too many people let truth get in the way of a good story.
For me, they are words to live by.
Still, if there's a cloud over my reputation for telling the truth, it's raining cats and dogs on my reputation as a football player. To borrow from Groucho Marx, I generally refuse to play for any team that would stoop to having me as a member.
In high school, for instance, the coach had me sit out as a "red shirt" - all four years. BYU recruited me - as a tackling dummy - but then Coach Edwards supposedly told his staff, "It will be one cold day in October when I let that Johnston kid play on one of my teams."
Lucky for me, last Monday was a chilly afternoon.
Edwards and our boys were matched against a team led by University of Utah coach Ron McBride, a subtle and sensitive bunch of guys named The Raving Brutes.
They did have some talent, however. Commissioner Mike Stewart put on an incredible one-man show (by singing the National Anthem before the game) and when Judge Raymond Uno started talking tough on the line of scrimmage, we were totally intimidated by his grammar and legal vocabulary.
Before the game, Coach Edwards took our team aside.
"What we usually do in these games," he said, "is spend the first half trying to figure out what's going on, then in the second half we see if they allow cheating."
Unknown to McBride, we did have a secret weapon: Olympic runner Henry Marsh. That gave us three good plays. "Henry go long," "Henry go way long" and "Henry, run up 13th East eight blocks and button-hook at the 7-Eleven."
If all this is starting to sound like pre-game hype instead of a game story, it's because I'm putting off discussing the game itself. That's because there was only one highlight. It came at the end of the fourth quarter. The McBride boys had just put attorney Ron Yengich in as quarterback, so we sneaked two Little League football players from the adjoining field into our line-up for defense. If we got the ball back, we knew we'd have to move fast. There were only two minutes left.
As we hunkered down, one of the radio deejays looked over at one of the local politicians on our squad.
"Can you pass a football?" he asked.
The politician thought a moment. "I'm not sure," he said. "I never 'et a football."
The game ended in a tie, 0-0. Which is fine. The important thing is the drug-free program came out a winner.
As I left the field I jogged over to shake hands with Coach Edwards.
He took my hand. "Good job," he said.
But I noticed he had an awful tough time looking me in the eye when he said it.